Published 29th February 2016
Oil painting of St Stephens Green, Dublin, by Georgette Rondel for sale on 19th April.
Georgette Rondel (1915-1942) was a member of The White Stag Group, which took its name from the family shield of a patron of the group, the critic and writer Herbrand Ingouville-Williams. From France originally, Rondel moved to Dublin in 1939 with her German husband Rene Buhler, and another of her friends, Nick Nicholls (1914-1991).
Nicholls was born in Salisbury in Wiltshire, the son of an English father and an Irish mother. As a child he spent time with relatives in County Cavan and in 1935 he turned to painting, in which he was self-taught. His early pictures are conventional watercolours, but later he embraced surrealism and other forms of abstraction, being influenced by Cezanne, Picasso, Klee and Miro. With the approach of war, Nicholls moved to Dublin along with Georgette Rondel and remained there until 1946. He was introduced to The White Stag Group by Basil Rákóczi whom he met in Dublin. Meanwhile, Rondel worked in Dublin as a commercial artist and produced theatre designs until 1942, at which time she moved to London, where she died at the age of 27.
The White Stag Group centered around a number of British artists who based themselves in Ireland in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The main protagonists, Basil Rákóczi and Kenneth Hall, worked closely together drawing stimulation from each other and during the 1930s shared a number of exhibitions at the Fitzroy Street Studio and the Spectrum Gallery in London. In the autumn of 1935, they established The White Stag Group 'for the advancement of subjectivity in art and psychological analysis'. They brought with them the artistic vitality of the Bloomsbury Group, of which they were fringe acolytes in the years preceding World War II.
The group represented and encouraged a move from the academic to modernism, and their subjective art strongly influenced the work being made at the time by Irish artists such as Louis le Brocquy, May Guinness and Patrick Scott. The White Stag Group was not held together by a stylistic or formulaic theme, it was more a shared, geographical and cerebral collective.
Rákóczi and Hall both extrovert, soon gathered around them in Dublin a small circle of friends who shared their interests. As in London, they arranged lectures and discussion groups under the patronage of The Society for Creative Psychology and held exhibitions of paintings under the name of The White Stag Group.
Judging by the names of those who were drawn into their company such as Evie Hone, Mainie Jellett, Georgette Rondel, Nano Reid, Doreen Vanston, Thurloe Conolly, Bobby Dawson and Paul Egestorff, they were indeed the centre of the then avant-garde in the Irish capital.
Dublin clearly provided the sort of atmosphere in which they could thrive and being the capital of a country neutral in the war, there was a certain intrigue to which Rákóczi and many of his associates with The White Stag Group were not entirely impervious.
In 2005, a major retrospective exhibition of The White Stag Group was staged at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, with an accompanying catalogue.
The provenance of the painting is Michael Scott, a patron of the arts, chairman of the Royal College of Art and recipient of the 1975 RIBA gold medal for architecture, thence by family descent, the main collection being sold at Christies in Dublin in May 1989.