Percy William French 1854-1920
Irsih Landscape Watercolour depicting a rustic view of the West of Ireland, offered in a later mount with gilt trim and its original gilt frame.
Width: (entire as shown) 22" (56cm). Height: (entire) 17.25" (43.5cm).
Unframed picture: Width: 12.75" (32.5cm). Height: 7.5" 919cm).
Renowned Irish Painter, French was born in Co. Roscommon, near Elphin, to an old local family. Although he spent some of his boyhood in England, he returned to Ireland to attend Trinity College, Dublin, and thereafter became one of the most famous Irishmen of his time. He began painting as an amateur, executing watercolours as he travelled the West while working as an engineer for the Cavan Board of Works from 1881-1889.
From 1890, though, he became a full-time artist and stage-performer: he was a prolific composer of popular songs and his stage act consisted of a repertoire of songs accompanied by trick sketching on large sheets of paper. He would execute lightning caricatures of audience members, or pictures which could be turned upside down to become something different. Although completely self-taught, he became a major celebrity, and by 1900 his act was touring to Canada, the USA, Europe and the Caribbean: as French himself put it, his performance combined 'brains, beauty, brushwork and banjos in one harmonious whole'. He died while touring in Lancashire, England.
All of this has meant that his art has never quite been given the notice it deserves. This is not helped by the fact that he himself seems to have set little store by his paintings, and gave many of them away to friends (as appears to have happened in the case of the present work). At their best, however, his paintings are a brilliantly true evocation of the Irish landscape: he has a unique feeling for the desolate boglands and huge windy skies of the North West. This work shows him, I think, at his very best and is a good indication of why opinions of his work are beginning to change.
For a link to the website of the Percy French Society, which contains further information on him go to: www.percyfrench.org