Art Gallery collection pre-1974 (It is not known how this work came into the collection)
Nathaniel Hone is often referred to as Nathaniel Hone ‘the Younger’ to distinguish him from his more famous and controversial ancestor of the same name. While the elder Nathaniel courted attention by publicly challenging the President of the Royal Academy in London in the 1780s, Nathaniel the younger, avoided scrutiny and pursued a quiet but dedicated life as an artist and member of a family of artists which went on to include Evie Hone, one of Ireland’s leading Modernists, and a generation later, the artists David and Geraldine Hone. Nathaniel Hone gave up engineering to become an artist. He spent seventeen years in France, largely near Barbizon, outside Paris, where his peers included some of the leading French landscape painters of the day, notably Francois Millet, and Jean Baptiste Camille Corot. While there he exhibited at the Paris Salon where his work was praised by the critic Eugene Fromentin. Hone limited his palette and never tried to emulate the more spectacular use of colour of some of the Barbizon artists. Sustained by a private income, he followed a more reclusive life, painting landscape and maritime views and rarely exhibited his work. Hone returned to Ireland in 1870 and married Magdalen Jameson. He and his wife travelled together to Egypt, Greece and Turkey, but for the most part he remained at home in Malahide, County Dublin, creating hundreds of watercolour drawings of the sea and sands. Following his death, his wife gave approximately 500 oil paintings and nearly 900 of his watercolours to the NGI.This small landscape is very representative of the many watercolour sketches that Hone did, but rarely if ever signed. However, even if the artist himself did not rate them as important works, Thomas Bodkin (Director, NGI, 1927–35) regarded them as the key to all his work. This would seem to be true, if we compare this modest sketch with some of the bigger landscapes or seascapes that Hone painted whether in Malahide or in Brittany. Where others seek the excitement of choppy seas and tumultuous clouds, Hone’s challenge to himself is to see how much he can achieve without those passing dramas or without falling back on added colour. The result is nearly always, as here, a thoughtful exploration of the tone and mood of the moment.