Two Paintings by Daniel O’Neill

By: Goulven Le Morvan

Lot 22 – Daniel O’Neill (1920-1974), PORTRAIT OF A GIRL. Oil on hardboard; signed lower right. 21.9 x 18.3 in — 55.6 x 46.5 cm. Estimate $10,000-$15,000

In her recent monograph, Daniel O’Neill: Romanticism & Friendships, Karen Reihill sheds new light on this Belfast-born artist. More than 45 years after his death, the research made by Reihill allows us to better discover a painter influenced by the French Masters.

The son of an electrician, born during the War of Independence, O’Neill was a Catholic. Self-taught, O’Neill would paint watercolours during the day, a practice which he funded by working a night job. “His early paintings after the bombing of Belfast in 1941 seemed to reflect a man who had witnessed human despair and suffering in addition to experiencing the physical damage to the fabric of his city.”[1]

Following the advice of painter Gerard Dillon, O’Neill crossed the border between North and South in 1942 and settled in Dublin. There he met his first wife, Eileen Lyle. His first exhibition in Dublin with Dillon was held at the Contemporary Painters Gallery. As a result, he gained a gallery contract with art dealer Victor Waddington, and in 1945 a very successful solo show was held at the Waddington Galleries. Finally able to work as an artist full time, O’Neill was included in several collaborative shows with the ‘Four Northern Painters’ – Gerard Dillon, George Campbell and Neville Johnson – in Ireland, Los Angeles, New York City and Boston, as well as London and Amsterdam.

Sponsored by Waddington, the artist travelled to Paris in 1948. The planned three-month trip turned into a six-month stay. Inspired by works by Georges Rouault, Maurice de Vlaminck and Maurice Utrillo, new bohemian scenes of life in Paris and its cafés appeared in O’Neill’s work. “At the age of 30 O’Neill’s career seemed to have reached the status he had craved. He had fulfilled his ambition of becoming a full-time painter. He was in popular demand at home and had visited Paris, still the capital of the art world, and his work was included in group exhibitions in Europe, Canada and the US. Yet around this time something was wrong.”[2] His stormy private life, overflowing with drinking and infidelity, led to the end of his first marriage and the estrangement from his family and daughter. This turmoil impacted his art as well, and O’Neill stopped painting for a few years.

In 1952, the artist left Dublin for London, where his wife and daughter had settled. In search of new markets, Victor Waddington, O’Neill’s dealer, sent the works to his brother’s gallery in Montreal, the George Waddington Galleries. The paintings offered here, Funfair and Portrait of a Girl, were probably part of this shipment.

Lot 21 – Daniel O’Neill (1920-1974), FUNFAIR. Oil on hardboard
signed lower left; titled to nameplate. 16.3 x 24.3 in — 41.5 x 61.7 cm. Estimate $10,000-$15,000

About the auction

Held online from May 24-29, 2024, our spring auction of Canadian and International Fine Art brings together exceptional work from around the world. This auction features celebrated Canadian artists such as Cornelius Krieghoff, A.Y. Jackson, P.C. Sheppard, A.J. Casson, Bertram Booker, Alexandra Luke, Jean Paul Lemieux and Yves Gaucher as well as important First Nations artists Norval Morrisseau, Roy Thomas and Alex Janvier. International highlights include work by Jules Olitski, Karel Appel, Kwon Young-Woo, Norman Bluhm, Józef Bakoś, Léon Lhermitte and Montague Dawson.

Previews will be available at our Toronto gallery, located at 275 King Street East, Toronto:

 Thursday, May 23 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
 Friday, May 24 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
 Saturday, May 25 from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm
 Sunday, May 26 from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm
 Monday, May 27 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
 Tuesday, May 28 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm

Or by appointment.

Please contact us to find out more.

[2] Ibid.

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