‘Oh, yes! Delicious,’ said the art dealer.
That diamond chipped accent, thought Niamh, would skewer even a Duke. She assumed it was put on to impress the New York art market.
‘The exquisiteness of the subdued palette, absolutely delicious.’
Naimh watched as the art dealer, Algernon Horace Montague-Smythe, (surely another sop to the New York art market – no-one would call their child that) put an eye-glass in to his right eye and bent over the painting to carefully examine the fine detail. He muttered to himself about brush strokes and subtle tints.
Niamh’s friend, Patrick, had found this Englishman. An interior designer, Patrick thought he knew something about art. ‘It doesn’t fit here,’ said Patrick, when Niamh had proudly shown him her purchase from the junk shop. ‘I think the frame is worth more than the painting. Sell it and buy something contemporary. There are plenty of good young artists trying to make their name. Buy them now and it will be a good investment.’
‘I can’t sell it.’ Niamh was surprised how the thought of selling appalled her. ‘I know I’ve seen it before but I don’t know where. I feel it’s trying to say something to me.’
‘It’s saying sell me and buy something modern. I’ll find someone to look at it for you.’
Niamh realised Patrick didn’t understand her feelings so she didn’t talk about the painting anymore. She did agree to take it to the dealer Patrick found, mainly to see if she could find out more about the painting and the artist.
‘It’s a good example of Stephen O’Hanlon’s work,’ said Montague-Smythe taking the eye-glass out and straightening up. He was an Irish artist working in the 1940s and 50s.’
‘O’Hanlon’s work was fixed in the style of 1900,’ continued Montague-Smythe. ‘Abstractionism, existentialism and all the other -isms walked straight past his easel.’
Niamh wasn’t concentrating. Bad lot the O’Hanlons was swirling around in her head. Where had those words come from?
Montague-Smythe was consulting various sale catalogues and the internet. ‘Seems he came from a place called Lisnagroob in Ireland. He exhibited once in London.’
‘Yes and Dublin in the late 1950s. His style wasn’t popular then but it is coming back into fashion. Prices for his work, especially the cottages, his signature painting, are rising. He did many versions of them.’
‘Is he still alive?’
‘I don’t know. There’s nothing about his death that I can see. He could be but he’d be very old.’
Niamh thanked the dealer and hurried home. Once there she took out her laptop and Googled ‘flights to Ireland’ and ‘Lisnagroob’, wondering what she should pack.