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Robert Kime | A Modern British Influence | With Simon Martin
Robert Kime | A Modern British Influence | With Simon Martin
Robert Kime | A Modern British Influence | With Simon Martin
Ahead of our auction Robert Kime: The Personal Collection auction on the 4, 5 and 6 October 2023, Simon Martin, Director of Pallant House Gallery, and Will Porter, Dreweatts Co-Head of Modern & Contemporary Art, share some personal insights into some of Robert’s most loved artists and collection of paintings, as he chose to have them surround him in his last home in London.
Eric Ravilious (British 1903-1942)
This atmospheric watercolour by British artist Eric Ravilious, painted in 1938, depicts a picturesque valley in the Welsh borders and at the same time shows us a master at work.
Early in 1938 Ravilious travelled to Capel-y-Ffin, a hamlet in the Honddu valley not far from the ruins of Llanthony Priory. Having concentrated on illustration and design for a couple of years he was at last free to paint watercolours, and to take his time doing so. He had booked a room in the hamlet's solitary farmhouse for two months, and looked forward to exploring a landscape that was wilder than his native Sussex.
Steeped as he was in the English watercolour tradition, Ravilious was well aware that JMW Turner, John Sell Cotman and other luminaries had painted the valley before him, although those earlier Romantic artists had tended to focus on the ruined abbey. A more recent visitor was artist-poet David Jones, who stayed with Eric Gill and his entourage in Capel-y-Ffin in the 1920s. Ravilious admired the strong modern line and delicate palette of Jones's watercolours, which present subjects similar to this but in a very different style (see Lot 56 David Jones 'Spirit in an Orchard').
Lot 58: Eric Ravilious (British 1903-1942), 'New Year Snow', Watercolour and pencil | Est. £100,000-150,000 (+ fees)
InNew Year SnowRavilious presents a recognisable view south-east along the valley, towards the distinctive buttress of Loxidge Tump. He was no topographer, however, and here he has redirected the course of the river so that it bends across the composition, roughly mirroring the curve of hills against the sky. Water, land and clouds are painted with remarkable economy, with only the lightest of washes across the hilltops. Mostly the watercolour has been applied in single strokes, whether taut and wiry or roughly scuffed with a dry brush. White paper showing through suggests here the texture of grassland dusted with snow and there the shimmer of moving water, while simultaneously conveying a feeling of light-heartedness and freedom.
In place of the ruins sought out by Turner's generation, we have the kind of man-made object that delighted Ravilious: a sheep feeder on wheels set centre stage and at a precarious angle. This positioning and the clarity of the draughtsmanship lend a slightly dreamlike quality to the scene.
In May 1939, Ravilious held his third exhibition of watercolours at the prestigious London gallery of Arthur Tooth and Son, the show that cemented his reputation. InThe Observer, Jan Gordon praised Ravilious's extraordinary technique, which made the most mundane object 'appear as something magic, almost mystic, distilled out of the ordinary everyday.' Ravilious chose twenty-seven watercolours for the exhibition; in the catalogueNew Year Snowis No. 1.
Walter Sickert (British 1860-1942)
This work by Walter Sickert was painted in 1895-96, during his first of many visits to Venice. Arriving in May 1895, he spent prolonged periods in the city until September 1896, taking a studio on the Calle dei Frate, a residence he would return to on all his subsequent trips.
Like generations of artists before him, Sickert was fascinated by the historic architecture and shimmering canals. In addition to the very famous and much-illustrated sites such as San Marco or the Rialto Bridge, Sickert also painted numerous views of lesser-known buildings and picturesque backwaters. As Wendy Baron highlights in her book Sickert Paintings & Drawings, the lack of precise dating in Sickert's Venetian works adds to the challenge of understanding the exact chronology of his paintings. Nonetheless, this exploration of recurring themes and places reveals Sickert's deep connection with Venice and his artistic journey in capturing the city's timeless charm.
