Adam's IMPORTANT IRISH ART Auction Wednesday 24th March 2021

64 51 MICHAEL FARRELL (1940 - 2000) The First Real Irish Political Picture Oil on canvas 133.5 x 117cm (52½ x 46”) Signed and inscribed ‘La Ruche, Paris’ and dated 1977 verso Provenance: With Taylor Galleries, Dublin, label verso The pronouncement in the title of Michael’s Farrell’s work may seem to belie a certain level of conceit on his part, heightened by the addition of the word ‘Very’ in the title of other versions of the work, one housed in the collections of The Hugh Lane Gallery dated from the same year and another later work, sold in these rooms in 2018, but he backs it up with the sheer range of political issues he manages to distil into the composition. The inspiration for the work is well known, but in this example, Farrell’s reinterpretation of Boucher’s painting is much less prosaic. In other versions, such as the Hugh Lane painting, he has used an almost identical compositional arrangement. On this occasion, the body of O’Murphy is pivoted towards us, she turns her head to look back, acknowledging the presence of the submerged male figure. This work represents an important moment in the birth of the Madonna Irlanda series, as one of the main large-scale compositions in oil, that defined Farrell’s oeuvre and unique vision of Ireland in 1970s. Although living and working abroad in Paris at the time, Farrell’s engagement with the violent turmoil of sectarianism began in 1974 with his Political Pressé Series. While these works are defined by their abstract character, Farrell recognised the need for the figurative within this political commentary. The reality of sectarian violence and the wider political unrest which was devastating in its consequences, often required an element of humour, of the absurd or as in this work, sexual candour to create a more shocking declaration, as he remarked in a 1977 interview with Maev Kennedy “I wanted to make statements, using sarcasm, or puns, or wit, and all of these I could not do before because of the limited means of expression I had adopted.” In Farrell’s reworking of Boucher’s study, she becomes a profane Madonna Irlanda, one scandalously at odds with traditional pious female stereotypes. In her sexually submissive pose, with scars on her upper thighs and bottom, he suggests exploitation and abuse. Farrell equates the youth of Miss O’Murphy with the relatively young Irish State, stunted by violence, immaturity and inertia. While in the Hugh Lane version, Farrell includes himself in profile leering over the nude figure, here he is submerged in a glass of water. The male artist figure has been emasculated, pained, and horrified by what he is witnessing, but rendered to an ineffectual presence, unable to act. Farrell was highly critical of the political situation and British policy in Northern Ireland at the time, announcing in 1969, while accepting an award from the Irish Exhibition of Living Artists, that he would not exhibit there ‘until that State has achieved the basic fundamental of a decent society.’ He was a keen advocate for a united Ireland and in the final version of his Madonna Irlanda series, executed in 1978, he is quite clear to that effect, with its subtitle, This Picture will be Finished when Ireland Once Again is One. Niamh Corcoran, February 2021 € 15,000 - 25,000 CLICK HERE FOR MORE PHOTOGRAPHS AND BIDDING