While Graham Knuttel is widely recognized as the chronicler of Celtic Tiger Ireland, he is not for everyone. His paintings are colorful, strongly stylized and populated by disreputable characters.
Some of them are gangsters. Some of them are cats. Some of them are cats disguised as gangsters. All of them seem thoroughly unreliable. Ridiculous and lustful, garish and gaudy, devious and gloomy, they come from a world in which everyone has a hangover and no one is up to anything good.
The Irish art establishment tends to look down on them, but they have a tremendous following. Even people who are distant from art know a knuckle when he sees one.
“These are easy, amusing, funny pictures,” says Ian Whyte, auctioneer. “I’ve had people come in and buy a Paul Henry. Then they’d buy a graham knuttel from the same auction because they want something bright and happy. I have one in my kitchen. I like to cheer up a little when I sit down for breakfast. ”
Knuttel is a gifted graphic designer with a unique feel for lines, shapes and colors. Sometimes this becomes clearer in his still life paintings, which are more classic than his figurative works. “It’s very difficult to copy Graham Knuttel. People think they can, but they can’t. “
Whyte’s Major Irish Art auction, held on Monday November 29th, features 11 paintings by Knuttel. Five of them once hung on the walls of La Stampa, a brasserie on Dublin’s Dawson Street owned by Louis Murray that opened in 1990 and closed in 2007. The one with the highest rating is Planet Hollywood (Lot 143: estimated 10,000 to 15,000 €). It shows the grand gala opening of the restaurant on St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin in 1997 with a swarm of celebrities. Among them was Sylvester Stallone, who was known to become a collector of Knuttel’s works. “We’ve had reviewers in Hollywood over the years,” says Whyte. “People bought Knuttel’s pictures because they saw them in Sylvester Stallone’s house and the local appraisers didn’t know what to do with them.”
Other paintings by Knuttel are on sale Pasta pizza (Lot 145: estimated 6,000 to 8,000 euros) showing the facade of an Italian restaurant with hospitality staff looking like they’d rather stab you than serve you. I have your number (Lot 148: estimate € 2,000 to € 3,000) is a seduction scene from the early years of the cell phone. There is something in Knuttel’s work that sums up the toxicity of the Celtic Tiger era.
Graham Knuttel was born in Dublin in 1954 and studied at Dun Laoghaire College of Art, which was an idiosyncratic multidisciplinary institution in the 1970s. Although he is primarily a painter, he has a degree in sculpture and some exceptional collaborations.
He worked most glamorously in 2004 with the English furniture designer Viscount Linley, now Lord Snowdon, on the production of chess sets with silver figures. They were sold for 96,000 euros each. In 2010, when the recession was in full swing, Tipperary Crystal launched a limited series of Knuttel ceramic tableware with plates priced at € 125 and four espresso cups for € 65.
The graphic quality of his work can be easily transferred to ceramics. Framed prints of Knuttel’s work are currently available for purchase at the Kilkenny Shop in Dublin. A 63 x 63 cm print costs 198 €. “His prints are very accessible to younger collectors,” says Whyte. “He creates work for every budget. Jack B. Yeats did the same. Louis le Brocquy too. An artist who works in different media will have a much larger following. “
Knuttel has also worked with The Dixon Carpet Company of Oughterard, Co. Galway on several tapestries. One of these cat (Lot 46: estimated 7,000 to 9,000 euros) is at Morgan O’Driscoll’s Important Irish Art Auction, which ends on November 30th.
It is one of six works by Knuttel in the auction by the malicious Mr Punch with tulips (Lot 100: € 1,500 to € 2,500) to the really exuberant Watch (Lot 7: € 3,000 to € 5,000). It shows four suspicious sailors on a shark-infested sea.
See whytes.ie and morganodriscoll.com