Another first for Sea the Stars as painting odds-on for a big sale
THE thunder of horses' hooves, the smell of trampled turf and the deafening sound of the crowd cheering on Sea the Stars as he pulls off a spectacular double in the Epsom Derby.
An historic moment in the annals of Irish racing is captured in a painting that is expected to cause a stir of interest among art and racing aficionados alike when it comes up for auction next month.
Rendered with the deft strokes of a palette knife by artist Ivan Sutton, the painting of the world famous horse -- already being hailed as the greatest flat racehorse of all time -- is to be included in a sale of Irish and British art at Whyte's Gallery on Dublin's Molesworth Street on March 15.
"Sometimes the subject is more important than the artist," commented Ian Whyte, gallery owner, yesterday as he surveyed the painting. "Equestrian art is hugely popular in this country because we love horses."
Predictably enough, paintings like these are more likely to be bought by men to be hung on a study wall. "It's a boy's picture really," he said, adding quickly that, of course, many women like horses too.
Largely self-taught, artist Ivan Sutton worked as an insurance broker for most of his career and then took up painting upon retirement at the suggestion of his wife, who was tired of him always coming home with the boot of the car full of paintings by other people.
He is now an artist "progressing nicely", according to Mr Whyte, and his works are contained in collections held in France, Canada, the US and UK.
Mr Whyte described the Sea the Stars painting as one of Sutton's finest and "a very good buy", explaining that it is all the more impressive because horses are one of the most difficult artistic subjects.
It is expected to fetch around €4,000 to €5,000 at auction.
If the work had been done by our foremost equine artist Peter Curling, it would command a sum of around €60,000 to €80,000, Mr Whyte said.
Like everything else at the moment, the art world is very much a buyer's market, he revealed. He added, however, that a work by William Orpen sold recently in New York for €1.1m, proving that at the top end of the market, there is still a demand for really good and rare items.
At the lower end of the market, there is also still quite a lot of interest, but prices have become more realistic.
Just like the property market, in recent years speculators had pushed prices beyond the reach of many would-be buyers.
"We all went a bit mad and the art world was not unaffected," Mr Whyte said.