On Wednesday 19 October, we held our autumn auction of Modern and Contemporary Art. The auction comprised 212 works, including paintings, sculpture and works on paper, dating from 1900 onward.
Head of sale, Francesca Whitham commented "We were thrilled to announce a sale total of over £2.2 million with competitive bidding from across the world. Strong prices were achieved for established names such as David Bomberg, Dorothea Sharp, Sir Alfred Munnings and a fantastic modern British offering including Duncan Grant, proving the market is buoyant for high quality works from impressionist through to the contemporary."
A Private Collection of Works by David Bomberg (British 1890-1957)
We were delighted to be able to offer a private collection of works by British artist David Bomberg which prior to our auction had never been offered on the open market. Without doubt, the star of the show was Lot 48, The Rock Façade, North-East Wall, Petra. With a pre-sale estimate of £150,000-250,000, it sold for a staggering £487,500.
Co-Head of Modern and Contemporary Art, Will Porter, comments on the group “We are thrilled with the outstanding results for this group which shows the strength of the market for high quality works by established artists fresh to the market. The highlight was the excellent price achieved for Bomberg’s landscape of Petra which sold for more than double its pre-sale low estimate.”
Lot 48: λ David Bomberg (British 1890-1957), 'Rock Facade, Petra', Oil on canvas | Sold for £487,500
In 1923, Bomberg left London for Jerusalem. Organised by the artist Muirhead Bone and funded by the Palestine Foundation Fund, his brief was to record reconstruction projects in Palestine. Working en plein air he responded to the intensity of the heat and sun he encountered in Jerusalem by creating incredibly precise realistic works infused with a brilliance of light. It was here that he met the British Military Governor of Jerusalem, Sir Ronald Storrs. Storrs became an enthusiastic patron of Bomberg and it was he who funded and organised Bomberg's two expeditions to Petra in 1924.
In the present work Bomberg has managed to masterfully combine the sweeping monumentality of the landscape with the considered detail of the architectural construction. He ineffably transports the onlooker to this magical corner of Jordan through the freshness and immediacy of the paint surface. We involuntarily squint, shielding our eyes from the morning light, taking in the huge, sheer rock face in front of us and out of this red façade the holly temples and dwellings emerge. As they were carved out of the rock, so Bomberg carves them from his canvas through each painstaking brush stroke. All the more extraordinary when one is reminded that this work was not painted in the comfort of his studio, worked up from preliminary studies, but executed in the dusty, rocky, ancient and majestic landscape of Jordan.
Lot 59: λ David Bomberg (British 1890-1957), 'Hills above Chrisostomas Monastery, Cyprus', Oil on canvas | Sold for £200,000
Another highlight from the collection was Lot 59, Hills above Chrisostomas Monastery, Cyprus, which sold for £200,000.
The searing heat and intensity of light infused Bomberg's paintings with cadmium reds, Prussian blues, chrome yellows and oranges, all vigorously applied in quick, fluid brushstrokes which leap off the canvas. Leslie Marr, student and husband of Dinora, Bomberg's stepdaughter, observed that Bomberg used to re-prime his canvases just before he started to paint in order to create a surface on which his brushes would glide over easily, giving the paintings an immediacy and fluid energy. The resulting impasto in this painting gives a three dimensionality and tactility that implores you to study it up close and immerse yourself in the ridges and furrows of paint, transporting you to the sun drenched mountains of Northern Cyprus.
Sir Alfred Munnings (British 1878-1959)
The auction also featured two sought after works by Sir Alfred Munnings. Co-Head of Modern and Contemporary Art, Jennie Fisher said “The sketch for the artist’s most important commission, depicting Sir Ivor Churchill and the 9th Duke of Marlborough attracted early online bidding selling for £56,250, whilst the expressive Withypool landscape was fiercely fought over on the day, selling for more than double the pre-sale low estimate at £100,000."
