IT’S not everyday you see a rare work by renowned Limerick artist Jack Donovan, but a picture framer in the city has received four in recent weeks.
A man from west Limerick, who does not wish to be identified, said he found the paintings, dating back to the mid 1980s, when he was clearing out his father’s attic, after he passed away recently.
“These are great works - painted in his prime,” said picture framer Ray Cummins, who is celebrating 25 years in business on Catherine Street in the city this April.
“Some cleaning and restoration is needed on them as they could have been in storage for 20 years or more. I’ve never seen as many of these in the last 10 years as I’ve had in the past week.”
In all, four works by Jack Donovan were discovered, two of which measured three feet by two feet, and two others were four foot square. Two of the paintings are believed to have been painted in 1985, and another in 1989.
A number of the works feature what has been called ‘the one-eyed man’ – one of the signature styles of this artist.
Born in Limerick in 1934, Jack Donovan began his studies in 1951 at the Limerick School of Art, and went on to become the Head of the Limerick School of Art, where he taught other acclaimed artists such as John Shinnors, Brian Mac Mahon and Henry Morgan.
Seven years ago, 20 of his paintings sold out within minutes at an exhibition in Limerick Printmakers, ranging in price from €2,000 to €4,000. However, it is unknown what the most recently discovered works could fetch if they were to sell at auction.
Ray Cummins, 52, one of the longest establishment picture framers in the city, said a minor number of rare works have come into his hands for specialist care and attention, including an item which was on loan to the Hunt Museum which was so valuable that they had to close the shop as a security measure.
Detectives attached to Henry Street station once arrived at his door many years ago, in search of stolen works, though he’s not aware if he has handled any ‘hot goods’ to date.
“An artist reported that his paintings were stolen. They were worth about €10,000, but it turns out a group of people had gotten him drunk and bought the paintings for just €500.
“The paintings were dropped in to me to be stretched. We got a call from Henry Street: “You wouldn’t have four large canvases up there, would you?” There was about eight detectives in the shop, all up for a look.” However, the buyer had a receipt and the case was promptly closed.
Ray, from the Ballysimon Road, has been in the business for 35 years, originally training under and working alongside his brother Kevin, who is still in the same business on Post Office Lane.
Over the years, he has seen many other picture framers come and go, who he says might look at him and think “I’m flying it”. But the reality is somewhat different. He works six days a week, from 8.30am to 6pm. “For 35 years,” he adds, with emphasis.
One of the secrets to his longevity in the trade is that the Cummins name is now synonymous with picture framing. “It’s like Dunnes [Stores],” he says.
Ray stocks over 300 different mouldings [types of frames], and over 150 different colours of mounts, but irrespective of choice, he says the Italian brands are the best.
“Ninety per cent of our frames are Italian, because they’re the only ones that can make picture frames, to be quite honest with you. They are master craftsmen. Or the French in fairness, but the French are a bit more expensive. They like to charge that bit extra.”
He produces some brochures; “total class”, he says, flicking through the pages. “When you’re dealing with picture frames you’re basically dealing with ... Italian.”
At 6pm each day, the double shutters come down, because you can never be too careful - especially if you have a Jack Donovan in sight.