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SINCE 1783


swathes of it. Artists from

Northern Ireland, from

John Lavery,William Conor

and Grace and Paul Henry

to Gerard Dillon and Dan

O’Neill were well

represented but so also

were southern Irish artists

such as Jack B. Yeats, Louis

le Brocquy, Mary Swanzy

and William Leech, while

the English artist Elizabeth

Rivers, who had spent most

of her working life in

Ireland, was a special


George was an art dealer, but

while his canny business skills

were essential to support his

collecting, his passion lay in

assembling one of the finest

groupings of work by the

most important artists in

twentieth century Ireland. His

origins were humble.

Although born in Donegal, he

grew up in Omagh in a

working class environment,

gave up school at fourteen

because of his debilitating

dyslexia, but through

intelligence and doggedness

he became a police detective.

He became an art and

antiques dealer by accident.

Deciding to emigrate to Australia with his growing

family, he held a sale of his house contents in December

1966, and it was the success of this sale that prompted

him to change plans and to become a dealer instead (he

had been collecting since childhood). From 1966 to

1974, in Belfast, during some of the worst of the

Troubles, from a small shop on May Street, and later

from the more prestigious surroundings of McClelland

Galleries International on the Lisburn Road, he ran a

thriving business. He used the sale of precious silver, fine

furniture and antique glass to support his real passion –

Irish painting, - and to enable him to put on solo

exhibitions of key Irish artists until he was forced give

them up following the bombing of adjacent premises

and death threats. The McClellands moved to Dublin,

where George attended NCAD (1974 -77) as a mature

student and steered himself towards life as an artist.

That dream (encouraged by his successful participation

in the IELA exhibition in 1978) was interrupted by a

meeting with FE McWilliam and William Scott who

persuaded him to visit Tony O’Malley’s studio in


George became O’Malley’s agent and, for the two years

of their relationship, he devised a master plan which

successfully lifted O’Malley’s career from unknown and

struggling to the very forefront of Irish art in the 1980s.

Although O’Malley was too much of a free spirit to

accept the straight-jacket of management by anyone,

his life changed forever and for the better as a result of

George’s agency. It reminded George of what he did

best, buying and selling art. From their house in Taney,

Dublin; Kerry, where he and Maura spent much of their

time, or their London apartment, the McClellands

continued to promote Irish artists, George professionally

and Maura, through her wonderful hospitality and

warmth. Their collection seemed in-exhaustible, despite

their 2003 sale and gifts to IMMA. Their deaths, which

have given rise to this sale, were a sad loss for Irish art.

The sale gives another chance to see some of the

artworks, notably the Conor’s, Middleton’s, le Brocquy’s

and O’Malley’s that played such a valuable role in the

early development of IMMA.

Catherine Marshall

August 2016


Matriarch, 1935 by F.E.

McWilliam (lot 50) illustrated on

exhibition catalogue cover for

the 1998 'Irish Sculpture

Exhibition', Annascaul, Co. Kerry

Exhibition catalogue:

‘Children of Ulster’ by William

Conor held at McClelland

Galleries, Belfast, 1969

Exhibition catalogue: ‘The

Belfast Blitz of 30 Years Ago

by William Conor’ held at

McClelland Galleries,

Belfast, 1971

Exhibition catalogue: ‘Louis

le Brocquy’ held at The

Dawson Gallery, Dublin and

the McClelland Galleries

International, Belfast, 1973