This summer, we are pleased to present our Old Master, British and European Art auction, taking place on Wednesday 14 June. Comprising over 200 lots, the auction offers works dating from the 16th to the 19th century, featuring Old Master paintings, drawings and prints, 18th century portraiture and landscapes to works by major Victorian artists. Here we take a look at some of the auction highlights.
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John William Godward (British 1861-1922)
John William Godward (1861-1922) was one of the last of the classical painters of the Victorian age. We are pleased to present this work (Lot 104), A Birthday Present by John William Godward, from a private UK collection.
Depicted here are two women, dressed in beautiful turquoise and purple tunics, one seated on a tiger skin, a common motif in Godward's work, being presented with a birthday gift by her attendant. In a marble walled garden, we see the skill in which the artist depicts the red and grey tones in the smooth creamy stone set against a planter of poppies and blooming oleanders. Classical motifs are arranged throughout the work, including a small bronze statue of Venus, a white marble carving of Pan pulling a thorn from a hoofed Satyr, a variation of the sculpture in the Pio-Clementine Museum, and to the right of the work, a bronze vase atop a round marble table with lion monopodia leg.
Lot 104: John William Godward (British 1861-1922), A Birthday Present, Oil on canvas | Est. £80,000-120,000 (+ fees)
Although little is known about the young artist's schooling, between 1879 and 1881, it is believed Godward studied under the architect William Hoff Wontner (1814-1881). This apprenticeship seems the likely source for Godward's ability to render perspective and architectural elements, as well as being able to realistically depict marble and porphyry. It was around this time that Swanson believes Godward turned his aspirations to becoming a fine artist.
It is most likely that Goward's exposure to specifically Graeco-Roman subject painting came through seeing contemporary work at the Royal Academy or Royal Society of British Artists. In 1887, his own debut work, A Yellow Turban, (No. 721) was accepted into the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. He continued to exhibit with the Royal Academy until 1905. It was also during 1887, that Godward exhibited for the first time at the RBA, with a painting called Poppaea (No. 401). Three years later, he was officially elected as a member of the organisation. Learn more here.
John Atkinson Grimshaw (British 1836-1893)
Lot 129 in the auction is a striking work by John Atkinson Grimshaw, titled Twilight, The Vegetable Garden. Atkinson Grimshaw was largely self-taught and gave up his job as a railway clerk in 1861 to embark on a career as a full-time professional artist, heavily influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite style. Twilight, The Vegetable Garden was painted in 1869 towards the end of his early Pre-Raphaelite period, the same year as one of his most celebrated early works Autumn Glory: The Old Mill (now held at Leeds Art Gallery). Both works are rich in detail but have a more poetic atmosphere and show the artist's increasing interest in lighting effects and the golden glow of the setting sun.
Lot 129: John Atkinson Grimshaw (British 1836-1893), 'Twilight, The Vegetable Garden', Oil on card, laid on canvas | Est. £60,000-80,000 (+ fees)
Edward Coley Burne-Jones (British 1833-1898)
We then have Lot 94, this serene work by British artist Edward Coley Burne Jones (1833-1898). It is a charcoal and chalk study for his work The Baleful Head, painted in 1886-7 and now hung in the Staatsgalerie, in Stuttgart, Germany. The Baleful Head was the final work from the artist's celebrated Perseus series, commissioned in 1875 by the British Prime Minister Arthur Balfour (1848-1930) for the music room of 4 Carlton Gardens, his London home.
Lot 94: Edward Coley Burne-Jones (British 1833 - 1898), 'Study for The Baleful Head', Charcoal and brown chalk heightened with white | Est. £15,000-20,000 (+ fees)
The series is based on several Greek myths and is a heroic tale of knight-errantry and the triumph of good over evil. Perseus, son of the God Zeus is sent to rescue the beautiful Andromeda and kill the Gorgon Medusa. The legend has been popular in art since antiquity, with Rubens, Titian and Delacroix all painting aspects of it.
Lord Balfour and Burne-Jones were both interested in William Morris's epic poem, The Earthly Paradise. Burne-Jones planned to create ten paintings depicting the adventures of Perseus, comprising the main episodes to form a coherent and engaging narrative, from the slaying of Medusa through to the rescue of Andromeda from Poseidon's sea monster. Unfortunately, the series was never finished due to Burne-Jones's ill health.
The scene depicted in The Baleful Head takes place after Perseus has married Andromeda. Perseus then shows Andromeda Medusa's head, through the reflection in the octagonal well, so as not to turn her into stone. Burne-Jones's sketches were an important aspect of his artistic process, and it is interesting to note the similarity of this study with the finished oil version. Lord Balfour visited Burne-Jones to approve the sketches ahead of them being painted in oil.
Workshop of Sebastian Vrancx (Belgian 1573-1647)
An impressive work is Lot 38, A winter carnival with figures on the ice before the Kipdorppoort Bastion in Antwerp from the workshop of Belgian artist Sebastian Vrancx. This work can be considered one of the most well-known and popular compositions of carnival scenes in seventeenth-century Flemish art, its popularity attested to by a comparatively large number of versions and copies.
