Homan Potterton sale features three painters with Offaly connections. By Michael Byrne

The Homan Potterton sale on 7 September 2021 at Adam’s, Dublin features three painters with Offaly connections. But first a word about Potterton. After secondary education at Kilkenny College and Mountjoy School he began studying to be a solicitor, but (great for him ) he switched to art history at Trinity with the formidable Anne Crookshank. He was the youngest director of the National Gallery of Ireland ever appointed (1979) but stayed for only eight years. He retired in 1988 out of frustration with the bureaucracy, the bullying Charlie Haughey, and his being unable to secure much needed funds for the gallery. That was back in the difficult 1980s. Had Potterton remained he would have been able to oversee the wonderful gallery there is today. All the great institutions saw money flow in from the 1990s with the support of EC funds and the lift in the economy from 1993. While he took over the editorship of the Irish Arts Review in the 1990s (then an exciting annual event) he later moved to France and we heard no more of him save for several family histories, a memoir and a novel.

The jacket of Potterton’s memoir of 2017 with the arresting painting in the great classical style by Festing.

He was a loss to Irish art and the cultural scene, but he did go on to write two family histories with connections to Offaly and an entertaining memoir in 2017. He was proud of his Meath and Offaly connections as recorded in Potterton People and Places: Three Centuries of an Irish Family and his first memoir, Rathcormick. These are good. but more insightful and entertaining was his second memoir, Who do I think I am? published in 2017. It told of his hardships with civil servants, the Dublin social and art scene, and lots of sparkling gossip.

Was the question answered in the title to his book? Not really. We only wish he was still with us. Homan Potterton was born in 1946 and died, aged 74, in 2020. Potterton has given his art collection to be auctioned for charitable purposes and the sumptuous catalogue includes works by Offaly connected painters of the eighteenth-century, Charles Jervas and Thomas Frye. He also had some nice water colours by the Tullamore born Jeremy Williams (. 2016) – himself the subject of a memoir in recent times. The earlier painters are the subject of entries by Offaly-connected Nicola Figgis in the co-authored Paintings in the National Gallery of Ireland (vol i) and in the DIB (now free online). This short note is by way of saying that Homan Potteron will not be forgotten and that his contribution to the history of art and to family history will endure.

Rathcormick, published in 2001 and of interest locally for his Wood of O visits
A painting attributed to Charles Jervas – a painter with Shinrone and Geashill connections for sale in the Potterton auction
Thomas Frye’s Portrait of an elderly gentleman – Frye was of an Edenderry family and like Jervas came to fame in London
Courtesy of the Adam’s catalogue
A colourful piece by the late Jeremy Williams – looking on to Merrion Square. All the above paintings are courtesy of the Adam’s catalogue for the sale.
The lately published appreciation and available from Offaly History
A visit by Homan Potterton to speak in Tullamore – almost forty years ago. No YouTube then to record for posterity but we had, and still have, the printed local newspaper. In Potterton we had a director of the National Gallery who found time to take his public education role seriously and in this regard was in ‘the footsteps of the master’, his immediate predecessor. James White.

Most of the books mentioned above are in the collection of Offaly History at Bury Quay and can be consulted Mon. to Fri. Email us to let us know you are coming. The auction is next week.