29th Mar, 2023 10:00

Modern British & Irish Art

Lot 23 §


The Steps, Ardglass
signed 'Colin M' (lower right); further signed and titled 'The Steps, Ardglass/by/Colin Middleton' (on a label attached to the frame)
oil on canvas
66 x 76.3 cm. (26 x 30 in.)
Painted in 1949

Acquired by the family of the present owner, circa 1960, thence by descent

Dublin, Irish Exhibition of Living Art, 1950
Dublin, Victor Waddington Gallery, April 1953, cat.no.21


Colin Middleton moved to Ardglass from Belfast in the summer of 1949. The previous December he had been taken on as a gallery artist by the Dublin dealer Victor Waddington and the £40 per month he received as an advance against sales had allowed Middleton to make a decisive break from his previous career as a damask designer.

Although he only remained in Ardglass until late in 1952 it was a period of immense significance for Middleton. Having achieved early recognition in Belfast, culminating in a solo exhibition at the Belfast Museum and Art Gallery in 1943, it was in the late 1940s and generally under the auspices of Waddington that he began to exhibit consistently in Dublin and London as well as in group exhibitions in the USA and Europe. By 1949 Middleton was working in the expressionist manner that he had evolved through the second part of the decade and which dominated his work until 1960; in the landscape around Ardglass and the daily life of its fishing community he found ideal subjects for this intense and dramatic way of working.

Images of Ardglass itself are rare in Middleton’s work and, like Landscape with a Red Gable (also 1949), The Steps: Ardglass transforms the town with an edgy intensity, an almost hallucinatory light and slightly tilted perspective. The impact of the van Gogh exhibition Middleton saw in London in 1928 is still clear two decades later, but the dynamic brushwork and strong colour of The Steps: Ardglass remains carefully organised and strongly individual.

The painting was included in the 1950 Irish Exhibition of Living Art and noted in the Dublin Magazine. Widely regarded today as one of the leading Irish painters of the twentieth century, and represented in public collections across Ireland as well as in England and Australia, these years in Ardglass undoubtedly remain a crucial period in Middleton’s life, during which some of his most notable work was painted. On a train journey through England in 1954, Middleton wrote ‘the entire landscape looks very ordinary after living in Ardglass and Ballymote’.

We are grateful to Dickon Hall for compiling this catalogue entry.

Sold for £13,750

Includes Buyer's Premium


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