On Thursday 2 March, we hold our first Old Master, British and European Art auction of the year. The auction includes a number of private collections, notably a collection of works by Edwardian artist and traveller, Herbert Olivier, from his home in Holland Park. We are delighted to have James Larsson, the artist's great-grandson, pick out some of his favourite works and give a personal insight into the paintings and his great-grandfather.
Lot 126: Herbert Arnould Olivier (British 1861-1952), From Freya's Window, Asolo, oil on canvas laid on board | Est. £2,000-3,000 (+ fees)
"As well as its tremendous atmosphere, this painting holds particular memories for me because I visited Freya Stark there in the 1970s. I arrived with my mother (Freya's goddaughter) at the same crepuscular time and went through those very gates. I was a small, bored child, dissatisfied with the toy I'd been bought at the airport and in a terrible mood. Luckily, the magic of Asolo and of Freya herself quickly turned things around."
Lot 139: Herbert Arnould Olivier (British 1861-1952), The Italian Riviera from La Mortola, oil on canvas | Est. £2,500-3,500 (+ fees)
"This group of trees were in Herbert Olivier's garden at La Mortola, a place on the Ligurian coast that he adored. In this work, they look particularly beautiful with the sea in the distance and a few glimpses of a town. The same trees, obviously a favourite subject, feature in several other Olivier paintings (see Lot 140 & Lot 143)."
Lot 109: Herbert Arnould Olivier (British 1861-1952), A portrait of Lady Nicholson, bust-length, wearing a black cloak, oil on canvas | Est. £600-800 (+ fees)
"When I was growing up, I wrote this off as merely being a portrait of a grand old lady who was a distant relative. Later in life, I realised how fine a work of art it really is. In particular, the gorgeous contrasts between the black cloak, its fur and the very dark brown background."
Lot 143: Herbert Arnould Olivier (British 1861-1952), Venus and Adonis, oil on canvas | Est. £30,000-50,000 (+ fees)
"This large, slightly eccentric painting combines elements that were known to be dear to Herbert Olivier. As with many other works, the setting was the Ligurian coast. His brother Gerard (father of Sir Laurence Olivier and with obvious resemblance) is Adonis, whilst the model for Venus was one of his absolute favourites despite having notorious body odour. Presumably, the dogs were dear to him too when one sees how lovingly they're painted."
Lot 141: Herbert Arnould Olivier (British 1861-1952), In Freya Stark's Garden, Asolo, oil on canvas | Est. £8,000-12,000 (+ fees)
"With slight overtones of a stage backdrop, one can imagine countless plays being set in that gorgeous landscape. This painting really reacts to the way it is lit. With normal illumination it's full of colour and detail, but in subdued lighting, which is my preference for this work, it has a magical, dreamlike quality."
Lot 142: Herbert Arnould Olivier (British 1861-1952), The Garlands of Love, oil on canvas | Est. £70,000-100,000 (+ fees)
"This is a real 'turn-it-up-to-11' celebration of life and youth. Maybe the sheer scale, colour and exuberance of this work (which includes Herbert Olivier's daughter as well as other family & friends) was a knee-jerk reaction to his time as an official war artist.
"My great grandfather was quite prone to artistic licence and had a particular penchant for painting musical instruments where they didn't really belong. This work is a prime example; the zampogna wouldn't normally be played in the spring/summer but he obviously thought the joyful scene needed to include music."
Lot 151: λ Adam Styka (French/Polish 1890-1959), Two figures on donkeys crossing a river, oil on board | Est. £2,000-3,000 (+ fees)
"The light in this picture is wonderful, I particularly like the the sky reflected in the water and the shadow cast by one donkey on the other. One's eye is drawn to the buildings in the distance and sees how the artist depicts the tint of air very effectively."
Lot 160: Ernest Henri Griset (French 1844-1907), A leopard in a clearing; A leopard with a boar, oil on board | Est. £800-1,200 (+ fees)
"This is beautiful & also slightly funny; I love how the Leopard's head is rather too human-looking. Its face almost has an expression of revulsion."
Lot 85: Daniel Sherrin (British 1868-1940), An extensive river landscape, oil on canvas | Est. £2,000-3,000 (+ fees)
"Whilst reviewing what was being offered in this sale, I almost skipped over this painting thinking it a bit “Chocolate box-y”. Luckily, I looked closer & saw how wrong I was. The reflection of the trees in the water is very finely done and the colours throughout simply lovely."
Lot 10: Thomas Longford (18th century), A bunch of grapes on a vine, with a butterfly and other insects, oil on canvas | Est. £800-1,200 (+ fees)
"Practically a trompe-l'oeil, the muted colours and shadows are magical. The butterfly is such a key element; I wonder how many species the artist considered for this painting?"
Thursday 2 March | 10.30am GMT
Donnington Priory, Newbury, Berkshire RG14 2JE
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