Oil on canvas 28” x 36” (71cm x 91cm), Signed and dated 1923
Trade Stamp verso: Hibbert Bros., Sheffield.
Provenance: Private Collection, Dublin
The setting for this sun drenched rustic scene is Dobbin Hill Farm, Bent’s Green, Ecclesall, just a short distance from Priest Hill Farm where Royle worked between the years 1919 and 1926. It was during this period that he painted some of his best canvases, which focus on a single foreground figure set in an expansive landscape. The Goose Girl, (National Gallery of Ireland); Morning on the Derbyshire Moors and The Lilac Sunbonnet are among the best examples. An earlier painting, Spring Morning Among the Bluebells, which may be described as the first in the series, launched Royle on his successful career when it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1914. He had by then developed a distinctive plein air style, which had its roots in French post impressionism. The influence of the Glasgow School and James Guthrie in particular is also evident in his early work.
Apart from the obvious differences, the present painting may be compared to The Goose Girl in a number of ways. In subject matter, they both depict a flock of farmyard fowl as they are driven to pasture. A long stick is carried at a particular angle in one hand and a woven basket is carried in the other. The paint is applied in a manner which owes much to the square brush technique but this is not slavishly followed. The effect of dappled sunlight is achieved by irregular small flecks of paint, which give a shimmering effect to the highlights. The painting is brought to life by the use of delicate pastel shades juxtaposed against the dark shadows of the buildings and the strong greens of the foliage.
The open doors and windows suggest high summer. Royle did not favour the harsh light of midday, so we may assume that the scene depicts a morning scene where the ducks are driven out to graze for the day. The model is most likely to be Florence Haslam who lived at the farm with her husband. According to Timothy Dickson, she also appears in a number of other paintings from this time. Most notable among these is A Winter’s Evening, a companion piece also painted in 1923 and now in the collection of Mount Alison University, Canada.
Dominic Milmo-Penny, February 2012
Sold Price: €62,000 (WORLD RECORD PRICE FOR THE ARTIST)
IRISH ART AUCTION
Tuesday 22nd May 2012
The Berkeley Court Hotel, Lansdowne Road, Dublin 4