James Dixon (1921-2006) – a native of Tory Island, the isolated spit of land off the north-west coast of Ireland – worked for most of his life as a crofter and a fisherman, only beginning to paint during the 1950s.
Like Wallis (1855-1942), he was largely self-taught and preferred boat paint over oils and board and paper to canvas.
Although ‘discovered’ in the early 1960s by the English artist Derek Hill (1916-2000), he continued to paint with brushes he made himself.
In 1999 and 2000, his work was exhibited at both the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, and Tate St Ives, in the show Two Artists: James Dixon and Alfred Wallis.
The two pictures offered in The Art & Design Sale at Cheffins (27% buyer’s premium inc VAT) in Cambridge on February 13 had been acquired by the vendor at one of Dixon’s first commercial exhibitions at the Portal Gallery in London in 1968. Akin to many Dixon works, they were accompanied by full descriptions and specific dates.
Sold online at £3000 against an estimate of £1000-1500 was the 17in x 2ft 3in (44 x 67cm) oil on board titled Mr William Rodgers Tory Island, Tractor Ploughing In Dixon’s Farm, The First Tractor that Ever Came to Tory Island and dated 7 11 1966. Another version of this work, dated 1967, is in the Ulster Museum, Belfast.
Yet stronger competition came for the following lot that was dated 18 01 1968 and titled The First Fleetwood Trawler that Ever Fish Back of Tory Island.
A larger picture at 22in x 2ft 5in (55 x 75cm), and full of the skewed perspective and scale that brought comparisons with Wallis, it took £9500 (estimate £1000-1500). The winning bid, an auction record for the artist, came via thesaleroom.com.