A painting by Limerick-born artist Seán Keating, featuring his wife and children, sold at auction for €130,000 — almost three times original estimates.
Portrait of an Aran Woman and her Children 1946 by Seán Keating was expected to fetch between €40,000 to €50,000 before it went under the hammer at Mealy’s in Kildare.
“It didn’t surprise me at all that the painting shot up above the auction price,” art historian and Keating biographer, Dr Eimear O’Connor, said; adding that she believes the painting fetched such a high price due to the models Keating used.
The biographer identified May Keating, the artist’s wife, as the woman depicted in the painting; as well as his two sons Justin, seated in the centre of the painting, and Michael, lying down. “Paintings of May are incredibly rare and his children even more so,” she explained.
May was a political activist and an “incredibly interesting woman” Ms O’Connor said, adding that a whole chapter of her biography on Keating, Sean Keating — Art, Politics and Building the Nation, is dedicated to his wife.
As well as acting as the personal secretary to suffragette Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, Ms Keating was also heavily involved with Noel Browne’s Mother and Child scheme, operating the initiative out of the Keating household.
“Incredibly interesting woman, yet only a model in Keating’s paintings. She never wanted to be depicted for her politics,” Ms O’Connor said.
Keating’s two sons also sat for the painting; Justin Keating went on to become a minister and Michael became a well-known engineer, a profession that his father had originally wanted to pursue, according to Ms O’Connor.
Ms O’Connor said she believes the last time the painting was exhibited was in the 1940s — making the appearance at the auction this week its first public exhibition in years.
As Keating paintings are enormously popular with collectors both here and abroad, the buyer of the painting could be from anywhere.
The sale of the painting makes it the eighth highest bid a painting by the artist has sold for. The auction house’s winter sale fetched more than €580,000, with 70% of its lots purchased.
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