2011 marked an unprecedented year for the category of 20th Century British and Irish Art, with Christie’s realising the highest sale total for the category at the inaugural Evening Sale in November (£23.6 million), and setting the two highest prices for any work in the category when both Piccadilly Circus, London, 1960, and The Football Match, 1949, by L.S. Lowry, R.A.(1887-1976) each sold for £5.6 million, in November and May respectively. Building on this, Christie’s London sets the tone for the 2012 sales in this field with a stellar array of important works, both in the 20th Century British and Irish Art Evening Sale (45 lots), on Wednesday 23 May, and the Day Sale (161 lots), on the 24 May. The star lot of the series is an exemplary oil, Industrial Landscape: Stockport Viaduct, 1958, by Lowry (estimate: £1,200,000-1,800,000), which leads a total of 22 oils and drawings offered over the two sales. A celebration of the key 20th century movements in this category, Christie’s presents significant paintings by Edward Burra, Stanley Spencer and Ivon Hitchens alongside a strong group of sculpture and works by the Scottish Colourists; London School Artists; St Ives Artists; Neo-Romantics, Pop artists and Irish Art led by Aïda, a Moorish Maid by Sir John Lavery, R.A., R.H.A., R.S.A. (1856-1941) (estimate: £150,000-250,000). Together, the Evening Sale and Day Sale feature over 300 lots, with estimates ranging from £500 to £1.2 million – providing wonderful opportunities for both new and established collectors. They are expected to realise in excess of £12 million (Evening Sale: £9 million/Day Sale: £3 million).
L. S. LOWRY – The internationally recognisable work of Laurence Stephen Lowry R.A. (1887-1976) provides an ever popular and very human glimpse into daily British life – predominantly in the north of England – between the 1920s and 60s; drawing largely on the artist’s own environment. His Industrial Landscape: Stockport Viaduct, 1958 (estimate: £1,200,000-1,800,000), is a highly complex, mainly composite, industrial landscape in which Lowry has combined many different elements to create an extensive urban scene, filled with figures and houses against a background teeming with factories; the chimneys billowing with coloured smoke. As Lowry himself mused this industrial sprawl ‘fascinates me, dominates my imagination.’ Painted from an elevated viewpoint characteristic of Lowry, this work draws the viewer in towards the crowd gathered around a street vendor or van; the vantage point gives these figures a diminutive feel in contrast to the many layers of industry stretching behind them.
The Evening Sale presents the three other most valuable works by the artist offered at Christie’s in May: the atmospheric and charged Going to the Match, 1946 (estimate: £500,000-800,000), which was last exhibited over 20 years ago and comes to the market for the first time in over a decade, from the Property of a Gentleman; The Old Horse Ambulance, 1941, which has not been seen in public for more than 60 years and was acquired almost 30 years ago by Mr Mortimer Caplin, Washington D.C. from whose property it is now sold (estimate: £500,000-800,000). Lowry uses a soft palette and loose brushstrokes to evoke a nostalgic past of his imagining, without motor cars and instead the horse ambulances which continued to be in daily use in some areas of Britain until the year following the First World War. The artist once noted that he was drawn to dramatic incidents, saying ‘Accidents interest me…what fascinates me is the people they attract.’ The third of the key paintings is the jovial Home from the Pub, 1944, which transcends time in its appeal and is one of the artist’s most joyful war-time pictures, depicting a trio of women, dancing in the street (estimate: £250,000-400,000). Elsewhere, in the Day Sale, the delicate yet haunting and sometime playful drawings by the artist include Lovers’ Meeting, 1968 (estimate: £25,000-35,000) and Lovers’ Parting, 1968 (estimate: £25,000-35,000)
THE SCOTTISH COLOURISTS – The two sales features a strong array of works by Samuel John Peploe R.S.A. (1871-1935), John Duncan Fergusson (1874-1961), Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell R.S.A. (1883-1937) and George Leslie Hunter (1877-1931), providing collectors and institutions with a range of subjects and palettes which exemplify the celebrated painterly style of these artists. Highlights are offered in the Evening Sale and include Peploe’s Ranunculus, 1921 (estimate: £400,000-600,000), a work that marks the artist’s new direction in painting vibrant still lives akin to the palette of the Fauves and Cézanne in particular, moving away from the style of Manet of his earlier period. Roses by Cadell, in the 1920s, illustrate that the artist’s still lives from this period are perhaps his most elegant, sophisticated and accomplished paintings (estimate: £250,000-350,000). Complexity: Mrs. Julian Lousada, 1915, by Fergusson is offered from the property of the Estate of Leo Herzel, Chicago (estimate: £150,000-250,000). Last seen in public in 1975, this is an exciting rediscovery of an important work from the artist’s oeuvre. The Day Sale features two charming, very painterly works depicting Cockerels by Cadell, each with an estimate of £15,000-25,000 and £20,000-30,000.
