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Roderic O'Conor, R.H.A. (1860-1940)
Roderic O'Conor, R.H.A. (1860-1940)

Seated female nude

Details
Roderic O'Conor, R.H.A. (1860-1940)
Seated female nude
signed with initials 'R.O'C' (upper right), signed again, inscribed and dated 'No 3 Etude R. O'Conor 23/06' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
24 x 20 in. (61 x 50.8 cm.)
Provenance
with Crane Kalman Gallery, London, 1975.
with Pyms Gallery, London, 1982.
Dr Terence Fulton, Belfast, and by descent.
Literature
J. Benington, Roderic O'Conor, a biography with a catalogue of his work, Dublin, 1992, p. 214, no. 206.
Exhibited
Paris, Salon d'Automne, 1909, no. 1319, as 'Étude'.
London, Pyms Gallery, The Irish Revival, May - June 1982, no. 53 (ex-catalogue).

Lot Essay

Although O'Conor painted many female nudes after he settled in Paris in 1904 and took a large studio in the rue du Cherche-Midi, the present painting is unusual in that it depicts only the model's upper torso. Notwithstanding her state of undress, the upright pose and exclusion of supplementary props from the background call to mind the format of a conventional portrait. Also unusual is the way the model's gaze directly and frankly confronts that of the artist, hinting at a connection that may have gone beyond the purely professional. Her sensuous lips, dark eyes and wavy hair are captured with careful attention to detail, in contrast to the very textured and impastoed brushwork applied to the torso and draperies. This heavy build-up of pigment heightens the materiality of the figure, rendering the forms both tactile and monumental. Thus the painting manages to be classical and modern at the same time.

A similar approach to painting the female model, combining finely delineated features and heavily textured drapes, is evident in O'Conor's painting Repos of a fully clothed young woman asleep with a book in her hand. This work was exhibited in Paris in 1905 and purchased by the great Russian collector of modern art, Ivan Morosov, before it entered the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, where it remains to this day. Seated female nude, or Étude as it was originally titled, can also be dated to this period on stylistic grounds and may even feature the same model. That O'Conor should have submitted the nude version to the 1909 Salon d'Automne confirms he was pleased with the outcome, the more so knowing he was in the spotlight from having to serve on that year's selection jury. It is interesting to note that Seated female nude lacks the 'atelier O'Conor' stamp on its reverse, suggesting it was sold from the Salon exhibition.

We are very grateful to Jonathan Benington for preparing this catalogue entry.
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