Included in Dreweatts’ Hambridge Timed Online sale is a private collection of works which belonged to art critic, dealer and artist Eardley Knollys. Lots 134–145 illustrate a wide cross-section works by some of the artists Knolly’s befriended and treasured. With estimates ranging from £50-1,500 (+ fees), scroll down to read more about the art collector and his important circle of friends including Mattei Radev by whom these works were inherited.
Eardley Knollys (1902-1991) was born in Alresford, Hampshire. He studied at Winchester College and continued his education at Christ Church College in Oxford. Knollys interest in the arts and his reputation as an art critic grew during the 1920s and in 1936 Knollys opened The Storran Gallery, opposite Harrods with his partner Frank Coombs. The gallery exhibited renowned artists such as Amedeo Modigliani, Maurice Utrillo, Ivon Hitchens, Pablo Picasso and Victor Pasmore to name just a few. Coombs tragically passed away in an air raid during World War II in Belfast in 1941. Knollys closed the gallery shortly afterwards.
In 1945, Knollys along with music critic and novelist Edward Sackville-West and music critic Desmond Shawe-Taylor purchased a Georgian rectory in Long Crichel, Dorset. Along with James Lees-Milne, literary critic Raymond Mortimer and gay activist and eye surgeon Patrick Trevor-Roper, the house became a centre for young creatives, where these young men and their friends could immerse themselves in books, music, art and poetry. These passionate young men hosted guests such as Ben Nicholson, Duncan Grant, Sibyl Colefax and film director Anthony Asquith.
Knollys joined James Lees-Milne working for the National Trust during World War II and published diaries recording their trips to some of the most renowned British country houses.
In 1965, Knollys, a well respected art critic and member of the Bloomsbury art group inherited a collection of artworks which had belonged to Edward Sackville-West. In 1967 Knollys and Mattei Radev purchased a hunting lodge in Hampshire and they both painted and worked in the artist’s studio attached to the lodge. Knollys’ interest in the arts continued and he added to the collection right up until his death in 1991. Knolly’s collection was bequeathed to Mattei Radev, who continued to grow the important collection.
Mattei Radev became an iconic member of the artistic and literary Bloomsbury group. Radev was a Bulgarian émigré who settled initially in Glasgow after escaping Bulgaria through Turkey. When he first arrived in London he started working at Whittington Hospital as an orderly and met eye surgeon Patrick Trevor-Roper. Trevor-Roper was a gay activist and introduced Radev to likeminded friends in London. Influenced by these new acquaintances in artistic circles Radev decided to pursue an apprenticeship in framing. In 1960 he set up his own workshop in Fitzrovia with the help of a financial loan from Eardley Knollys. Clients included John Banting, Graham Sutherland and Duncan Grant. The framers continued under Radev’s management until the 1990s. Radev visited Long Crichel many times and met his life-long lover E.M. Forster, the notable novelist and literary critic.
The Radev collection represents the three strong individuals involved, Sackville-West who championed Modernism, Eardley Knollys whose passion for French Impressionism shines through and Radev for his loyalty to British artists with whom he was friends and in business with.
Eardley Knollys started painting in his mid-40s and held his first solo exhibition in 1960. By this point he was a key member of the Bloomsbury Group and a renowned art critic, dealer and collector. There are three works by Knollys included in the sale, two of which are abstract lithographs. The bright colours are playful across the sheet and would look striking in a modern British art collection. The third piece was made in oil, Knollys has created a mysterious tree lined snowscape that pulls the viewer into the composition which sprawls across the paper.
Lot 134 titled Le Chateau de Grand Meaulnes is likely based on the novel by Henri Alain-Fournier, sometimes translated as The Lost Estate. The chateau peers through the rather oversized and impending gates as the barren landscape lies beyond with the spidery trees scattered.
The story goes that Augustin Meaulnes whilst adventuring in unknown countryside stumbles across an abandoned chateau. He enters a world of raucous partying for three evenings where he falls in love with Yvonne de Galais. Meaulnes never returned to the chateau or saw the girl again and this constant yearn, and passion caused his spirit to never be the same again. It has been suggested that the novel inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.
Fred Uhlman, known for his unusual landscapes and still lifes is distinguished by his unique and distinctive colour palette. Uhlman was born in Stuttgart, Germany in 1901. He studied law and practiced between 1927-33. In 1933 Uhlman headed for Paris and started painting as a self-taught artist. From Paris he moved to London where his reputation as a painter grew. Uhlman was particularly drawn to the Welsh landscape and spent summers painting in the valleys, depictions of which are in great demand at auction. His first one-man show took place at the Galerie Le Niveau, Paris in 1935 and his first solo show in London was at the Zwemmer Gallery in 1938. The Zwemmer Gallery is where Lot 134 was purchased from, most likely by Knollys or one of his acquaintances.
Elliot Seabrooke was born in Upton Park, Essex in 1886. Seabrooke went on to study at the Slade School of Fine Art between 1906-1911 with Henry Tonks. Seabrooke paid a small fee to rent a studio in Westmorland which he used as a base to produce his works, mainly studying the landscape. During World War I Seabrooke served in the British Red Cross and was an Official War Artist on the Italian front. Seabrooke, also had aspiration to become an actor and worked with people such as John Gielgud, Wendy Hiller and Ralph Richardson. Seabrooke’s first solo exhibition was held at the Carfax Gallery, London in 1912. Works are held in the collection of some of the United Kingdom’s most prestigious galleries including the Tate Gallery and the Imperial War Museum. This particular work, Lot 140, is beautiful executed using a pointillist effect. The soft sheen on the trunks of the silver birches appears through the detailed build-up of colour creating a beautiful hazy effect.
This is a timed online auction ending on Wednesday 15 December with lots closing sequentially at 30 second intervals from 10.30am GMT.
For a guide to bidding in a Timed Online Auction click here
Browse the auction
Sign up to email alerts
1 Hambridge Lane, Newbury, Berkshire RG14 5TU
Viewing is by appointment only, and we ask that visitors wear a face covering when visiting our salerooms. To book an appointment to view, please email: email@example.com or call +44 (0) 1635 553 548.
Remote Viewing Service available from Monday 6 December | Learn more
Condition reports can be provided upon request.
Tel: +44 (0) 1635 553 548
Sign up for auction alerts and our monthly newsletter to receive expert analysis and insights from our specialists and keep up-to-date on forthcoming auctions, valuation days and previews.