Lot 325: Walter Richard Sickert (British 1860-1942) 'Scuola di San Marco (Ospedale Civico)', Oil on canvas | Est. £50,000-80,000 (+ fees)
Repetition is a key feature of Sickert's work in general but notably in his views of Venice and Dieppe. In Venice, he painted version after version of the façade and piazza at San Marco, Santa Maria della Salute, the Rialto Bridge and the Scuola di San Marco. His dedication to revisiting the same locations echoes the architectural series of works produced by the Impressionists and, in particular bear comparison with Monet's series of paintings of Rouen cathedral. However, unlike the Impressionists, he was not overly interested in recording the passing of time and light on his subject matter. Sickert's paintings were frequently executed in his studio from drawings and photographs and he showed scant interest in the effect of changing atmospheric conditions. Instead, he used this repetition to explore variations in colour and tone, experimenting with the handling of paint and the different results that might yield.
The Scuola Grande di San Marco, with its grand façade, is one of Venice's most significant architectural sites. It dates from the fifteenth century and was designed by Pietro Lombardo, Mauro Codussi, and Bartolomeo Bon. The situation alongside the Ponte del Cavallo on the Rio dei Mendicanti canal provided Sickert with an ideal composition and it became one of his favoured views during his first visit. Sickert produced six paintings of the subject, each showcasing a slightly different artistic technique ranging from intensely bright colouration with strong reflections to the present example, rendered in soft, feathery tones. There is no sharpness to the painterly brushwork and the colours are muted with the use of subtle layering.
Duncan Grant (British 1885-1978)
We then have this work by Duncan Grant. It was probably painted in September 1912 when Grant was staying with Clive and Vanessa Bell at Virginia Woolf's rented property, Asheham House, in the Sussex Downs. If 1912 is the correct date, then the picture was painted in the year Grant was still a member of the Camden Town Group (he showed one painting in the 2nd of the Group's exhibitions, December 1911). Woodland was the only work by Grant selected for the retrospective of the Group in 1930 at the Leicester Galleries and presumably came from the artist. It certainly has affinities with landscapes of 1912 by Spencer Gore and also by Harold Gilman. The geometrising of the foliage and ovoid forms are characteristic of Grant's painting at this period and were to become a hallmark of his cubist-influenced works of 1913.
Lot 366: λ Duncan Grant (British 1885-1978), 'Woodland', Oil on board | Est. £10,000-15,000 (+ fees)
Vanessa Bell (British 1879-1961)
Most likely painted in the early 1950s in Grant's studio at Charleston, we have this beautiful still life by Vanessa Bell. The vase is depicted on the high mantelshelf (where it can still be seen today in the same position, now with reduced spout). Pheasant-eye narcissi were a favourite of Bell's.
Lot 306: λ Vanessa Bell (British 1879-1961), 'Still life of Narcissi, Charleston', Oil on canvas | £10,000-15,000 (+ fees)
Glyn Philpot (British 1884-1937)
Having painted primarily commissioned portraits and classical scenes, still life was a new genre within Glyn Philpot's oeuvre. His previous exhibition in 1932 featuring just one still life. The choice of subject matter was essentially a move towards paintings that would be 'sellable' and hence his close involvement with various prominent 1930s interior decorators such as Syrie Maugham.
Lot 289: Glyn Warren Philpot (British 1884-1937), 'Jar', Oil on canvas | Est. £7,000-10,000 (+ fees)
Given the subject of this work here, it seems likely that this was painted during, or following, his trip to Morocco with Oliver Messel in September to October 1933, where he was joined by Vivian Forbes. Philpot sometimes created watercolours in situ and then subsequently painted an oil, although there is no evidence of a corresponding study. A fair proportion of Philipot's still lives were painted in the studio at Baynards Manor in Sussex.
Paul Nash (British 1889-1946)
Silbury Hill, located near Avebury in Wiltshire is the largest artificial mound of its kind in Europe. It is believed to have been completed around 2400BC and is similar in scale to the pyramids in Egypt. The purpose and significance of the mound are unknown and remain the subject of much speculation. Given Nash's fascination with pre-historic sites and the spiritual qualities of the English landscape, it is unsurprising that Silbury Hill was of interest to him. Nash first visited Silbury Hill and the nearby stones at Avebury in July 1933 whilst on holiday in Marlborough. According to Ruth Clarke, who travelled with him, Nash was 'excited and fascinated' by the landscape which appealed to his 'sensitiveness to magic and the sinister beauty of monsters' (cited in Andrew Causey, Paul Nash Landscape and the Life of Objects, 2013).