Lot 136: λ Sir Alfred Munnings (British 1878-1959), 'A double sided sketch, Study for Lord Ivor Churchill R. A. 1923; on the reverse a Study for picture of Lord Ivor Churchill & the 9th Duke of Marlborough', Oil on panel | Sold for £56,250
Lot 136 was a fascinating work by Munnings, being one of his most important commissions. This rare panel depicted three studies of Lord Ivor Churchill in his sumptuous hunting pinks and top hat. Munnings’ swift, loose marks plan out the composition, experimenting with different positions of Churchill’s head and hands upon the reigns. Sir Alfred Munnings has used very light, fast white strokes under the sitter to represent the horse. On the reverse of the panel the artist makes plans for the final composition which features Lord Ivor Churchill on a grey horse in the far-right corner, Charles Spencer-Churchill in the centre and two further greys with their handler to the left.
Lot 137: λ Sir Alfred Munnings (British 1878-1959), 'Spring, Withypool, Somerset', Oil on board | Sold for £100,000
The beauty of the English countryside captured Munnings' imagination and Lot 137 was no exception. The scudding clouds float along the visible horizon which is lined with shrubs and sheep grazing on the rolling hills of smooth grass. The boldness and momentum of Munnings' brushstrokes create impasto across the surface creating depth to the pasture and foliage. The long shadows linger over the valley in the foreground. Munnings' used both ends of his paint brushes scraping and marking the oil paint across the surface. The present picture related to a slightly larger work, entitled A View on Exmoor with Bushes in Blossom, in the collection of the Munnings Museum, Dedham.
Dorothea Sharp (British 1874-1955)
We also offered three works by British artist Dorothea sharp which all commanded high prices, in particular Feeding Time (Lot 143) which sold for £93,750, and Feeding the Ducks (Lot 145), selling for £81,250.
Lot 143: λ Dorothea Sharp (British 1874-1955), 'Feeding Time', Oil on canvas | Sold for £93,750
Dorothea Sharp's reputation has become synonymous with images of children playing freely in nature, beautiful rippling waters and memories of days spent frolicking at the beach. Dorothea Sharp was born in Kent in 1871. At the age of 21 she began her art education at Richmond art school and went on to study at the Regent Street Polytechnic. On arrival in Paris, Sharp was struck by the work of Claude Monet and this was to have a lasting effect. Sharp was a member of the Society of Women Artists and served as vice-president for four years. Sharp regularly exhibited at the Royal Society of British Artists and The Royal Academy during the first half of 20th century, holding her first one-woman show at Connell Gallery in 1933. Sharps' highly impressionist style captured idyllic scenes across Europe but also closer to home where she captured the British coast in St. Ives and Bosham.
Lot 145: λ Dorothea Sharp (British 1874-1955), 'Feeding the Ducks', Oil on canvas | Sold for £81,250
Spencer Frederick Gore (British 1878-1914)
Lot 34 was an oil painting by Spencer Frederick Gore, titled A Garden Square in Camden Town. This serene work sold for £43,750.
Lot 34: Spencer Frederick Gore (British 1878-1914), 'A Garden Square in Camden Town', Oil on canvas | Sold for £43,750
It is believed that this work depicts Mornington Crescent Gardens. The changing seasons and everyday activities within the gardens became a regular source for subject matter - people sitting, reading quietly, or playing tennis on the grass court, a game close to Gore's heart as his father had been the first Wimbledon Lawn Tennis champion in 1877.
Christo (American/Bulgarian 1935-2020)
Finally, we want to take a look at Lot 185, Package by American/Bulgarian artist Christo, which sold for £35,000.
Lot 185: λ Christo (American/Bulgarian 1935-2020), 'Package', Fabric, rope and wood | Sold for £35,000
'Package, 1963' was fresh to the market before we offered it in our auction. It was a gift from the artist during one of his London trips, to renowned hoteliers and designers, Constantine and Anouska Hempel, the work had remained a part of Lady Weinberg's eclectic collection.
Christo's first packaged objects date from 1958-60 with the project 'Inventaire' which formed a large installation of unmodified, painted and packaged cans, bottles and boxes which filled an entire room. The present work, dating from 1963, is typical of the artist's early 'packaged' creations. These works challenge the viewer's perception and consideration of the object beyond its face value. Through its concealment, Christo not only creates a sense of mystery around the contents, leading us to question the nature what is being hidden, but also changes the function from everyday item to artwork.
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