• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 5883

    20th Century British Art including The Olga Davenport Collection

    25 March 2009, London, South Kensington

  • Lot 8

    Alfred Wallis (1855-1942)

    Sinking Ship and Lifeboat

    Price Realised  


    Alfred Wallis (1855-1942)
    Sinking Ship and Lifeboat
    signed 'a wallis' (upper left)
    pencil and oil on card
    10 3/8 x 13 in. (26.4 x 33 in.)

    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Wallis would cut out the top and bottom of an old cardboard box and use the shape as the key to the movement in his painting. The colour and texture of the board would also be key and in Sinking Ship and Lifeboat what remained of the original brown ground, would be deeply as experienced as the remainder of the painting.
    'He (Wallis) used very few colours, and one associates with him some lovely dark browns, shiny blacks, fierce greys, strange whites ... The boats are static, the sea and sometimes the clouds appear to move. Wallis would, I think, know exactly the scene of image he wished to portray before starting a picture. He did not paint paintings, he made pictures. I believe he positioned the boats or land first and then filled in the moving elements. He, presumably, would draw in pencil the outline of the static defined linear parts (the boats, the lighthouses, St Ives Harbour and pier) showing each entity from its most important angle ... Then he would, I think, paint in the land and the boats leaving the pencil outlines showing and lastly he would paint in the sea which often covered in part of the objects already painted. Wallis wanted to ''record the old St Ives'' he knew, that is the fishing world that was disappearing.
    It is in his own words that give us the best idea about him,''Houses - houses. Give me a ship and you can take all the houses in the world''(see Exhibition catalogue, Alfred Wallis, London, February 1965, intro. Leslie Waddington).

    Special Notice

    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.


    Purchased by Olga Davenport at the 1965 exhibition, 2 April 1965.


    London, Waddington Galleries, Alfred Wallis, February 1965, no. 38.