Who Are the 25 Top-Selling Irish Artists of the Last Decade?

For St. Patrick's Day, the big winners in the Irish market.

Louis Le Brocquy, Travelling woman with newspaper (1947-1948), sold at Sotheby's London, May 18, 2000 for 1,158,500 GBP (Premium) ( ($1,738,706)
Louis Le Brocquy, Travelling woman with newspaper (1947-1948), sold at Sotheby's London, May 18, 2000 for 1,158,500 GBP (Premium) ( ($1,738,706)
Francis Bacon. Photo: via Prezi.

Francis Bacon, auction market darling.
Photo: via Prezi.

Who are the most marketable Irish artists? It’s St. Patrick’s Day, which means we ought to know, so we trawled through the past decade of sales in artnet’s Price Database to find out.

Dublin-born School of London painter Francis Bacon, certainly, is one of the giants of the present-day auction room, with over a billion-and-a-half dollars of art sold in the last decade. When your individual paintings can go for upwards of $100 million, it adds up fast.

The Irish-American abstractionist Sean Scully comes second, with $62 million of sales to his name. That makes his market nearly tied with furniture designer Eileen Gray—though Gray’s total is due in no small part to the $28 million paid for a single chair from the blockbuster Christie’s auctions of effects from the collection of Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé, back in 2009.

But there are plenty of less familiar names in this top 25. Using artnet’s Price Database, we’re able to see how much art by each has been sold at auction in the last decade, both in terms of number of lots sold and in terms of the total dollar value of art sold. For good measure, we’ve illustrated each with each artist’s all-time most-expensive auction lot.

(NB: The way auction houses report prices is confusing: Sometimes the total reported is the “hammer” price, meaning the amount of the final bid in the auction room; sometimes the number reported is this final bid plus auction-house fees, or “premiums,” which are added afterwards. Both numbers have their uses, but the fact that the houses shift which they report complicates comparison. In our captions, we’ve indicated which we’re dealing with via the words “Hammer” and “Premium.”)

Francis Bacon, Three Studies of Lucian Freud (in 3 parts) (1969) sold at Christie's New York: Tuesday, November 12, 2013 [Lot 0008A] $142,405,000

Francis Bacon, Three Studies of Lucian Freud (in 3 parts) (1969), sold at Christie’s New York, November 12, 2013, for $142,405,000 premium

1) Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Lots sold: 982
Total sales: $1,711,336,388

Sean Scully, <em>Valencia wall</em> (2006) sold at Sotheby's London, July 1, 2008 for 657,250 GBP Premium ($1,309,784)

Sean Scully, Valencia wall (2006) sold at Sotheby’s London, July 1, 2008 for 657,250 GBP ($1,309,784) premium

2) Sean Scully (b. 1945)
Lots sold: 517
Total sales: $62,494,571

Eileen Gray, Fauteuil aux dragons (ca. 1917-1919), sold at Christie's, February 23, 2009 for 21,905,000 euros ($28,018,674)

Eileen Gray, Fauteuil aux dragons (ca. 1917-1919), sold at Christie’s, February 23, 2009 for €21,905,000 ($28,018,674) premium

3) Eileen Gray (1879-1976)
Lots sold: 164
Total sales: $62,205,301

John Lavery, The bridge at Grez (1883-1883), sold at Christie's London, December 8, 1998 for 1,321,500 GBP ($2,185,742)

John Lavery, The Bridge at Grez (1883-1883), sold at Christie’s London, December 8, 1998 for £1,321,500 ($2,185,742) premium

4) John Lavery (1856-1941)
Lots sold: 200
Total sales: $27,782,824

Paul Henry

Paul Henry, The potato diggers (1910-1911), Sale of James Adam & Sons, May 29, 2013 for €400,000 ($517,799) hammer

5) Paul Henry (1876-1958)
Lots sold: 249
Total sales: $26,071,755

Jack Butler Yeats, The Wild Ones (1947), sold at Sotheby's London, May 21, 1999 for 1,233,500 GBP (Premium) ($1,976,129)

