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Nathaniel Hone RHA 1831 - 1917

Photograph of a painting by the Irish artist, Nathaniel Hone.

Sunshine at Noon
Oil on canvas, 14 x 20 inches
Provenance: Adams, Bonhams, Dublin, May 2004;

Milmo-Penny Fine Art, Dublin;
Private collection, USA
Ref: Bodkin, Four Irish Landscape Painters, Appendix XVI, number 168

This is one of many meadowland scenes painted by Hone in the 1890s and relates to his most famous painting Pastures at Malahide in the National Gallery of Ireland. While not identical in detail by any way, the theme is familiar. A small group of cattle fill the foreground with one other grazing in the distance, just in front of a small copse. In Malahide, the landscape extends to a sun-drenched field on the horizon line, whereas our painting is set in front of a glimpse of the estuary. Invariably these paintings display a magnificent sky.

In his National Gallery of Ireland catalogue notes of 1991, Dr. Julian Campbell refers to Malahide in a passage which is difficult to resist repeating. “The subject is modest, and captured with apparent ease and simplicity, in subdued but rich colours. The painting shows Hone at the height of his powers, in the bold, confident brushwork, the masterly balance of light and shadow, and understanding of the changing Irish light.”

 Malahide Pastures
Oil on canvas laid on board, 19 x 30 inches
 Provenance: John Chambers Collection, Dublin, 1992;
 Private Collection, Dublin
 Price on application: Commission sale, Email 'art at'
Another fine example from the series is Malahide Pastures which is also closely related to the NGI masterpiece. Bodkin gives a good description of the latter in his 1920 compendium, ‘Four Irish Landscape Painters’. “The heavy rain cloud to the right is of reddish hue, merging into cool purple grey. There is a little clear blue sky in the upper left corner. A burst of sunlight illuminates the ploughed upland. The long grove of trees in the background is dark, luscious green, composed mainly of a mixture of chrome yellow and ivory black. The patches of ragweed scattered through the pasture are painted with the same colour. The cows are red and white. The work was done very rapidly and dexterously with fluid paint richly, but thinly, laid.”
The pasturage was on Hone’s doorstep so it is not surprising that he returned to it on regular occasions. However, thanks to the ever-changing light and clouds rolling in off the sea, there was little fear of sameness. The current view is taken from a slightly different angle the the NGI painting and shows a closer view of the grove of trees. The contours of the ploughed upland, which is set further off in the distance, provide a well defined balance to the painting. In both works, the edge of the wood runs down to a hedgerow, which acts a subtle demarcation in setting the dept and perspective of the composition.
 The atmospheric sky, confidently painted in broad strokes of the brush, casts a soft glow on the white patches of the cattle and throws a delicate light on the foreground grasses and the ploughed fields beyond. In common with Pastures at Malahide, the outline of the trees is repeated in the clouds, which float above them; a classical technique which indicates Hone’s formal training. He captures the pose and shape of the cattle with nothing more than a few delicately placed blobs of paint. No attempt is made to depict detail, which is testament to the skill and mastery Hone had developed by this time.

Photograph of a painting by the Irish artist, Nathaniel Hone

Misty Evening, Glenmalure
Oil on canvas, 24 x 40 inches
Provenance: John Quinn, New York;
Quinn dispersal, American Art Galleries, New York,
11 February 1927, lot 240;
Sotheby’s, London, The Irish Sale,
21 May 98, lot 314
Milmo-Penny Fine Art,
Private collection, Dublin
Exhibited: Royal Hibernian Academy, 1880, number 51;
, Hone Exhibition, Dublin 1901;
, Connaught Exhibition, Limerick 1906
Literature: Bodkin, Appendix XVI, number 97;

Hone saw the capture of subjects lit by hazy atmospheric light as a real challenge. In this painting he overcomes the challenge with remarkable ease. The painting is a companion to other important works from this early period such as Sheep on a Donegal Road and Glenmalure, Sheep to Pasture, both in the National Gallery of Ireland.

It is most likely that this painting is the Royal Hibernian Academy exhibit of 1880. However, in the same year Hone exhibited a second work entitled Road to the Mines, Glenmalure, but the misty evening description appears to fit best. Although Hone painted only a handful of works with titles relating to Glenmalure, there is a certain amount of confusion over these, especially as the same painting may have appeared at various exhibitions under different titles.

