In our upcoming Modern & Contemporary Art auction on Wednesday 25 October, we are delighted to offer a collection of works by Irish artist Patricia O'Brien. Here Picture specialist Francesca Whitham tells us more about Patricia O'Brien's life and art.
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Patricia O'Brien's artistic journey took off in 1977 when she first exhibited her work at the Upper Street Gallery in London. This initial exhibition marked the beginning of a flourishing career that would see her gain representation by Stephen Bartley and participate in numerous international exhibitions.
λ Lot 95: Patricia O'Brien, ‘Birds of Prey’, Oil on canvas | Est. £400-600 (+ fees)
From 1981, O'Brien's talent and unique artistic vision caught the attention of the Royal Academy. She participated in the prestigious Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, a renowned annual event that showcases the best of contemporary art. John Russell Taylor, an esteemed critic, hailed O'Brien as an "out-and-out discovery" in his review of the 1989 Royal Academy Summer Show. In a remarkable testament to the impact of her work, O'Brien's painting titled "The Fruit Eaters" became the main promotional press image for the Royal Academy Summer Show in 1990.
λ Lot 96: Patricia O'Brien, ‘The Lesson’, Oil on canvas | Est. £800-1,200 (+ fees)
Throughout Patricia O'Brien's body of work, the female figure takes centre stage, becoming a focal point of her compositions. O'Brien delves into the complexities of human relationships, exploring their dynamics, inviting viewers to interpret and question the narratives presented. O'Brien repeatedly portrays three figures, possibly a connotation to her own complicated relationships. Her works exude an intense visual poetry, compelling viewers to unravel the stories behind each character and the scene portrayed on the canvas. O'Brien creates a sense of stillness in her work, capturing a fleeting moment suspended in time, whether that be taking a lesson (Lot 96), eating fruit (Lot 98) or purchasing flowers at the market (Lot 100).
λ Lot 97: Patricia O'Brien, ‘The Yellow Hat’, Oil on canvas | Est. £800-1,200 (+ fees)
There is a mystical and disquieting quality to her pieces, evoking a sense of melancholy that adds depth and complexity to the overall atmosphere. The deliberate absence of traditional perspective in O'Brien's work contributes to her distinctive style, along with a subdued colour palette and meticulous composition of objects and figures within the surrealist landscapes. These elements make O'Brien's art instantly recognisable and draw the viewer into a world of carefully constructed beauty.
λ Lot 98: Patricia O'Brien, ‘The Offering’ | Est. £1,000-1,500 (+ fees)
In 1972, Patricia O'Brien made the decision to settle down in the perfume capital of France, Grasse. Drawn to the allure of its mountainous landscapes and expansive vistas, these majestic surroundings served as a prominent influence in her work, providing the backdrop against which her pensive figures would come to life as can be seen in Lot 98 and Lot 99. It was during her time in France that she forged a close friendship with Frederick Gore, a fellow artist.
λ Lot 99: Patricia O'Brien, ‘The Flower Garden’, Oil on canvas | Est. £1,000-1,500 (+ fees)
Patricia O'Brien's artwork is a captivating blend of surrealist iconography and Renaissance influences, creating a unique and distinctive style. O'Brien was especially drawn to fifteenth century Italian artists such as Sandro Botticelli and Piero della Francesca whose focus on exquisite attention to detail, with a particular emphasis on depicting the human form with individuality, empathy, and sensitivity, inspired her. Humanism permeates O'Brien's work, as she delves deep into the layers of emotions experienced by her figures and situates them within the natural world, infusing her paintings with spiritual meaning. One striking aspect of O'Brien's paintings is the luminous complexion and porcelain skin of her figures particularly apparent in Lot 99 which shows three female nudes attending to flowers beneath the mountainous landscape beyond.
λ Lot 100: Patricia O'Brien, ‘L'Offerande’, Oil on canvas | Est. £1,500-2,000 (+ fees)
Page Turning Catalogue
Wednesday 25 October, 10.30am BST
Donnington Priory, Newbury, Berkshire RG14 2JE
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- Dreweatts London (highlights) | 16-17 Pall Mall, St James’s, London SW1Y 5LU
- Tuesday 10 October: 10am – 4pm
- Wednesday 11 October: 10am - 4pm
- Thursday 12 October: 10am - 4pm
- Donnington Priory (full sale):
- Sunday 22 October: 10am - 3pm
- Monday 23 October: 10am - 4pm
- Tuesday 24 October: 10am - 4pm
- Wednesday 25 October: from 8.30am
- Dreweatts Remote Viewing | Available from Sunday 22 October
- Dreweatts 360 Virtual Auction Tour of highlights | Available from Thursday 12 October