Jack Butler Yeats, The Wild Ones (1947), sold at Sotheby’s London, May 21, 1999 for £1,233,500 ($1,976,129) premium

6) Jack Butler Yeats (1871-1957)
Lots sold: 434
Total sales: $25,884,339

Louis Le Brocquy, <em>Travelling woman with newspaper</em> (1947-1948), sold at Sotheby's London, May 18, 2000 for 1,158,500 GBP (Premium) ( ($1,738,706)

Louis Le Brocquy, Traveling woman with newspaper (1947-1948), sold at Sotheby’s London, May 18, 2000 for £1,158,500 ($1,738,706) premium

7) Louis Le Brocquy (1916-2012)
Lots sold: 638
Total sales: $23,967,096

Sir William Orpen, <em>Portrait of Gardenia St. George with riding crop</em>, sold at Sotheby's London, May 18, 2001 for 1,983,500 GBP (Premium) ($2,835,191)

Sir William Orpen, Portrait of Gardenia St. George with riding crop, sold at Sotheby’s London, May 18, 2001 for £1,983,500 ($2,835,191) premium

8) Sir William Orpen (1878-1931)
Lots sold: 181
Total sales: $10,687,252

Daniel O'Neill,<em> Reclining figure</em>, sold at Sotheby's London, May 7, 2008 for 216,500 GBP (Premium) ($426,769)

Daniel O’Neill, Reclining figure, sold at Sotheby’s London, May 7, 2008 for £216,500 ($426,769) premium

9) Daniel O’Neill (1920-1974)
Lots sold: 256
Total sales: $9,690,807

Roderic O'Conor, <em>La lisière du bois</em> (1890), sold at Sotheby's London, May 13, 2005 for 792,000 GBP (Premium) ($1,483,701)

Roderic O’Conor, La lisière du bois (1890), sold at Sotheby’s London, May 13, 2005 for £792,000 ($1,483,701) premium

10) Roderic O’Conor (1860-1940)
Lots sold: 103
Total sales: $8,636,977

Gerard Dillon, <em>Self portrait in roundstone</em>, sold at Sotheby's London, May 9, 2007 for 192,000 GBP (Premium) ($382,927)

Gerard Dillon, Self portrait in roundstone, sold at Sotheby’s London, May 9, 2007 for £192,000 ($382,927) premium

11) Gerard Dillon (1916-1971)
Lots sold: 356
Total sales: $7,155,304

Colin Middleton, <em>Muriel</em> (1939), sold at James Adam Salerooms & Bonhams, December 7, 2005 for €170,000 Hammer ($199,296)

Colin Middleton, Muriel (1939), sold at James Adam Salerooms & Bonhams, December 7, 2005 for €170,000 ($199,296) hammer

12) Colin Middleton (1910-1983)
Lots sold: 200
Total sales: $6,139,233

Markey Robinson, <em>The harbor at Ardglass, Co. Down</em>, sold at de Veres Arts Auctions, June 12, 2007 for 54,000 EUR Hammer ($71,949)

Markey Robinson, The harbor at Ardglass, Co. Down, sold at de Veres Arts Auctions, June 12, 2007 for €54,000 ($71,949) hammer

13) Markey Robinson (1917-1999)
Lots sold: 1041
Total sales: $4,650,889

Norah McGuinness, <em>The little harvest, Mayo</em> (1959), sold at James Adam Salerooms & Bonhams ,May 31, 2006 for 210,000 EUR Hammer ($269,230)

Norah McGuinness, The little harvest, Mayo (1959), sold at James Adam Salerooms & Bonhams, May 31, 2006 for €210,000 ($269,230) hammer

14) Norah McGuinness (1901-1980)
Lots sold: 205
Total sales: $3,564,241

Frank McKelvey, <em>Children on the banks of the Lagan</em>, sold at Sotheby's London, May 16, 2003 for 84,000 GBP Premium ($135,768)

Frank McKelvey, Children on the banks of the Lagan, sold at Sotheby’s London, May 16, 2003 for £84,000 ($135,768) hammer

