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    Sale 5883

    20th Century British Art including The Olga Davenport Collection

    25 March 2009, London, South Kensington

  • Lot 28

    John Wells (1907-2000)

    Old Adit

    Price Realised  


    John Wells (1907-2000)
    Old Adit
    signed, inscribed and dated 'John Wells.1958./Old Adit./N.F.S./ANCHOR STUDIO/TREWARVENETH STREET/NEWLYN/CORNWALL' (on the reverse)
    oil on board
    12½ x 11 in. (31.7 x 27.9 cm.)

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    John Wells writes in connection with the present work,'Dear Olga, Many thanks indeed for your letter, your cheque for £70 and the catalogue of your Exhibition. Yes 70 was the price in Demarco so I really hope you will still like the picture. I've always liked it, that's why I've been rather peculiar about selling it. Actually 2 or 3 people have tried to buy it recently.
    I've spoken to Delia but not Pat yet about taking it up to London. If not I'll try someone else or post it, though i don't trust the Post very far now ... I'll tell you soon what arrangements I've made to send the painting up. It does look very complicated against yours (Olga's paintings). Best wishes again for April 15 ... & v.many thanks & hope you won't want to send it back. It's called 'Old Adit' by the way. love Johnny' (letter from John Wells to Olga Davenport, hand-written and dated 13 April 1969).
    Just over a week before Wells writes, ' ...the little Red painting did come back from Edinburgh - it was marked in large Red letters, N.F.S. Many of the paintings, came back damaged - but not this one' (letter from John Wells to Olga Davenport, hand-written and dated 5 April 1969).
    It can be reasonable to surmise the title Old Adit refers to a level tunnel (usually driven into a hillside) in order to access a mine that Wells may have discovered. Wells, like Lanyon, by the 1950s had an immense knowledge of his surrounding environment and combined 'with an interest in formal geometrical structure, subtle colour harmonies, a distilled study of natural forms and a painstaking technique to create a complex but ordered, constructed landscape', Wells painted Old Adit (see Exhibition Catalogue, John Wells, St Ives, Tate, May - November 1998, pp. 16-17).
    In Old Adit Wells combines an abstract pattern with higly textured areas of colour. In scraping back the surface of the painting, Wells hints at a sense of the discovery. The hidden structures in the landscape have been revealed.
    In 1958, Wells was awarded the Art Critics' Prize, British Section, by the International Association of Art Critics.

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    with Richard Demarco Gallery, Edinburgh.
    Purchased directly from the artist by Olga Davenport, 5 April 1969.