EDWARD BURRA AND THE NEO-ROMANTICS – A key work, with excellent provenance, is Edward Burra’s The Gorbals, 1944 (estimate: £500,000-800,000), depicting the urban decay in the modern slums of war-time Glasgow, which will be offered from The Collection of the Late Lord Forte (1908-2007) in the Evening Sale. This is a powerful work, in which faces and bodies are distorted by poverty and poor diet; the two women in the foreground resemble two of The Three Fates in his 1937 painting. Brought to Glasgow for a ballet commission in 1944, where he was asked to design the sets and costumes, it was this journey which laid the foundations for the magnificent series of Irish paintings he created in the late forties. Christie’s is pleased to offer a selection of works by Neo-Romantics, in the Day Sale, including Vine Pergola, 1952, by Graham Sutherland (1903-1980) (estimate: £60,000-100,000). This luminous work illustrates Sutherland’s new found understanding of landscape as poetry. Compared to his earlier 1948 work Large Vine Pergola, this piece exhibits much looser, Fauve-like brushwork. Other artists whose work from this period is featured include Keith Vaughan (1912-1977) and John Craxton, R.A. (1922-2009).
LONDON SCHOOL ARTISTS – The sales will also showcase works by Frank Auerbach (b.1931), David Bomberg (1890-1957) and William Roberts, R.A. (1895-1980). Head of Catherine Lampert, 1996, by Auerbach is one of the highlights of the Evening Sale (estimate:£300,000-500,000). It represents the distinguished director of the Whitechapel Art Gallery, who curated Auerbach’s Royal Academy retrospective in 2011. An important and visceral painting by David Bomberg (1890-1957) is Slopes of Navao, Picos de Europa, 1935, which will be offered from the Collection of the Jewish Chronicle (estimate: £300,000- 500,000). With captivating intensity, this work takes one on a journey through the vertiginous mountains of the Spanish landscape, ‘one of the most memorable’ expeditions the artist ever achieved. Masked Revels, 1953, by William Roberts, R.A. (1895-1980) is estimated to realise between £200,000 and £300,000. This celebratory depiction of physical desire shows joyous abandon to music, colour and life, a strong example of the artist’s bold and experimental approach to colour and form.
ST IVES ARTISTS – ‘Nobody started to think of us [the St Ives Artists] as a group until Patrick Heron wrote about us, and he was the best critic there was at that time, writing for the New Statesman,’ commented Sir Terry Frost, R.A. (1915-2003). Frost’s Yellow and Black Movement, 1952, reflects the impact of sculpture and working for Dame Barbara Hepworth (estimate: £120,000-180,000). The lines in the work draw inspiration from the constructions he was making at this time using bamboo and provide the structure. Another work by Frost in the Evening Sale is Orange and Black, Leeds, 1957, which was purchased by the present owner directly from the artist in 1992 (estimate: £150,000-250,000). He commented ‘…the whole change of visual experience in the North…opened my eyes and set my imagination alive,’ this significant change in approach is evident in the present work. Clodgy: St Ives: 1951 by Patrick Heron is offered at auction for the first time, having been acquired directly from the artist over 50 years ago (estimate: £80,000-120,000). This is an abstract aerial view of the complex cliffs, rocks and inlets synonymous to the rocky headland of Clodgy Point. The Day Sale also features wonderful examples by other St. Ives Artists, including by Bryan Wynter (1915-1975), Alfred Wallis (1855-1942) and Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975).
STUNNING SCULPTURE – The evening sale will feature particularly striking sculptures, led by Dame Elisabeth Frink’s (1930-1993) exquisite work Rolling Over Horse, 1980 (estimate:£120,000-180,000). Part of a series executed during the year of the artist’s fiftieth birthday, this work is the only recumbent piece the artist produced that year; it captures a true sense of freedom and sensuality. The spirit, personality and mystery of the horse, the most powerful element of Frink’s most successful animal pieces, is fully realised. Other important sculptures include Six Forms (2x3), 1968, by Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975) (estimate: £200,000-300,000). This relates to a specific experience, as noted in discussion with Edwin Mullins, ‘The Angles at which the piece are set, and the patterning of the bronze itself, were related to the experience of a boat-trip in the Scilly Isles, off the coast of Cornwall, and in particular the swirling motion of going round in the boat.’
POP ART – Captivating works by renowned pop artist Gerald Laing (1936-2011) will be featured in the Evening Sale, exemplified by AA D (Racing Car), 1964 (estimate: 60,000-80,000), which illustrates the obsessions of a male extrovert at the height of the swinging sixties. This work proposes a personal dialogue with the mechanistic procedures explored by two of the movement’s greatest American exponents, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. Further Pop highlights offered during the Evening Sale include works by Joe Tilson (b.1928) and Allen Jones. R.A.(b.1937).
SIR STANLEY SPENCER AND IVON HITCHENS – Both the Evening Sale and Day Sale feature fine works by both Ivon Hitchens (1893-1979) and Sir Stanley Spencer, R.A. (1891-1959). The Bridle Path, Cookham, 1938, by Spencer, has been in the same family since 1938 and is being offered for sale from the Collection of the Late Thelma Cazalet-Keir, C.B.E., M.P. (1899-1989) (estimate: £400,000-600,000). It has been noted that this is painted with the same prodigious delight in all facts of nature for their own sake as the work of the Pre-Raphaelites Hunt, Brown and Millais. The work invites the viewer to concentrate on experiencing the pleasure of space without distraction. In contrast, Deep Poppies, is an outstanding abstract work by Ivon Hitchens from 1972, which will also be offered during the Evening Sale (estimate: £80,000-120,000). This demonstrates the artist’s evolving interpretation of landscape. The painting is as much about paint and a celebration of colour as it is about poppies.
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