Spotlight on an Artist: Tom Nisbet (1909 -2001)

13/09/2023     Artworks

Tom Nisbet was born in December 1909 to parents Annie and Alexander Nisbet. Though he was born in Belfast, Nisbet did not stay for long; at the age of 22 he moved to Dublin and took up work as a van driver. Unlike a lot of artists, Nisbet did not come from an artistic household. His father repaired and tuned pianos for a living and his mother cared for her four sons, leaving little opportunity for Nisbet to be creatively influenced at home. He has painted from a young age, though this was of his own accord. His formal artistic training began when he was finally settled in Dublin; the first piece of formal education received since he had left school as a young teenager.


As was common with many young artists coming to Dublin in the early 20th century, Nisbet went to the center of art education in Ireland at the time - The Dublin Metropolitan School of Art. Here he met artists such as Sean Keating and Lily Williams. Throughout his career he did not stray far from Dublin; a contributing factor to this could be the gallery he opened on Harry Street in 1944, The Grafton Gallery. Here he exhibited work by both himself and his contemporaries. One of these contemporaries was Colin Middleton, a fellow Belfast artist who had his first one man Dublin show in the gallery the year it opened.


The gallery was extremely successful in Irish circles, frequented even by those outside of the art world, such as Brendan Behan and Patrick Kavanagh. After a 27 year run, the gallery closed its doors in 1971. While the exhibitions and shows had finished, Nisbet continued to work on his own paintings in the studio of his back garden.


Nisbet’s affinity with Dublin and the surrounding area became the main subject matter of his watercolours. He painted numerous views of the Grand Canal and the River Dodder, with a particular fondness of portraying the Huband Bridge. In this month’s auction, we have a classic example of Nisbet’s work in Lot 547. This watercolour shows a late autumn scene of trees by a waterway, the cold time of year confirmed by the minimal leaves left on the branches, and their burnt orange tones. The tall trees are reflected in the water, while a small house sits alone in the background. This is the perfect work for any Nisbet collector, or someone new to the art world as it completely encompasses Nisbet’s style.



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