Bloomsbury Auctions Sells Craigie Aitchison’s Studio

Bloomsbury Auctions is reconstructing Craigie Aitchison’s studio at The London Art Fair, Islington on 18-22 January 2012. The studio, with the eclectic mementos which inspired the artist such as golliwogs of all shapes and sizes, models and paintings of birds and animals, unseen photographs of him and his friends as well as his palette, brushes and easel will all give a fascinating insight into Aitchison and his world. Everything will then be offered for sale at Bloomsbury Auctions, 24 Maddox St, London W1S 1PP on Thursday 26 January. Aitchison’s admirers will thus have a unique opportunity to acquire the ‘props’ dotted around his studio and which feature in his iconic paintings, silkscreen prints and drawings as well as his first and last canvases.

Amongst the particularly unexpected elements, will be two bespoke suits (one of which was never worn) designed by his friend Paul Smith, with whom he collaborated on fabric designs for a range of ties. It is also interesting that such a gentle, quiet and shy man should drive a shocking pink and white Triumph Herald, and this too will feature in the sale (estimate £1,000-1,500). A bed designed and made by his friend Euan Uglow is also on offer together with various original sketches and paintings by Uglow, Alex Katz, Ramiro Fernandez Saus, Colin Self and Philip Sutton etc. Especially exciting is an unsigned, schematic oil on card Study of a Nude found hidden away in a box of papers; by Uglow and possibly of Craigie himself, it is estimated at £10,000-15,000.

Bloomsbury Auctions is delighted to be selling Craigie Aitchison’s first known painting from his days at the Slade School of Art. It’s a jug which he painted on a visit to the British Museum; while at the other end of the artist’s life, is an unfinished painting of a gollywog against a bright heliotrope ground (estimate £3,000-5,000) which was found resting on the artist’s easel. Barely visible under the background, is a sketch of the 18th century Dunmore Pineapple Folly on his grandfather’s estate near Stirling. This extraordinary piece of architecture obviously fascinated Craigie, as it also appears on another unfinished canvas (estimate £2,000-3,000). Amongst the finished oil paintings is Girl in a Red Blazer (estimate £30,000-35,000) depicting the girl friend of John Hoyland the artist, who apparently refused to turn up for the second sitting, consequently Hoyland had to take her to the studio himself so the portrait could be finished.

However one of the most interesting paintings in the sale is a very rare Self Portrait, and this one has been slashed. It shows a head and shoulders of Aitchison wearing a dark uniform with a red collar; story has it that a friend saw the painting and remarked ‘You flatter yourself!’ so the artist slashed it. It has been restored from its heavily cut state by the head conservator at the National Gallery, which has recently told Bloomsbury Auctions that they would accept the portrait for the National Portrait Gallery as a gift, should the buyer want to pass it on (estimate £20,000-25,000).

Aitchison was born in Edinburgh and died aged 83 in 2009. He was regarded by many as one of Britain’s most Mediterranean artists because of his vibrant, flat and intense colour palette, two-dimensional forms and distinctive, simple icon-like compositions. As he said himself, ‘I do mostly people, black people, dogs, religious pictures and still lifes.’ However he was neither a colourist, nor a naïve painter nor even a Pop artist, in many ways Craigie Aitchison was a ‘one off’.

For press information, please contact: Vanessa Clewes Salmon: Vanessa.wildwood@gmail.com

For general information about this exhibition and sale please contact: Ross Thomas, 020 7495 9494 or email: rthomas@bloomsburyauctions.com

Bloomsbury Auctions - 27 October 2011