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Colin Middleton's Slievenisky

November 29, 2022


Painted in April 1949, Slievenisky was painted only a few months before Colin Middleton moved to Ardglass and was perhaps inspired by an exploratory journey around County Down in search of a suitable place to which to move from Belfast. Having returned to Belfast during the previous summer from a challenging year living in England, Middleton’s development of a more expressive and gestural style of painting had evolved to what was arguably its most experimental point by the winter of that year, when he was taken on by Victor Waddington as a contracted gallery artist.

The broad and expressive handling of paint demonstrates Middleton’s confidence at this period; Waddington’s monthly payments had allowed him to paint full-time and there is a sense of liberation in his work of the late 1940s and early 1950s. Buildings along the hillside are swiftly drawn in with an almost childlike rapidity, surrounded by intersecting flat planes of colour that are recognisable from contemporaneous paintings such as Carnmoney, which almost recall de Stael’s work of the early 1950s.  

Slievenisky demonstrates the remarkable originality of Middleton’s work at this time, creating an almost unsettling intensity which characterised his initial engagement with the area around Ardglass, and this style can be seen in other works from early in 1949, such as Landscape with a Red Gable or Landscape with a Baker’s Van. Middleton’s enthusiasm at working with Waddington is clear in these paintings, and they quickly established a very close, but comparatively short-lived friendship, with the former encouraged by his dealer’s ambition and encouragement, but there is an underlying unease of mood that perhaps was affected by the death of Middleton’s mother earlier that year.

Dickon Hall, October 2022

Coming to our salerooms December 7th Important Irish Art

Lot 11

Colin Middleton RHA RUA MBE (1910-1983)

Slievenisky Sky (55)

Oil on canvas, 51 x 61cm (20 x 24")

Signed


Exhibited: Dublin, Irish Exhibition of Living Art, 1949, catalogue number 50

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