Cubist William Roberts Highlights Modern & Contemporary British Art Auction

5/05/2021     Modern & Contemporary British Art, News Stories & Press Release


Roseberys are proud to present the Modern & Contemporary British Art auction taking place on the Tuesday the 25th of May Starting at 11am. It is the second of three sales for the Modern & Contemporary British Art department at Roseberys this year. The sale features a number of works by prominent British Artists such as William Roberts, David Bomberg and Mark Gertler.


William Summerfield, the newly appointed head of sale for the Modern & Contemporary British Art Department said: ‘I am extremely pleased with the quality of works in my sale. We have great works from the breath of Modern and Contemporary British arts. We have highlights from all major periods, including early Modernists such as William Roberts and David Bomber, inter-war painters Mark Gertler and Tristram Hiller, the St. Ives school (Ben Nicholson, Alfred Wallis, Adrian Heath and Trevor Bell), geometric abstract artists of the 1960s such as David Leverett, Richard Smith, Stephen Buckley, John Copnall and Michael Tyzack and contemporary stars Grayson Perry, Ian Davenport, the Boyle Family and Bruce MacLean.


I am very pleased to be working on the sale of works from the estate of David Leverett and have, a strong group of works by émigré artists including Alfred Cohen, Bernard Meninsky and Josef Herman. We also have a large group of works by British favourite Tessa Newcombe including a painted chest, along with a large group of drawings from the estate of Barnett Newman, who was recently the subject of a celebrated retrospective at Pallant House Gallery.’


William Roberts RA, British, 1895-1980 - The Dressing Room pen, black ink, black chalk and watercolour on paper

Leading the highlights within the sale is Lot 10, William Roberts RA, British, 1895-1980 - The Dressing Room, 1966; pen, black ink, black chalk and watercolour on paper, squared, signed and dated. Estimated to make £20,000-£30,000, the present lot is a fantastic example of the artist’s mature style, in its complex, colourful and humorous composition. In this work the artist focuses on the bustle of everyday life, creating a sense of energy and rhythm in this backstage look at a women’s dressing room. The sculptural quality of the figures was also influenced by the work of Fernand Leger. A study for this piece, ‘Beauty queens: Study for “The Dressing Room”’ is now in the Tate Collection. The 1960s was an important period in the artist’s career, that saw a major reappraisal of his work following a retrospective at the Tate in 1965. We are extremely fortunate to have this work from a private collection. William Roberts was a pioneering British artist, developing his self-proclaimed ‘English Cubist’ technique that combined naturalism with a modernist approach to form before the First World War. Roberts joined Roger Fry’s Omega Workshop, with Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, as well as exhibiting with the Vorticist group, formed by Wyndham Lewis and Edward Wadsworth.

 bomberg lillian

David Bomberg, British 1890-1957 - Portrait of Lillian, oil on board


Introduced onto the market at £18,000-£22,000 is Lot13, a work by David Bomberg. It is one of 3 works in this sale by Bomberg and follows the sale of a self-portrait of the artist in our last Modern & Contemporary British Art Auction which achieved an impressive result of £23,750. David Bomberg was a British painter and member of the Whitechapel Boys. He studied at the Slade School of Art under Henry Tonks, and alongside artists such as Stanley Spencer, Ben Nicholson, and Paul Nash. He was awarded the Slade Prize for drawing in 1913, after which he travelled to France, meeting contemporaries such as Pablo Picasso and Amedeo Modigliani. In 1914 he co-curated an exhibition with Jacob Epstein, in which his works were shown alongside those of Modigliano, Kisling, and other prominent Jewish artists living in France. His first solo exhibition was held at the Chenil Gallery in 1914, where visitors included Augustus John, Marinetti, Duchamp and Brancusi.


This work is particularly noteworthy as a highly personal piece, depicting as it does the artist’s wife Lillian Bomberg, also known by her maiden name of Holt. Holt was herself a successful artist, and was, along with her husband, a founding member of the Borough Group. This piece is one of a number of portraits which Bomberg painted of his wife, completed almost ten years after their marriage in 1929. Holt’s abstracted gaze and slight smile captures a sense of the comfortable intimacy between artist and sitter as husband and wife. This work is a great example of Bomberg’s later style, especially in its freely and confidently applied brushstrokes, using his typical earthy colour palette of dark reds, browns and orange. This piece is part of a wider group of works within the sale produced by Jewish & Émigré Artists it is featured alongside works by Mark Gertler, David Bomberg, Josef Herman, Alfred Cohen, Bernard Meninsky, Barnett Freedman.


 bomberg players

David Bomberg, British 1890-1957 - The Players, 1919; pen and ink wash on paper


Also entered onto the market at £6,000-£8,000 is Lot 11, a drawing by Bomberg. This is one of a series of drawings Bomberg made in 1919 depicting actors on a stage at the Pavilion Theatre in Whitechapel. The angular forms of the figures combined with the sense of energy and movement demonstrate the artist’s fusing of futurism and cubism during this period and demonstrate a connection with artists of the Vorticist group such as William Roberts and Wyndham Lewis.  Another of these drawings is now in the Tate Collection.




