Leo Whelan. The Mirror. Irish art.

Leo Whelan. The Mirror. Irish art.
Isabel del Rio

Leo Whelan. The Mirror. Irish Art at Auction

Irish Whyte’s Auction House: The Mirror, 1912 by Leo Whelan

Whyte’s Irish & British Art: October 1, 2012 at 6 pm. (Clyde Halls, RDS, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4).


Leo Whelan. The Mirror

Leo Whelan, an Irish gentleman!

He was born in Dublin in 1892 of Irish parents from Co. Kerry and lived all his life at 65 Eccles Street, the family house. He studied at Belvedere College, at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art and exhibited regularly at the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA). He had two studios in Dublin: at 64 Dawson Street and at 7 Lower Baggot Street.

Above all, Leo Whelan was a great portraitist. He painted many portraits of Irish Republican Army volunteers (he was a great fun of the independence of Ireland) but also of workers, intellectuals, women, children… leaving and interesting chronicle of the social life of Pre-Independent and Independent Ireland.

One of his closest friends was tenor John McCormack. He unsuccessfully tried to encourage him to move to the United States. Leo Whelan refused and this has detracted him future fame, because artists must travel to spread their artwork and to know other contemporary movements and tendencies. However, Ireland rewarded him and he was the designer of the first Free State commemorative stamp, issued in 1929 for the Centenary of Catholic Emancipation: a portrait of Daniel O’Connell.

Still too classic and academic in a world of avant-garde movements, Leo Whelan is a master of smooth lights, tender scenes and textures. He was a student, admirer, and successor of painter William Orpen but he got to be personal.

The Painting that is going to be auctioned (€15,000-€20,000) shows this virtuosity and great technique: the velvet of the curtain, the decayed wood of the door, the nuances of the elegant suit… everything is perfect.

In fact, it’s a self-portrait. Leo Whelan is young, rebel and smart. He can see himself through the mirror, through a heavy atmosphere: intimacy…, we like! And we like the way he catches his image (following the master Diego Velazquez) and how he fixes it forever, beyond time, freeze, for centuries.

Yes, too classic and academic in a world of Fauvist and Cubist artists. However, the tender intimacy of “The Mirror” is unique and since we cannot buy “Las Meninas”, we can buy a little of Leo Whelan’s eternity.

Don’t miss the opportunity!

In total, Leo Whelan showed nearly 250 paintings at the RHA, never missing a show between 1911 and 1956. Of Course, by the time Leo Whelan died from leukaemia, in 1956, he had become an established figure in the Dublin artwork.

Other Leo Whelan’s famous paintings:

-On the Moors, 1915 (oil on canvas). Private Collection.

-The Doctor’s Visit, 1916 (oil on canvas). National Gallery of Ireland.

-Guendolen Vikinson, 1925 (oil on canvas). Private Collection.

-The Kitchen Window, 1927 (oil on canvas). Crawford Municipal Art Gallery, Cork.

-The Fiddler, 1935 (oil on canvas). Crawford Municipal Art Gallery, Cork.

-Gwladys McCabe, 1946 (oil on canvas). National Gallery of Ireland.

And, of course, his famous portrait of Daniel O’Connell, 1911.

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