The painting was shown in an exhibition of works by Hone in 1901 organised by Sarah Purser and Edward Martyn. Perhaps through the intercession of Purser, the painting was purchased at a later date by the American collector, John Quinn, one of the most important patrons of Irish art. He was very much involved with Lady Gregory and the Irish Celtic Revival.

Photograph of a painting by the Irish artist, Nathaniel Hone

Rough Sea, Bundoran
Oil on canvas, 24 x 40 inches
Exhibited: Royal Hibernian Academy, 1896, No. 11
Milmo-Penny Fine Art, 1982

Working from the Bundoran plate fixed to the front of the frame and the Royal Hibernian Academy label on reverse, it is almost certain that this is the painting exhibited at the RHA in 1896 as Rough Sea, Bundoran. Hone exhibited a series of Bundoran works at the Academy between 1896 and 1913 but none of the other titles appear to match, with the possible exception of A Storm at Bundoran, shown in 1903. However, the earlier picture seems more likely. The frame was used to exhibit an earlier work at the Dublin Art Club. A second label fragment reads; La . . . . . . ., Nathaniel Hone, Moldowney, (Malahide) Price £20. This is almost certainly the picture entitled Landscape, exhibited at the Dublin Art Club in 1891, number132. As the work is not listed in O Brien's catalogue of Mrs. Hone's collection, it is most probable that the picture was sold at the RHA exhibition or perhaps at a later date.

Photograph of a painting by the Irish artist, Nathaniel Hone

Coastal Scene with Breaking Waves
Oil on canvas, 24 x 40 inches
Provenance: Cynthia O'Connor, Dublin;
James Adam, Dublin, December 1997

Milmo-Penny Fine Art, Dublin
Private collection, Dublin

Apart from painting, the other great love in Hone's life was the sea. In his youth he was a dedicated yachtsman and his familiarity with the sea enabled him to produce many powerful marine and wave paintings such as those illustrated here. The power of enormous waves crashing over rugged rocks at Kilkee or onto an isolated beach in Bundoran caught his imagination. These paintings are as powerful as those of Courbet, whose great wave paintings he had become familiar with during his French days. The strength of these paintings is in their simplicity, a refinement achievable only by a master.

Photograph of a painting by the Irish artist, Nathaniel Hone

George's Head, Kilkee, Co. Clare
Oil on canvas laid on board, 8 x 12 inches. Signed by the artist
Inscribed verso, Mrs. Jameson, Sutton House, Sutton
Literature: Thomas Bodkin, Four Irish Landscape Painters, Appendix XVI
Provenance: Andrew Jameson
Collection Allied Irish Banks, Dublin
Exhibited: Milmo-Penny Fine Art, June 1991

This is one of a series of oil and watercolour sketches made by Hone of cliffs, breaking waves and water spilling over rocks around Kilkee in the 1890s and early 1900s. Hone was fascinated by the untamed power and drama of the Atlantic as it crashed against the monumental rock formations which spread for miles along the isolated coastline. Hone must have felt very close to nature as he set up his easel in these remote areas. The studies were carried out at different times in preparation for works which were to result in some of his greatest masterpieces. An almost identical study in oil is in the National Gallery of Ireland together with a watercolour of the same view.

Photograph of a painting by the Irish artist, Nathaniel Hone

The Milky Sea
Lambay Island from the Beach
Oil on canvas, 24 x 40 inches
Numbered 99 verso
Provenance: From an early Dublin collection of works by Hone
Literature: Bodkin, Four Irish Landscape Painters, Appendix XVI, No. 98

Exhibited: Milmo-Penny Fine Art, October 1992

Gulls are a hallmark of Hone’s seascapes, normally found in small flocks, gliding low over the waters edge. The solitude of the lone gull found here skimming the milky sea adds to the drama of the scene. It also acts as a focal point which leads the eye over the churning sand and out across the waves to the island. Painted on the North Dublin Coast, in the vicinity of Portrane, this is one of many wave paintings of the East coast, mostly views drawn from the beaches close to Hone’s Malahide studio. Although inextricably linked to the western studies, this series is distinctly identifiable for the softness and expressiveness. This particular example is very broad in handling and shows what can be achieved with a palette almost devoid of pigment. It may be compared to one of Hone’s finest works, A North East Breeze, illustrated in Julian Campbell's catalogue of the Hone exhibition, National Gallery of Ireland, 1991. As was the case in the West, Hone produced numerous sketches in oil and watercolour along this particular stretch of coastline. Many of these are in the National Gallery of Ireland and were used to identify the topography of this work. One useful example is A Rocky Headland on Lambay Island, No. 3362.

