Friday, 6 November 2015

Hammer Time: Modern British Art at Auction

Augustus John, Self-portrait, 1901, at Bonhams
For London's auctioneers, Modern British art is a booming business. Prices keep rising as interest in the period grows, and there's no shortage of work being put up for auction by the descendants of collectors active in the 1950s and 1960s. For those of us not in the market for a Lowry or even an Auerbach sketch, there's an opportunity to go and have a look at the work, marvel at the estimates and enjoy the whole showbiz art world thing.

The newspapers like auction season for its Antiques-Road-Show-moments, as when this Ravilious watercolour went under the hammer in Banbury last year. That story made the Daily Mail, and of course it was the high price fetched by the painting that attracted the paper's attention. If this had the effect of spreading the artist's name, which I'm sure it did, the downside is that a Ravilious watercolour is now unlikely to be bought by a public institution.

Eric Ravilious, 'Belle Tout Lighthouse', 1939, at Christies
Which is a pity, as there are two Ravilious watercolours in this month's auctions, an early painting called 'Drought' at Sotheby's (est. £40k-60k) and at Christie's a 1939 piece which was included in the exhibition at Dulwich, and which is being sold as 'Beachy Head Lighthouse (Belle Tout)' (est. £80k-120k). I wrote a note for the catalogue, which you can read here if you're interested. I hope whoever buys this lovely watercolour continues to lend it for exhibition as its current owner has done on several occasions.
LS Lowry, Tuesday Morning, Pendlebury, 1947, at Christies
Otherwise, this season brings Lowry, Lowry and more Lowry. Award for highest estimate goes to Sotheby's, with the frankly terrifying 'Father and Two Sons' priced around the £2 million mark, but Bonhams and Christie's both have a number of studies and drawings with some estimates lower than ten thousand. Henry Moore is also heavily represented, while Christie's has some unusual sculpture by Barbara Hepworth.

Barbara Hepworth, Hand Sculpture, 1953, at Christies
There are quite a few paintings by well-known artists in their signature styles, but also some more unusual work. Here are a few of my favourites, in no particular order. The sizes are dictated by the copy-able pictures available on the auction websites. My top pick I think has to be the John self-portrait at the top of the page - no wonder everyone thought he was a genius as a young man.

Edward Burra, Still Life with Teeth, 1946, at Sotheby's

Ceri Richards, Tinplate Workers, 1942, at Christies

John Craxton, Spring Leaves, 1943, at Bonhams

Henry Moore, Two Women Bathing a Child, 1946, at Christies

Augustus John, Ida, c1905, at Christies

Paul Nash, Objects in a Field, 1936, at Christies

Richard Nevinson, Road Through a Forest, c1920s, at Bonhams

Keith Vaughan, Landscape with Figures, 1944, at Bonhams

 Happy bidding!

1 comment:

  1. What a cache of beauties! I always thought Ceri Richards' tinplate workers series to be masterful. And that Vaughan 'sleeper in a landscape' is gorgeous. (As is Augustus John's feathery beard!)