Mark Gertler, British 1891-1939 - Adolescence, 1922; oil on canvas


Continuing the highlights is Lot 9, Mark Gertler, British 1891-1939 - Adolescence, 1922; oil on canvas, signed and dated 'Mark 1922 Gertler with an estimate of £30,000-£50,000. Mark Gertler was one of the most important British artists of the early 20th century, who developed a unique and easily recognisable style that defied clear categorisation, shaped by a number of different movements and approaches, including Post-Impressionism and eastern European folk art. Many of his paintings are imbued with a strong sense of poise and introspection, and in this sense, Adolescence is a great example of the artist’s output, with a contemporary review of this work in The Spectator noting that it was ‘a composition of striking originality’.


Mark Gertler was encouraged to join the Slade School of Art in 1908 by the prominent Jewish artist William Rothenstein, where he studied alongside Paul Nash, Stanley Spencer, Edward Wadsworth and C.R.W. Nevinson, among others.  In the early 1920s Gertler travelled to Paris, where he encountered the work of the Parisian avant-garde. The influence of this trip can be perceived in the soft, rounded form of this painting’s classically-inspired female nude, which recalls the style adopted by Picasso at the time (MacDougall, p.212).


Gertler’s work was exhibited regularly, including with the London Group (to which he was elected in 1915) and yearly at the Goupil Gallery in the 1920s. This work was purchased from this gallery in 1923 by its previous owners, the Ridley Family, for £60. The same family also purchased the Creation of Eve directly from the artist in 1915. Gertler’s works are found in public collections including the Glasgow Museums, the Tate Galleries and the Arts Council Collection at the Southbank Centre.

Ivor Roberts-Jones RA, British 1916-1966 - Sir Winston Churchill, maquette for the monument in Parliament Square


Lot 16 with an estimate of £30,000-£50,000 is a piece by Ivor Roberts-Jones RA, British 1916-1966 - Sir Winston Churchill, maquette for the monument in Parliament Square, c.1971-3; bronze with stone base, cast in the Meridian Bronze Foundry in an edition of 500, numbered '234' on bronze base, inscribed 'Churchill' on stone base. Robert-Jones is most famous for his sculpture of Winston Churchill, commissioned in 1971, which now stands in Parliament Square. This smaller maquette of the sculpture was created due to the enduring popularity of the work, which is one of the most recognisable public works of art in the UK. One of the maquettes for an earlier version of the work, which depicts Churchill in his garter robes, was donated to the National Churchill Library and Centre in Washington D.C. by the Centre’s chairman Laurence Geller.


Roberts-Jones was one of the founding members of the Society of Portrait Sculptors, and from 1964-1978 he was the head of the sculpture department at Goldsmiths.  Roberts-Jones’s first major, full-scale commission was a memorial sculpture of the painter Augustus John, which was erected near the latter’s home in Fordingbridge, Hampshire. Roberts-Jones produced portrait sculptures of a number of well-known artists and writers other than John, such as Somerset Maugham, Kyffin Williams and Clive Gardiner, the principal of Goldsmiths’ College School of Art, under whom Roberts-Jones himself had studied.


The work is also being sold with ‘THE COLLECTED ESSAYS OF SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL’ and ‘HIS MEMOIRS AND HIS SPEECHES 1918-1945’, a collection of 12 LPs of recordings of his most speeches.


richard smith kite

Richard Smith CBE, British 1931-2016 - Far Corners, 1979; acrylic on canvas, mixed media


Entered onto the market with an estimate of £8,000-£12,000 is this piece by Richard Smith CBE, British 1931-2016 - Far Corners, 1979; acrylic on canvas, mixed media construction in three pieces, each signed, titled, dated and numbered on an attached canvas tag 'R Smith Far Corners 79'.


This work is one of the ‘kite paintings’ for which the British artist Richard Smith was particularly well-known, and which were first exhibited in New York in 1971. In these works, Smith essentially deconstructs the painting, drawing attention to the medium of the canvas and stretcher as key elements of the artwork which are all too often overlooked. In transforming the work into a kite in this manner, Smith explores the very nature of a painting, and the boundary between this and sculpture. Kite paintings similar to this lot are in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the British Arts Council, and have also been the subject of exhibitions at Flowers Gallery in New York and Gimpel Fils in London.


Smith studied at St Albans School of Art, followed by the Royal College of Art. His first solo exhibition was held at the Green Gallery in New York in 1961. He represented Britain twice at the Venice Biennale, as one of five artists in 1966, and solo in 1970. Smith was also awarded the Grand Prize at the Sao Paolo Biennale in 1967. Smith’s work was the subject of a retrospective held at the Tate Gallery in 1975, and are now held in museum collections around the world, including the Tate Gallery in London, the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Art Gallery of Western Australia in Perth. Featured within this sale are a number of pieces by those who produced 60s geometric abstraction works including David Leverett, Micheal Tyzack, John Copnall and Stephen Buckley.