15) Frank McKelvey (1895-1974)
Lots sold: 217
Total sales: $3,549,941

Tony O'Malley, <em>Studio series</em> (1971), sold at de Veres Arts Auctions, June 12, 2007 for 250,000 EUR Hammer ($333,101)

Tony O’Malley, Studio series (1971), sold at de Veres Arts Auctions, June 12, 2007 for €250,000 ($333,101) hammer

16) Tony O’Malley (1913-2003)
Lots sold: 327
Total sales: $3,545,295

Sean Keating, <em>The seventh wave</em>, sold at James Adam Salerooms & Bonhams, May 28, 2008 for 180,000 EUR Hammer ($282,352)

Sean Keating, The seventh wave, sold at James Adam Salerooms & Bonhams, May 28, 2008 for €180,000 ($282,352) hammer

17) Sean Keating (1889-1977)
Lots sold: 129
Total sales: $3,503,397

Basil Blackshaw, <em>First tractor in Randalstown</em>, sold at Sotheby's London, May 23, 2013 for 134,500 GBP Premium ($203,510)

Basil Blackshaw, First tractor in Randalstown, sold at Sotheby’s London, May 23, 2013 for £134,500 ($203,510) premium

18) Basil Blackshaw (b. 1932)
Lots sold: 155
Total sales: $3,366,095

William Conor, <em>The Dublin horse show</em>, sold atSotheby's London, May 9, 2007 for 192,000 GBP Premium ($382,927)

William Conor, The Dublin horse show, sold at Sotheby’s London, May 9, 2007 for £192,000 ($382,927) premium

19) William Conor (1881-1968)
Lots sold: 176
Total sales: $3,274,953

Mary Swanzy, <em>Cubist landscape with red pagoda and bridge</em> (ca. 1926-1928), sold at Whyte's, November 28, 2006 for 180,000 EUR Hammer ($236,885)

Mary Swanzy, Cubist landscape with red pagoda and bridge (ca. 1926-1928), sold at Whyte’s, November 28, 2006 for €180,000 ($236,885) hammer

20) Mary Swanzy (1882-1978)
Lots sold: 155
Total sales: $3,137,006

William John Leech, <em>Beach parasols, Concarneau</em> sold at Veres Arts Auctions, June 13, 2006 for 380,000 EUR Hammer ($477,867)

William John Leech, Beach parasols, Concarneau sold at Veres Arts Auctions, June 13, 2006 for €380,000 ($477,867) hammer

21) William John Leech (1881-1968)
Lots sold: 64
Total sales: $2,725,815

Kenneth Webb, <em>Pierside pub with villagers</em>, sold at James Adam Salerooms & Bonhams, December 5, 2006 for 60,000 EUR Premium ($79,943)

Kenneth Webb, Pierside pub with villagers, sold at James Adam Salerooms & Bonhams, December 5, 2006 for €60,000 ($79,943) premium

22) Kenneth Webb (b. 1927)
Lots sold: 317
Total sales: $2,540,265

James Humbert Craig, <em>A soft day, Connemara</em>, sold at Christie's London, May 10, 2007for 69,600 GBP Premium ($138,013)

James Humbert Craig, A soft day, Connemara, sold at Christie’s London, May 10, 2007 for £69,600 ($138,013) premium

23) James Humbert Craig (1878-1944)
Lots sold: 219
Total sales: $2,502,548

Harry Kernoff, <em>A bird never flew on one wing</em> (1947), sold at James Adam Salerooms & Bonhams, May 28, 2008 for 180,000 EUR Hammer ($282,352)

Harry Kernoff, A bird never flew on one wing (1947), sold at James Adam Salerooms & Bonhams, May 28, 2008 for €180,000 ($282,352) hammer

24) Harry Kernoff (1900-1974)
Lots sold: 237
Total sales: $2,405,536

William Percy French, <em>Irish sketches</em> (13 works), sold at Whyte's, November 24, 2008 for 54,000 EUR Premium ($68,259)

William Percy French, Irish sketches (13 works), sold at Whyte’s, November 24, 2008 for €54,000 ($68,259) premium

25) William Percy French (1854-1920)
Lots sold: 350
Total sales: $2,387,235


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