20th Century British Art (London, 21st June)

To view a fully illustrated online catalogue, please click here.

This summer’s sale of 20th Century British Art at Bloomsbury Auctions on 21st June (24 Maddox Street, London W1S 1PP Tel: 020 7495 9494) has a plethora of exciting and important highlights all of which are unseen or newly discovered, and all are privately owned and totally fresh to the market.

One of the most exciting focal points is the newly discovered oil painting by CRW Nevinson, the renowned official First World War artist who was sent to France from 1917. Destroyed Canal, Ytres (Lot 5) was one of a group of 13 paintings recording his experience of the Great War and which were offered in a one man show at the Leicester Galleries in 1918.

It was bought by a private individual and taken to Canada. When the owner died it was sold at auction there, but the auction house failed to recognise the importance of the scene depicted and did not put it into its historical context. It was snapped up the present vendor who, after meticulous research, found original black and white photographs taken by a British army Captain of the devastation of the Battle of the Canal du Nord and the destruction of the canal at Ytres. All bar one of the Nevinson paintings from this important group hang in London’s Imperial War Museum, except Destroyed Canal, Ytres which had been lost until now. This ‘missing link’ is estimated to fetch £80,000-120,000.

The Battle of Canal du Nord was part of a general allied offensive against German positions on the Western Front during the Hundred Days Offensive of World War I. The battle took place in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France, along an incomplete portion of the Canal du Nord and on the outskirts Cambrai between 27 September and 1 October 1918. The construction of the Canal du Nord had begun in 1913 and was intended to link the Oise River to the Dunkirk-Scheldt Canal. However, with the outbreak of war, construction was halted and was left in varying stages of completion. During their retreat, the Germans made the area along the canal virtually impassable by taking advantage of the naturally swampy ground and deliberately damming and flooding the entire area. Destroyed Canal, Ytres shows the broken bridges which blocked the Allies’ path across to German territory, which they eventually managed to cross in the now infamous Battle of Canal du Nord.

The composition of this painting has strong similarities with Road from Arras to Bapaume, painted by Nevinson in the previous year. The perspective of road and canal are treated almost identically with the immediate foreground dropping away and leading the eye towards a vanishing point at the top of the canvas. In both the image is broken by several parallel lines in the upper part of the subject.

In Nevinson's 1937 war memoir Paint and Prejudice, he wrote, '... I was working at last, and from here I did such paintings as Road from Arras to Bapaume, the Survivors at Arras, the Very Lights at Monchy, the Roads of France, the Destroyed Canal at Ytres, the Hindenburg Line and Brigade Headquarters pictures which were destined to be distributed throughout the world.'

Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson was the designated British war artist in France, a pioneer of the British Vorticism movement and one of the country’s first Modernist artists.

Viewing for this sale of 20th Century British Art is from Sunday 17th June - Wednesday 20th June at Bloomsbury Auctions, 24 Maddox Street, London W1S 1PP.

To view a fully illustrated online catalogue, please click here.

For a printed copy please contact Poppy Walker, tel: 020 7495 9494 or email: pwalker@bloomsburyauctions.com

For free online bidding: www.the-saleroom.com

For further specialist information please contact: Alex Hayter, tel: 020 7495 9494 or email: ahayter@bloomsburyauctions.com

For press information please contact: Vanessa Clewes Salmon, tel: 020 8458 3288

Other lots also in the sale include:

Lot 26
Lucian Freud (1922-2011)

Portrait of Ernst L. Freud the Artist’s Father 1970
pen and ink on paper, ca.1970

140 x 90 mm (5 x 3 in)

Est. £12,000 - £15,000


Provenance: Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in the artist’s studio in Paddington. Drawings by Lucian Freud are rare and this particular sketch has never been seen before, is completely fresh to the market and it is possibly the last portrait Freud made of his father just before he died. The drawing has a serrated edge as it had been torn out of the sketch book. Ernest Freud was the youngest son of Sigmund the renowned psychoanalyst; he was a well known architect who began working in the Art Deco style and once he moved to London from Berlin, he undertook many commissions for private houses and blocks of flats in Hampstead, Swiss Cottage and St John’s Wood.

Lot 27
Lucian Freud

Self Portrait

Oil and Ink on hen's egg, 1979

Est. £15,000-20,000

World’s most expensive hen’s egg!

This rare work by Freud was produced for an Easter themed exhibition at the Langton Gallery, Chelsea where it was not for sale but simply part of an Easter Egg Exhibition to which other artists such as Peter Blake, Heathcote Williams, Bart Kitchens and John Glashan also contributed. This is quite possibly the only 3-Dimensional Work by artist and undoubtedly the only occasion Freud used the medium,. An unusual and interesting facet is that the egg has the artist’s thumb print where he held it while decorating it. The egg is offered with a note from Lucian handwritten on the invitation to the Gallery’s exhibition, it reads: ‘Dear Hope, Id like to see you. Perhaps we could solve the Egg problem on the spot. Please let me know when you are coming up. Love L’.

Lot 28
Richard Hamilton (1922-2011)

L is for ELLE

oil and graphite on printed magazine cover laid onto board, 1967,

signed in black ink and titled on a label affixed verso,

310 x 230 mm (12 1/4 x 9 in)

Provenance: Private UK collection, since circa 1970

Est. £70,000 - £90,000

L is for Elle was produced at the request of the artist Ian Breakwell for a special double issue of Exit Magazine. Breakwell intended issues 7/8 to be known as the Exit Alphabet Box, and to this end he contacted 13 artists, randomly selecting 2 letters for each artist; their remit was to produce a drawing, construction or poem etc, answering the question ‘A-Z is for ....’ Breakwell ran out of money before the issue could be published and the present work has remained in the same collection since the early 1970s when it was acquired from Breakwell by the present owner.

L is for Elle is an intriguing work, produced at the height of Hamilton’s exploration into Pop Art and consumer culture; the work precedes the Fashion Plate series by some two years, serving as an important stepping stone to the deconstructed woman of Fashion Plate.

Taking Elle as his starting point, Hamilton’s woman is on the verge of obliteration, the merest trace of her remains, and only through this almost total destruction of the model is he able to progress to the construction of one.

Conversely, Fashion Plate starts with Elle, effectively his mighty Duchampian anti-fashionplate, and like Frankenstein’s monster, the model is re-built, formed from segments and sections of multiple beings, born from almost nothingness into Hamilton’s ideal woman.


The play on positive and negative imagery is also one that greatly interested Hamilton in the late 60s, and ‘L is for Elle’ represents one of his earliest explorations, progressing later into works such as A Portrait of the Artist by Francis Bacon (1970-71), and of course becoming most solid in the works White and Black Christmas (1967-71). This lot also includes the original copy of Elle Issue No. 1133.

Bloomsbury Auctions - 07 June 2012