154 112 Alexander Williams RHA (1846-1930) OLD CANON STREET, ST PATRICK’S CLOSE, DUBLIN watercolour over pencil signed lower right; titled lower left 10 by 13in. (25.4 by 33cm) Frame Dimensions: 18.5 by 21in. (47 by 53.3cm) This work appears to be in excellent condition. Provenance: de Veres, 23 February 2004, ex lot 41; Private collection Literature: Ledbetter, Gordon T., Privilege & Poverty - The Life & Times of Irish Painter & Naturalist, Alexander Williams RHA 1846-1930, The Collins Press, Cork, 2010, p.91 (illustrated) Alexander Williams RHA (1846-1930) is primarily remembered as a marine and landscape painter, and most especially for opening up Achill Island to a wider public at a time coincident with the extension of the railway fromWestport to Achill Sound. But his copious sketchbooks, leather bound and inscribed in gold, indicate, as he travelled all over Ireland and across the water, he had more than a passing interest in recording buildings and streetscapes that took his fancy, usually old and quaint, and these found their way into his exhibitions. While Williams was born in the Square, Monaghan on 21 April, 1846, his formative years were spent in Drogheda until, when he was fifteen, the family moved to Dublin. His professional career as an artist may be said to have started in 1870 when he first exhibited at the Royal Hibernian Academy. He continued to do so for sixty-one consecutive years, a record that remains unequalled. The annual solo exhibitions he held from 1884 in Dublin, usually at the Leinster Hall in Molesworth Street, from 1884 became eagerly awaited social events, attended by a thousand and more and usually patronised by the Lord Lieutenant or his wife, and the “Castle set”. Unless issued with an invitation or you were a member of the likes of the Dublin Sketching Club, (of which Williams was a founder member and secretary for fifty years), you were expected to pay to gain entry! His catalogues were innovative in that they were often illustrated. Musical concerts by local worthies took place on Friday afternoons when afternoon teas were hosted by the artist’s chic wife. In 1892 Williams devoted a special section of his exhibition at the Leinster Hall to ‘Bits of Old Dublin.’ It drew praise from all quarters. ‘Most of these latter drawings,’ noted the Irish Society, ‘were sketched by the artist at four for five o’clock a.m. on summer mornings, when immunity from street traffic and idle watchers could be securely counted upon.’ The Daily Express presciently recognised the significance of what he was doing: ‘”Bits of Old Dublin” are highly interesting little pictures, and as some of them relate to such localities as Hanover Lane, Nicolas Street, and OldWood Street - unsavoury relics of bygone times, which have recently been effaced by the Public Health Department - they may serve a useful historic purpose hereafter.’ Indeed the street scenes in this catalogue have all changed beyond recognition since Williams’ day. The artist captured not only the quaintness of those old buildings, but their intimacy and scale, the small dwellings and artisans’ shops, higgledy piggledy and cheek by jowl, evoking an age remote from our own. Williams caught the passing of the old city, often just in time. As the Irish Times recorded: ‘This is a bit of Dublin now passed away, for old Canon Street, with its quaint curio shops, was part of the site taken in by St Patrick’s Park. Mr Williams took this sketch on the very last day of the existence of Old Canon Street in the form here pictured.’The exception among these six water colours is St Audeon’s Gate one of the few bits of Medieval Dublin to survive. It was to the work of Alexander Williams that Dublin Corporation turned for historic reference during restoration of this famous landmark some years ago. Gordon T. Ledbetter April 2015 Gordon T. Ledbetter is the author of Privilege & Poverty - The Life & Times of Irish Painter & Naturalist, Alexander Williams RHA 1846-1930, The Collins Press, Cork, 2010 €1,500-€2,000 (£1,290-£1,720 approx.) Click here for more images and to bid on this lot112