Lot 292: Paul Nash (British 1889-1946), ‘Silbury Hill’, Watercolour and pencil | Est. £25,000-35,000 (+ fees)
The ladder laid against the hill in the present work was a figment of Nash's imagination which derived from his interest in the idea of something rising out of the earth or up from the water and creating a new form above ground. A postcard found in Nash's collection depicts a ladder inside a pit at the excavation of Maiden Castle leading upwards from the ground beneath. This postcard alongside the watercolour of Silbury Hill, is discussed by Andrew Causey in his 1980 publication on the artist:.:
'Silbury, as might be expected, intrigued Nash: its clear, plain, and - to Nash - symbolic shape was both palpable and inscrutable. In the oil painting Silbury Hill [Causey no. 880] he hinted at its symbolical meaning, its special, reserved ambience, with the closed gate and the pyramidal tumulus beyond, while constructing at the same time elaborate formal congruences of triangles within the over-all design. In the slightly later watercolour [the present work] he revealed a little more of his reaction to the hill's shape by adding a ladder leaning against the mound in front of it. This was no more than a now familiar Nash image, but there could be special interest in this if the idea was suggested by a postcard he had of Maiden Castle [Causey pl. 313]. It is not just that both are sites of ancient occupation, but that the postcard and watercolour are complementary images: in one the ladder comes up out of a dark pit, in the other it seems to continue its journey up the side of the hill; the sequence seems a characteristic product of Nash's mind'(see A. Causey, Paul Nash, Oxford, 1980, p. 265).
David Jones (British 1895-1974)
Born on 1 March 1896 in Brockley, Kent, David Jones navigated the realms of painting, illustration, poetry, and engraving with equal brilliance. He was a true polymath, integrating his various artistic pursuits into a singular and distinctive style that defied categorisation.
In 1909, at the age of fourteen, Jones entered the Camberwell School of Art, however at the outbreak of the First World War he enlisted in the London Welsh Battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers and spent 1915 to 1918 fighting at the front in France and seeing action at Ypres in the Battle of Passchendaele.
The horrors and traumas of war profoundly influenced his work, and themes of sacrifice, mortality, and spirituality became central to his artistic expression. His deep Catholic faith, nurtured from an early age, also played a significant role in shaping his artistic vision.
Lot 56: λ David Jones (British 1895-1974), 'Spirit In An Orchard', Pencil, watercolour and bodycolour | Est. £10,000-15,000 (+ fees)
In January 1921, Jones joined the Ditchling Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic, founded in 1919 by Hilary Pepler and Eric Gill as a religious fraternity for craftsmen. It was here that he learnt wood engraving and during the winter of 1924 he spent Christmas with Gill at the monastery at Capel-y-ffin, Abergavenny. Rediscovering his Welsh roots, Jones spent most of the next three years painting the rugged landscape of the Black Mountains. Dr Paul Hills comments on his work of this period: "The move from the relaxed, ample curves of the Sussex Downs...to the irregular inflexions of the Welsh hills and coast, effected a release from the borrowed idiom in which he had been working. In an autobiographical talk he told how he discovered, between 1924 and 1926, a fruitful direction for his work, particularly under `the impact of the strong hill-rhythms and the bright counter-rhythms of the "afonydd dyfroedd" (water-brooks)'. (Exhibition catalogue, David Jones, Tate Gallery, London, 1981, p.24)
As a painter, Jones excelled in capturing the essence of landscapes, often infusing them with a sense of mystical beauty and symbolism. His works exhibited a meticulous attention to detail and a mastery of techniques, blending elements of traditionalism with modernist influences. Whether depicting natural scenes, religious imagery, or historical events, his paintings possessed an ethereal quality that is as relevant and contemporary today as it was when painted.
Lot 57: λ David Jones (British 1895-1974), 'Nant-Yy-Bwch III', Pencil and watercolour | Est. £12,000-18,000 (+ fees)