Lot 38: Workshop Of Sebastian Vrancx (Belgian 1573-1647), A winter carnival with figures on the ice before the Kipdorppoort Bastion in Antwerp, Oil on panel | Est. £20,000-30,000 (+ fees)
The painting depicts a lively scene from the frozen moat around Antwerp's town walls near the Kipdorppoort, where a large crowd filled with figures in carnival costume are celebrating. Such a scene was typical for the Antwerp area, where orchestrated public festivities were very popular amongst the locals. Many artists took inspiration from the rich range of images provided by these celebrations. In the present painting, a cast from the Commedia dell'Arte performs on the ice and draws the focus of the revellers, whilst masked entertainers, dancers, musicians, and rhetoricians surround them and add to the celebratory atmosphere. The scene depicted is relatively restrained compared with most of Pieter Bruegel I's paintings of this type, and many of the individuals depicted stand out for their elegance. As usual, however, the more elegant and wealthy figures are shown mingling together with the less wealthy, suggesting that a festival such as this temporarily brought even the most divided of societies together and helped to ease the everyday social tensions between the different social strata. On the ramparts and in line with the church tower in the background, we can see a group of local clerics and other dignitaries overlooking the festival. They bring a more sober atmosphere to the scene and are a reminder that public festivals such as this were screened by the authorities, who insisted that they had to approve of all of the songs and performances before they could be presented to the public.
The carnival subject was adopted by such Antwerp painters as Joos van Winge, Louis de Caullery, Hieronymous Francken, and Frans Francken II, who, influenced by the Venetian tradition, depicted scenes of nocturnal fêtes, masquerades, and balls. Many of them were in close contact with the actors performing in these festivals. Vrancx, for example, was a member of the Violieren, an official chamber of Antwerp rhetoricians, which in turn was linked to the Guild of Saint Luke.
Richard Caton Woodville (British 1856-1927)
British artist Richard Caton Woodville was active during the late 19th and early 20th century, and is perhaps best known for his depictions of battle scenes. Lot 178 is an impressive work by the artist, titled The Relief of Lucknow by General Sir Henry Havelock. Painted in 1895, is was exhibited the following year in 1896 at the Royal Academy, London.
Lot 178: Richard Caton Woodville (British 1856-1927), 'The Relief of Lucknow by General Sir Henry Havelock (1895)', Oil on canvas | Est. £30,000-50,000 (+ fees)
At a time of simmering resentment at colonial rule, with the British East India Company's annexation of lands including the Kingdom of Oudh in 1856, of which Lucknow was the capital, crippling taxation and religious intolerance, the Indian Rebellion, or the First War of Independence (also referred to as the Indian Mutiny) was sparked in May 1857, by an incident among angered Indian soldiers serving the British East India Company stationed at Meerut. It was quickly joined by Bengal Infantry regiments and civilians, spreading across north and north-east India including to the cities of Delhi, Agra, Kanpur, and Lucknow.
Caton Woodville's painting of 1895, shows British soldiers and Indian allies grouped by the walls of a ruined building, perhaps the British Residency itself. The British general Sir Henry Havelock (1795-1857), with Sir James Outram (1803 - 1863) (technically commanding officer, but who had insisted that Havelock should remain in command until the Residency was taken), reached Lucknow on 26 September 1857 - and this is the moment represented in the present painting.
The Davis Collection of Works by Albert Goodwin
The auction also features the Davis collection of works by Albert Goodwin (Lots 130-158). Albert Goodwin (1845 -1932) was a British landscape painter best known for his watercolours. As a pupil of Ford Madox Brown (1821-1893), and Arthur Hughes (1832 -1915), and a friend of John Ruskin (1819-1900), his works show the influence of both J.M.W Turner (1775-1851) and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
Lot 143: Albert Goodwin (British 1845-1932), 'Canterbury', Watercolour and bodycolour, heightened with white and some scratching out | Est. £1,500-2,000 (+ fees)
Davis Green (1880–1931) was a keen collector of works by Albert Goodwin as well as Alfred East and other artists. Many pictures were hung at his home in Wolverhampton, but most of the present collection of Goodwins were kept in an album, never to see the light of day until this auction, so hence their remarkably fresh condition.
Working well into his eighties, Goodwin was a prolific artist and produced over 800 paintings. The wide variety of landscapes that he produced reflect his love of landscape and travel. The group of works offered here includes a large cross section of landscapes from the UK, Europe, India and the Middle East, from northern scenes of Bambrough and Whitby, to the Southern coasts of Dorset and Somerset, along the Mediterranean coastlines of Monaco and Amalfi, Goodwin’s landscapes record an important insight into late Victorian social history. Learn more about the collection.
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Wednesday 14 June | 10.30am BST
Donnington Priory, Newbury, Berkshire RG14 2JE
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- Sunday 11 June: 10am-3pm
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