1/03/2021 Modern & Contemporary British Art, News Stories & Press Release
Vicki Wonfor, Joint Managing Director commented ‘February’s Modern and Contemporary British Art auction was another great sale which yielded impressive results. There was a very good sell-through rate, and many pieces sold for well over their high estimate, demonstrating that the middle market for Modern and Contemporary British pictures is thriving. We were glad to be able to continue with the sale despite the restrictions of lockdown, offering detailed video viewings and condition reports to ensure that buyers were as well-informed as possible when placing a bid.’
Lot 30 by British painter David Bomberg was the highlight of the sale. Entered into the auction with an estimate of £18,000-22,000 the oil portrait of the artist painted in 1937 made an impressive result of £23,750. This was an excellent self-portrait by the artist, and the only portrait from this period with him wearing a cap and glasses. It is easily recognisable as one of the Bomberg’s self-portraits, a subject to which he repeatedly returned to during his career, applying distinctive shades of red, orange and blue with characteristically confident brushstrokes. This piece was an original on a panel which had a portrait of his wife painted on previously and was exhibited at the Boundary Gallery.
Lots 174-176 a range of items designed by Hammer Prints Ltd all sold well. Hammer Prints Ltd was founded in a quiet Essex backwater during post-war England on 5 August 1954 by the creative duo Nigel Henderson and Eduardo Paolozzi as an antidote to the charming crafters of the early 20th century. It is very rare to have anything presented on the market as the prints were in production for such a short time, which helped with their popularity during this sale. Highlight sales from the group included a group of 18 tiles depicting automotive and other images, that made £1,625 and a toys lamp and lampshade that made £875.
Lot 14, an oil on board of Lower Thames Street, London by Sir Kyffin Williams KBA RA painted in 1955 is a lovely example of the artist’s work. This piece priced £5000-8000 sold well over the high estimate making £13,750. This artwork was purchased in 2019 from the artist centenary exhibition at Martin Tinney Gallery, Cardiff. It was a wonderful example of Williams typically applied thick layers of paint with a palette knife, using a muted palette of greys and greens to convey the dignified solemnity of the landscape.
Theodore Major, British 1908-1999- Pink Flowers; oil on canvas board
Offered to the market at £5000-7000, Pink Flowers; an oil on canvas board by Theodore Major was another work selling well over its high estimate, eventually making £10,000. This artwork proved to be popular in the run up to the sale, and on the day had phone bidders as well as online bidders battling it out for the painting. Theodore Major (19 February 1908 – 17 January 1999) was an English artist who was considered a great individualist of British Art. The art critic and novelist John Berger has described Major's pictures as "among the best English paintings of our time". Although popular this piece is not typical of Majors style who is noted for his grim depictions of Wigan streets and factories, pictures of children, of lonely seascapes, of nudes and nightmare imaginations.
An oil on canvas titled Mending the Sails by Polish-British painter Josef Herman RA made £4,500 over its top estimate making £7,500. The work that sold to a lucky phone bidder is a fine example of the artist’s work, which often depicted workers as its subject and was inherently political. He was among more than a generation of eastern European Jewish artists who emigrated to escape persecution and worked abroad. For eleven years he lived in Ystradgynlais, a mining community in South Wales. This painting was from the London private collection which spanned from lot 1 -28. All the pieces from this private collection sold and many above their high estimate.
Both works by leading, internationally acclaimed artist Adam Birtwistle sold very well. Birtwistle is a British artist whose idiosyncratic portraits of composers and musicians are represented in the National Portrait Gallery. The most successful sale out of the two was lot 201, a portrait of Harry (Harrison) Birtwistle who was the artist’s father, the composer Sir Harrison Birtwistle. The tempera and gouache on linen paper that was estimated to make £200 - £400 ended up making £7,500. The National Portrait Gallery has another portrait of the artists father in their own collection.
Both works by John Hoyland RA also produced virtuous results. The two lots on offer were both estimated to make £3,000 - £5,000, lot 38 sold for £3,750 and lot 37 sold for a higher price of £6,250. The works by one of the country's leading abstract painters, whose paintings are closely aligned with Post-Painterly Abstraction, Colour Field painting and Lyrical Abstraction are both fine examples of his style in oil with pencil on paper.
All works by Scottish artist Sir William Russell Flint RA RSW PRWS sold well and high above estimate. All the artworks on offer were from a private collector who had purchased the pieces from the Fine Art Society. Lot 103 was the highlight sale from the artist, a red chalk on paper, titled Letieia, produced in 1957. Offered to the market at £800 - £1,200, this work sold for £3,750. It is a fine example of Flint’s work as he was most well know his works depicting women. During his career he enjoyed considerable commercial success but little respect from art critics, who were disturbed by a perceived crassness in his eroticized treatment of the female figure.
Estimated to make £800 - £1,200, the work by multi-talented artist Breon O'Casey went on to make £3,750. As well as a painter, O’Casey was a jeweller, weaver, etcher, printmaker, engraver and sculptor. As an artist, he was an important figure in the St Ives school, whose other leading figures included Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and Bernard Leach. The work offered at Roseberys was a gift from the artist to the vendor’s mother.
Work by the British painter and poet, Maurice Cockrill RA (1936-2013) titled Manifold Landscape was estimated to make £3,000 - £5,000. The oil on canvas painted in 1991 that came with a private collection was eventually bid up to £6,875. Cockrill rose to prominence in Liverpool’s artistic scene, regularly exhibiting at the Walker Art Gallery, and employing Pop Art and Photorealist styles, very much in keeping with the work of the city’s father of Pop propaganda, Adrian Henri. He relocated to London in the early 1980s, and gradually moved toward Romantic Expressionism. Another work by Cockrill that sold well within the sale was an oil on board titled Pocket Kingdom, that sold for £550.
The private collection of pieces by the Scottish artist Christine L McArthur, RSW RGI, (lots 204 – 210), all sold well above their estimates, making record prices for the artist. Lot 208 was the highlight sale out of the collection. The mixed media on board titled Lucie Rie's Window with Night Sky made £3,000. McArthur studied at The Glasgow School of Art between 1971 and 1976. After graduating she taught and produced book illustrations until the demand for her work enabled her to paint full time. Her early work was primarily in oil and she became well known for her large scale still life paintings on canvas. In the late 1980s she began to work in oil pastel and watercolour but more recently she has reverted to oil, as well as acrylic and collage.
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