Photograph of a painting by the Irish artist, Nathaniel Hone.

St. Marnock’s Sands and Fragment of Wreck
Oil on canvas 26 x 39½ inches. Signed by the artist
Provenance: Magdalen Hone;
James Adam, Dublin, early 1970’s;
Private collection, Dublin
Exhibited: Milmo-Penny Fine Art, November 1999
Literature: Bodkin, Appendix XVI, number 27;
Dr. Julian Campbell, NGI 1991, exhibition catalogue

The site of the wreck on St. Marnock’s Sands, known today as Velvet Strand, was no more than a stones throw from Moldowney House, Hone’s residence from the 1880’s to 1896. The flat skeleton of the wreck remains on the beach to this day. The line of the vessel suggests that it was of considerable age when painted by Hone, probably in the mid-1890’s, just before he departed Moldowney.

Similar versions of the painting are recorded. Thomas Bodkin, 'Four Irish Landscape Painters', refers to an earlier work as “one of his best works” in praising the Ministry of Fine Arts in Paris on their acquisition of L’Epave, a canvas of similar dimensions to the current work. This painting is now held by the Musée d’Orsay.

Hone lent The Derelict , a larger version of almost three feet by four feet, to the Franco-British exhibition of 1908. It was subsequently purchased by Hugh Lane who presented it to the Scottish Modern Arts Association in the same year. In turn, it went to the National Gallery, Edinburgh, where it was displayed for six months each year and then sent on tour to Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen and Stirling. In this work, the wreck is more intact than in our painting, which suggests an earlier date of execution. The softer style and the inclusion of a small group of children playing beside the dunes also suggests a slightly later date for our canvas and conforms to Hone’s output of the mid-1890’s.

Photograph of a painting by the Irish artist, Nathaniel Hone

A View Towards Lambay from the Derelict
Oil on canvas, 14 x 18 inches. Signed by the artist
Milmo-Penny Fine Art, ’Helen Mabel Trevor and the Bretons’, Dublin, December 2005

This recently discovered version of the wreck differs significantly from the others, as it looks north along the coast towards Lambay Island. It takes in the dunes at Portmarnock and a glimpse of two yachts under sail heading in to Malahide. Close study of the composition, style and handling of the different versions suggest a date of 1895 for the current painting. The frame carries the trade label of Daniel Egan, 26 Lower Ormond Quay, Dublin. The label is almost identical to the one on St. Marnock’s Sands and Fragment of Wreck. It is likely that both canvases were painted within a year or so of each other. The painting is numbered 46 on the original frame but this does not appear to relate to O Brien’s catalogue of Hone’s studio. It is more likely that the painting was exhibited and sold by Hone soon after it was painted. There are a number of exhibited works with titles such as Near Malahide and Malahide Sands that could match the scene portrayed. This is a fine example of Hone’s ability to spread creamy layers of paint with the control of a master craftsman. Hone has long held the reputation of the best painter of the Irish sky. This aspect of his work is shown to good effect here.

The Hone family has produced painters of outstanding ability for generations and continues to do so to the present day. In 1831, one of these, Nathaniel Hone (the Younger), was born at Fitzwilliam Place in Dublin. After a brief career as an engineer, Hone decided to go to Paris to study painting. Apart from occasional visits home, he was to remain in France for seventeen years. The first four years were spent working from the model and copying at the Louvre under the guidance of Yvon and Coture. Following this period, he moved to Barbizon where he concentrated on landscape painting. Here he was in daily contact with such masters as Millet, Corot and Harpignies. In this company he developed the groundwork for a solid and individual style which matured into that of a master.

In 'Four Irish Landscape Painters', Thomas Bodkin makes some enlightened observations on Hone: "He had always the greatest interest in, and sympathy with, good painting, no matter in what manner: but he had the sense and character to adhere unswervingly to the way he had found best for the expression of his own personality. The many extant pictures of his early continental period, those scenes from Barbizon, Fontainebleau, and the Mediterranean coast show his work to have been sure and tender, strong and capable, comprehensive and observed, to degrees that young men can seldom attain. To his deep feeling for the colour of a landscape and his marvellous power to reproduce it, he joined a talent for bold design, a breadth of vision and a vigour of execution that combined to lift him to a foremost place among the landscape painters of his age. Hone was a master of his medium from the start of his career. His best work is painted in rich, liquid pigment, laid on thinly and boldly, with that caressing ease which only comes through ceaseless effort. With the matured technique may be noticed a tendency to simplification in subject and composition."

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