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    Sale 5391

    20th Century British Art including Works from the Collection of Bannon & Barnabas McHenry

    17 December 2008, London, South Kensington

  • Lot 1

    Duncan Grant (1885-1978)

    The Farmyard, Charleston

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    Duncan Grant (1885-1978)
    The Farmyard, Charleston
    signed and dated 'D Grant/1949' (lower right)
    oil on canvas
    40½ x 50 in. (102.8 x 127 cm.)
    There is an unfinished landscape on the reverse.


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    In the late 1940s and early 1950s Duncan Grant's work became richer in colour, more tightly handled and attentive to detail, particularly noticeable in a series of landscapes of the immediate surroundings of Charleston - the farm itself, its fields and the encroaching South Downs. In some of these works he seems to have embraced even more fervently the lessons of Constable and Gainsborough (the two British painters he adored) and the 17th Century Dutch landscapists such as Hobbema and Cuyp. Between 1938 and the end of war in 1945 he was, of course, solely in England, mostly at Charleston. Between 1945 to 1948 he visited Denmark and Northern France. By then his and Vanessa Bell's Mediterranean foothold, La Bergére, in Cassis, had been given up and the world Grant had painted there between the wars seemed unattainable. His affectionate attention was turned on his immediate surroundings.

    The series of Charleston landscapes of the 1940s begins, perhaps, with The Hayrick (1940, Tate, London) and continues with, among other paintings, Cowstalls, (1942, Arts Council Collection), Charleston Barn, (1942, British Council Collection), Firle Park (circa 1945-48, Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 14 March 2006, lot 2) and Landscape near Firle (late 1940s, Hove Museum and Art Gallery). The subject matter was by no means new; there is, for example, a 1934 painting in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, which takes a very similar viewpoint to the present work. The magnificent grouping of ancient barn, granary and cowstalls at Charleston was a motif painted by Grant from various viewpoints from circa 1920 - circa 1970. But the paintings of the 1940s have a particular air of hushed remoteness, of a quietly continuing England in troubled times. Grant's vision in these works is, of course, only part of the story: there was ceaseless activity on the farm, with the comings and goings of cowmen and shepherds, livestock and farm machinery. In the war, the skies were alive, night and day, with German and Allied aircraft; Grant himself was in the Home Guard, often firewatching on Firle Beacon.

    In the present painting, Grant keeps close to home. Charleston itself is behind the buildings on the left and the farm pond, in front of the house, is glimpsed just above the brown cow on the track. The patchwork of fields at right lies to the north of Charleston and the house in the distance is Swingate Cottage opposite the entrance to Charleston lane.
    Although the great barn with its tiled red roof remains, the lower granary was mercilessly demolished in the 1970s by the Firle Estate, causing Grant great distress. He was unusually philosophical about change - especially in London - but the destruction of part of this group of immemorial buildings hit him hard.

    We are very grateful to Richard Shone for his assistance in cataloguing lots 1-11, 20-21, 29 and 31.

    Special Notice

    VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 15% on the buyer's premium


    Provenance

    Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 6 November 1981, lot 101.
    with Anthony D'Offay, London, where purchased by the present owners.


    Pre-Lot Text

    Works from the Collection of Bannon and Barnabas McHenry

    We were introduced to the Bloomsbury world of arts and letters in the small, elegant Dering Street gallery of Anthony d'Offay. Bill Lieberman, then the pillar of tradition at the Museum of Modern Art, and later curator of 20th Century Art at the Metropolitan Musem of Art, recommended Anthony. He admired the connoisseur approach to 20th Century painting and sculpture of Anthony and his talented associate Caroline Cuthbert. In the late 1970s there were exhibitions at d'Offay's gallery of paintings by Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, Roger Fry and their circle. Anthony and Caroline not only knew Bloomsbury art but they also led us through the geography of Bloomsbury from the Hyde Park Gate House of Vanessa and her sister Virginia Woolf to Charleston in Sussex, where Vanessa and Duncan Grant worked and lived; it was as if John Rewald were your tour guide to Impressionist sites in Provençe. Most of our Bloomsbury paintings came through Anthony's gallery.

    We often visited John Walker, the former director of the National Gallery in Washington, at his charming thatched roofed cottage in Amberley, a short drive from Glyndebourne and an hour from Charleston. We would stop for tea at Olivier and Quentin Bell's cottage at Firle where Olivier was editing Virginia Woolf's diaries. After Duncan Grant's death in 1978 Charleston had deteriorated and Debo Gage, gallery owner and Firle resident, had begun a campaign to restore Charleston. Quentin, Olivier and Debo were engaged in the complicated task of protecting, preserving and restoring the decorated furniture, neglected gardens and dilapidated house that once was the celebrated country place for the luminaries of Bloomsbury.

    Four of our paintings are about Charleston and two depict an identical landscape seen through the eyes of two artists, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. Sir Peter Shepherd planned the restoration of the Charleston walled garden and he replaced all of the perennials that Olivier could identify from the vintage photographs.

    The restored and refurbished Charleston has become a celebrated Bloomsbury pilgrimage site and we take pleasure in having been a minor part of that venture and meeting the extraordinary people who dedicated so much time and money to its successful restoration.

    Bannon and Barnabas McHenry.