24/06/2019 Modern & Contemporary British Art, News Stories & Press Release
LONDON: A previously unidentified work attributed to Eric Ravilious (1903-1942) – recognised today as one of the most important British artists of the 20th century – attracted multiple bids at Roseberys London’s Modern & Contemporary British Art sale. It exceeded hopes of £1,000-2,000 to sell for £3,000 (Lot 3). With squares ready for transfer, the small 24 x 17cm pencil on paper drawing of a view from a boat is thought to be a study for a watercolour or lithograph that was never produced. The subject appears to relate to Ravilious’s visit to Grimsby, Lincolnshire, in the spring of 1940, spending nearly three weeks in the ‘treeless and smelly town of a meaty red colour’ capturing ‘wonderful material for lithographs’. Ravilious grew up in East Sussex and is particularly known for his watercolours of the South Downs and other English landscapes, which capture the spirit of mid-century England. He served as a war artist and died when the aircraft he was in was lost off Iceland in 1942 – two years after this drawing was believed to have been made.
Commenting on the Ravilious, Helena Anderson, Associate Picture Specialist at Roseberys, said: “This was an unidentified work that we then did further research into. We consulted with James Russell, the author of the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Ravilious’s drawings and watercolours, who agreed with the attribution to Ravilious.”
Commenting on the sale, Helena Anderson said: “Overall it was a strong sale with good results across the board for classic Modern British artists, contemporary and emerging artists, and works by women artists previously underrepresented”.
A fine and rare painting by James Dickson Innes (1887-1914) with excellent provenance to the collection of London solicitor Wlifrid Evill and his ward Honor Frost (much of which was sold in a landmark multi-million-pound auction in London in 2011), topped the sale with a bid of £16,000 (Lot 58). It was estimated at £10,000-15,000. Consigned from a private London collection, the painting was sold by Frost several decades before the 2011 sale and came with labels on the verso for the venerable London galleries Agnew’s and the Redfern Gallery, and one for an exhibition at the Brighton Art Gallery held in 1965. Innes – who is best known for his expressive paintings of mountains and remote landscapes – was drawn to Collioure for its warm climate and situation on the Mediterranean coast of France near the Spanish border. He was enamoured by its vibrant colours and light, painting the picturesque harbour several times between 1908 and 1913.
There was no shortage of interest in the sale for attractive 20th century portraits of female sitters. A multi-estimate sum was paid for an unusual early portrait by John Cecil Stephenson (1889-1965) – better known as a pioneer of Modernism through his geometric abstract works (Lot 36). Beautifully composed, Portrait of Elizabeth Allison was signed and dated 1929. It made £4,200 against a £600-800 estimate. Similarly, a serene oil portrait Miss Lucy Freeman by John Stanton Ward (1917-2007) made £3,600 – well above a £1,500-2,500 estimate (Lot 79). Unlike the Stephenson portrait however, it is typical of the artist’s work. It was exhibited a year after it was painted at the Royal Academy in 1969. There was good evidence in the sale to show the market’s increased interest in women artists, who have long been overlooked and undervalued. Exceptionally well received was Eileen Hogan’s (b.1946) large and colourful view of Tooting Common in south west London (Lot 226). The oil on board, Chestnut Walk, achieved £6,200 against an estimate of £1,000-1,500. It had previously been exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1988 (the year it was painted) and at The Fine Art Society.
Another to surpass its estimate was Vigil in Siena by the Scottish painter Victoria Crowe (b.1945), which achieved a hammer price of £3,600 (Lot 266). The oil on board came with good provenance and had been exhibited in 1995 at The Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh. There is a renewed interest in this artist’s work, no doubt inspired by the recent retrospective held at the National Galleries, Scotland, in late 2018.
Olwyn Bowey (b.1936) is another whose star is on the rise with a flurry of decent prices in the last 18 months. The Walled Garden (1999) - one of the artist’s Royal Academy exhibits - took a mid-estimate £2,500 (Lot 191). Bowey has a particular eye for botanical painting and is known for her plein air landscape and garden paintings, and for oils depicting her greenhouse, which doubles as a studio.
LS Lowry (1887-1976), whose works are recognised the world over, was represented in the sale with an oil and pencil drawing that had been acquired directly from his estate (Lot 82). Lowry made his name painting industrial landscapes in north west England, particularly around Salford and Pendlebury in Lancashire, where he worked as a rent collector for most of his career. His best-known works convey a hive of human activity surrounding mills and factories and populated with his trademark ‘matchstick men’. In this drawing Lowry distilled the urban environment down to four figures and a dog. The bold confident lines, heavy shading and stooped posture of the figures are all characteristic of his draughtsmanship while strokes of his signature warm white oil paint serve to heighten the contrast between the dark figures and the lighter background. It sold for £7,000.
Charles Tunnicliffe (1901-1979) is well-known for his paintings of animals, especially otters due to his incredibly realistic illustrations for the 1932 edition of Henry Williamson’s Tarka the Otter. A beautiful example of his watercolour work, Otters at Play sold over estimate for £2,900 (Lot 40).
Battersea Chair V (1996), a collage of the famous London landmark Battersea Power Station by the dynamic Scottish sculptor and installation artist David Mach (b.1956), also drew multiple bids, selling for £1,700 (Lot 295). Mach started experimenting with collage partly as a result of having access to thousands of reproduced images in the magazines left over from many of his installations.
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