Home Contact | Advertising Subscribe Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia
Search Listings
Alberta British Columbia Oregon Washington
Exhibition Previews
Calendar
Gallery Websites
Conservation Corner

SEARCH EDITORIAL
To find gallery listings use search at page top right.


CURRENT COLUMN

The Case of Dubious Due Diligence

The Case of Dubious Due Diligence

The Case of the Olympic Posters
The Case of the Olympic Posters

The Case of the Solitary Surrealist
The Case of the Solitary Surrealist

The Case of the Recalcitrant Rembrandt
The Case of the Recalcitrant Rembrandt

The Case of the Ambiguity of Authenticity
The Case of the Ambiguity of Authenticity

The Case of Margaret Keane’s Big-Eyed Boys
The Case of Margaret Keane’s Big-Eyed Boys

The Case of Clarence’s Château-Gaillard
The Case of Clarence’s Château-Gaillard

The Case of the M.S. Nov 1910
The Case of the M.S. Nov 1910

The Case of Cruise Ship Art: Part 2
The Case of the Archangel Michael Defeating Satan

The Case of Cruise Ship Art: Part 2
The Case of Cruise Ship Art: Part 2

The Case of Mary Most Holy Mother of Light
The Case of Mary Most Holy Mother of Light

The Case of Leni and the Nuba
The Case of Leni and the Nuba

The Case of the Seductive Souvenir
The Case of the Seductive Souvenir

The Case of the Irish Surrealist
The Case of the Irish Surrealist

The Case of the Developing Dalí
The Case of the Developing Dalí

The Case of Nano-D Technology
The Case of Nano-D Technology

The Case of Dabatable Donations
The Case of Debatable Donations

Edgar Heap of Birds
The Case of the Long-tailed Monkey

Edgar Heap of Birds
The Case of Edgar Heap of Birds

Silent Song
The Case of the Silent Song

Aficionado
The Case of Alex and the Art Aficionado

Portrait
The Case of the Privacy of the Publicity Photo

Potter
The Case of the Potter's Portraits

The Case of the Coy Cornelius Krieghoff

The Case of the Political Portraitist

The Case of the Reconsidered Revolution

The Case of the Anabiotic Abbey

The Case of the Phoney Picasso

The Case of Setsuko Piroche

The Case of being on the Forest Edge with Vern Simpson

The Case of Being at the End of the Storm with Loren Adams

The Case of Being: Under the Table with Thomas

The Case of Wyland's Whales on Walls

The Case of A.Y. Jackson's Smart River (Alaska)

The Case of Red Fish with Blue Breasts

The Case of Looe Poole

The Case of Camaldoli

The Case of MS

The Case of the Misattributed Emily Carrs

The Case of the Doubtful Dürer

The Case of the Purloined Picasso

The Case of the Defrocked Duchess of Devonshire

The Case of the First Wife

The Case of the Dodford Priory

The Case of the Unknown Actor

Art Services & Materials


Confessions Back

Colin Middleton, Witch: Mullaghderg

Colin Middleton, Witch: Mullaghderg

Practical Art History
(or Confessions of a Fine Art Appraiser)

by Jim Finlay
Finlay Fine Art
jim_finlay@telus.net

Chapter 41. The Case of the Irish Surrealist

The client had engaged my professional services to appraise a framed, oil-on-board painting bearing the monogram of Irish artist Colin Middleton (1910–1983) in the lower right. The size of the image was approximately 23 by 24 inches, and on the back of the painting appeared the title Witch: Mullaghderg and the date 1964, as well as the artist’s signature.

My client and her former husband had purchased the painting directly from Middleton when he lived in Ardglass, Northern Ireland. At the time, around 1964, the two were visiting Northern Ireland when they met Middleton with whom they had been acquainted before they immigrated to Canada, in the early 1950s.

My client became friends with the artist when she was in a sanatorium recovering from tuberculosis. He had given her paints, pencils and paper and encouraged her to take up painting to help speed her recovery. Over the years, their friendship matured and she continued to paint under his tutelage. Her subsequent work was reflective of Middleton’s stylistic approach to painting non-representational subject matter.

Middleton regarded himself as the only Surrealist working in Ireland in the 1930s, and he continued to paint in this style into the 1950s. His works from this period are rarely sold on the secondary market. Consequently, estimates of fair market value for them are robust.

According to my client, Middleton told her the image derived from an encounter he’d had while walking on a misty night along a country road in County Donegal, Eire, he met an old woman dressed in black and wearing a black shawl. The Mediterranean tradition of old women dressing this way to show that they are widows is still practised in many parts of Ireland, and it is not uncommon to see them walking along the roadsides, as walking is usually their preferred means of getting from one place to another. They continue the great tradition of walking, as the Irish are known to be enthusiastic and prolific walkers. One can well surmise that meeting this woman under such evocative circumstances would have seemed surreal to Middleton.

This piece appears to be a transitional work between Middleton’s figurative surrealism of the early to late 1950s and the more geometric abstraction pieces dating from the late 1960s.

The work exhibits elements of the surreal, with the realistically rendered and illuminated face, topped with a red knitted cap and the figure cloaked in black abstracted outerwear. The composition harkens back to Middleton’s earlier works, with its focus of a single figure in a landscape. The suggestion of the mystical or spiritual is enhanced by the face peering out from the flat geometry of the abstracted clothing, which appears as both a psychological and a physical constraint.

One wonders what secret this “witch” is keeping from the viewer, and what the consequences of that profane knowledge could be.

Next: The Case of the Seductive Souvenir or Cruise Ship Art

 Sun, Apr 6, 2014