David Leverett, British 1938-2020 - Untitled, c.1968; acrylic on shaped canvas in 16 parts


In our May sale we will be offering items from the studio of the late David Leverett, who sadly passed away in 2020. Lot 40 is entered onto the market with an estimate of £1,000-£2,000. Accompanied alongside Lots 41,42 & Lots 118-124.


Leverett's work encapsulates the energy and innovation of the British art scene in the 1960s, alongside his contemporaries John Hoyland, Jeremy Moon and Bridget Riley. Leverett was known for his large-scale and often irregularly-shaped abstract works executed in bright acrylics, which burst with vibrancy and dynamism. The pieces on offer exhibit these qualities clearly and powerfully, and are therefore wonderful examples of Leverett’s signature style.


Leverett studied at the Nottingham College of Art in 1957-61, followed by the Royal Academy Schools in 1961-64. In 1966 he had the first of many shows at the Redfern Gallery in London. He was a Visiting Artist at the Royal Academy Schools, the Royal College of Art and Hornsey College of Art, London. He also taught at many different schools, including printmaking at the Slade School of Fine Art. His work is held in public collections including the Arts Council, the Tate Galleries and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Maya Angelou was a big supporter of his work, even writing the introductory essay for one of his catalogues.

 boyle family

Boyle Family, Scottish (Mark Boyle 1934-2005 - Joan Hills b. 1931 - Sebastian Boyle b. 1962 - Georgia Boyle b. 1963 - ) - Coral Quarry Triptych, 2001-02; mixed media, resin, fibreglass, sculpture in three parts


An interesting highlight within this sale is lot 46 which has an estimate of £12,000-£18,000. Lot 46 is a mixed media sculpture by the Boyle Family. Mark Boyle and Joan Hills began collaborating in the 1960s, later joined by their children Sebastian and Georgina. They are best known for their exacting earth studies, whereby the artist pick at random a spot on the globe and meticulously replicate it, creating a representation of the earth within the clean space of the gallery.


The present work was first exhibited in 2015 at the Abbot Hall Art Gallery. This exhibition saw the artists entering into the dialogue between the Lake District and the great British landscape tradition, subverting the traditional expectations of such an exchange. In the words of curator Nick Curator 'once you’ve seen their work in the flesh you’ll never look at the infinite variations of the tarmac, soil, concrete, rock or sand that we walk on in quite the same way ever again.’


alfred wallis

Alfred Wallis, British 1855–1942 - Untitled (Double-sided); pencil on card


Lot 25 is a drawing by Alfred Wallis which is estimated to make between £3,000-£5,000. Alfred Wallis was celebrated for his distinctive naive paintings focused on his home town of St. Ives. He was famously 'discovered' by Christopher Wood and Ben Nicholson during a trip to Cornwall in 1928 and become an inspirational figure in British Modernism. His work is now in collections including the Tate and Kettle's Yard. This is a rare double-sided signed drawing by the artist.


This comes from the collection of Ray Hughes. Ray Hughes was an important Australian art collector and dealer, known for his collection of naïve works and pieces by important Modern British artists, including Wallis, Roger Hilton, Howard Hodgkin and Alan Green. This work is featured alongside other artists from St Ives including Ben Nicholson, Alfred Wallis, Adrian Heath, Trevor Bell.

mary fedden 

Mary Fedden OBE RA RWA, British 1915–2012 - The Blue House, 1962; oil on canvas


Rounding up the highlights within this sale is Lot 31 a work by Mary Fedden which has a presale estimate of £7,000-£9,000.  We are very fortunate to have this work by Mary Fedden that has been in a private collection for many years.


Mary Fedden is one of the most beloved British artists of the twentieth century, known her harmonious and carefully composed landscapes and still lifes. This work is an excellent example of her nature style, in its bright palette and flattened perspective, that is comparable with her contemporaries Winifred Nicholson and Anne Redpath. Married to the painter Julian Trevelyan, Fedden exhibited in major events such as the 1951 Festival of Britain and later taught at the Royal College of Art, where her students included David Hockney and Patrick Caulfield. Her works are in major UK collections, including the Tate, New Hall Cambridge and Bristol Art Gallery.



View the fully illustrated catalogue here


Modern & Contemporary British Art

Tuesday 25 May, 11am

Viewing by appointment only contact to book a time slot.

We will be facilitating time slot appointments of one hour each.

When making your booking please provide a contact telephone number and the number in your party up to a maximum of 2 people.

Viewing Times

Sunday 23 May 10.00 am – 2.00 pm (Last appointment slot is 1.00 pm)

Monday 24 May 9.30 am – 5.00 pm (Last appointment slot is 4.00 pm)

Tuesday 25 May 9.30 am – 10.30 am

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