Roderic O’Conor was born at Milltown, county Roscommon, Ireland, 17 October 1860, the second of five children. He was the eldest son of Roderic Joseph O’Conor, justice of the peace and high sheriff of Roscommon, and Eleanor Mary O’Conor (nee Browne) of county Meath. In 1865 the family moved to Dublin so that Joseph O’Conor could pursue his legal career. Roderic was educated at Ampleforth college near York. His art tutor at Ampleforth was James Boddy, a well-known architectural painter.
On leaving school O’Conor enrolled at the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin where he remained until 1881. O’Conor won the Cowper prize for study from the antique in 1881. He transferred to the Royal Hibernian Academy school for the 1881-1882 academic year where he won several prizes. After another year at the Metropolitan school, O’Conor went to the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Antwerp in 1883. He spent a year there, winning the Taylor prize at the Royal Dublin Society in 1884. O’Conor went to Paris in 1886 and enrolled at the atelier of Emile-Auguste Carolus-Duran; he exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1888 and the Salon des Independants in 1889. In 1891 he moved to Pont-Aven in Brittany where he met Gauguin, he remained in Brittany until 1904 when he returned to Paris and lived at 102 Rue du Cherche-Midi until 1933. By then he had sold the Roscommon estates which he had inherited in 1894. He exhibited annually in the Salon d’Automne from 1903 but did not sell his paintings and was little known outside his own circle.
O’Conor married his former model Renée Honta in 1933, they lived at Neuil-sur-Layon until O’Conor’s death in 1940. After Honta’s death in 1955 the contents of O’Conor’s studio were sold in a series of auctions at the Hotel Druot in Paris. Many of his paintings were bought by the English dealer, Henry Roland who sold them over the next fifteen years at Roland, Browse and Delbanco in London. O’Conor’s reputation soared during this period.
Clive Bell was born in East Shefford, Bedfordshire, England in 1881. He was educated at Marlborough and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he studied history. While at Cambridge, Bell became friends with the founding members of the Bloomsbury Group, including Thoby Stephen whose sister Vanessa he later married. In 1902 Bell won an earl of Derby scholarship to study in Paris where he became interested in art. In 1907 Bell, then living in London, married Vanessa Stephen, sister of Virginia Woolf. Bell pursued a career as an art critic and writer and was an early champion of modern art. Bell died in London in 1964.
O’Conor and Bell met in Paris in 1904, when O’Conor, who had moved to Paris from Brittany, was living at 102 Rue du Cherche-Midi. They were part of a circle of writers and artists who regularly met at the Chat Blanc restaurant. Bell and O’Conor became friends and remained in touch after Bell’s return to London in 1906.
Archival History ↴
Previously held by King’s college, Cambridge. Purchased by the National Gallery of Ireland, Sotheby’s auction, London, 21 July 1981, lot 385.
Includes a series of thirteen letters from Roderic O’Conor to Clive Bell in which O’Conor relates news of mutual friends, congratulates Bell on his marriage to Vanessa Bell and tells him how his own work is progressing. He also comments on painters such as Kelly, Delaunay, Van Gogh, on the Salon d’Automne and other exhibitions, on modern art critics and on Flaubert and other authors including Galsworthy. Also includes a closed file of correspondence relating to the acquisition of the material and a research enquiry.
Appraisal Destruction ↴
All records retained
Chronologically arranged in two series
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Access by appointment and in accordance with NGI Library and Archive access policy.
Conditions Governing Reproduction
Material may be reproduced, in accordance with NGI Library and Archives access policy and with permission of the archivist.
IE/NGI/CSIA/ROC2 Roderic O’Conor and Renée Honta papers
The following publications were used in the compilation of this finding aid:
Bennington, Johnathan, Roderic O’Conor. Irish Academic Press 1992.
Royal Irish Academy, Dictionary of Irish Biography, Cambridge, 2009.
Descriptive Control Area
ISAD(G): General Internation Standard Archival Description, 2nd ed. Ottawa: International Council on Archives, 2000.