John Ruskin was a great friend and champion of J. M. W. Turner, and this drawing clearly shows Turner’s influence on his own artistic practice. Like Turner, he was fascinated by the effects of weather and light, and this rapid sketch perfectly captures the shifting light of a sunset over water. Inscribed with colour notes to remind him of the atmosphere, it has the freshness and immediacy of a much more modern work.
Sir Thomas Lawrence and Sir Joshua Reynolds were perhaps the greatest portraitists of the 18th century, and their paintings of well-known sitters command huge prices. Lawrence’s intimate sketch (above) is of Mrs Isabella Wolff, the wife of the Danish ambassador to London, and rumoured to be Lawrence’s lover. She was one of his favourite sitters, and there are eight known drawings of her, largely in museums — this particular drawing relates to a masterful portrait now in the Art Institute of Chicago.
Sir Joshua Reynolds was the first President of the Royal Academy, but even the greatest artists learnt by copying earlier masters. This early study after a drawing by Guercino, now in the Ashmolean Museum, gives a fascinating insight into Reynolds’ training and early development.
Edward Lear, perhaps most familiar as a writer of nonsense poetry, was first and foremost an artist, and spent much of his life travelling around the Mediterranean and northern Africa. The drawings he made there are dated, and often timed, giving us a kind of visual diary of his travels, and were often worked up later into grand compositions.
While his great oil painting of The Forest of Bavella will be offered in the Old Masters Evening Sale (estimate £600,000-800,000), there are several of his light-filled topographical watercolours on offer here for around £4,000 or less. The work shown above, and lots 228 and 229 all date from an 1867 expedition along the Nile, while lots 222 to 227 all date from his time in Italy in the 1840s.
Landseer is best known for his paintings of animals and the Scottish Highlands, none more so than The Monarch of the Glen, seen at Christie’s during the summer, and now, it is hoped, going to the National Gallery of Scotland. However, he also made witty and intimate drawings of his friends in high society, particularly those with whom he spent so much time in the Highlands.
Favourite among these was the Duchess of Bedford, Landseer’s great friend and rumoured lover, who first introduced him to the Highlands and their country sports. Two drawings of her are included in lot 135, which also includes sketches of her children. Lot 136 depicts two further members of Landseer’s Scottish circle, while lot 137 features two drawings of the Munro of Novar, the great collector of Turner, about to swim in the sea at Brighton, and as Landseer imagined him as an infant.
Condition is crucial to drawings, and the sale features a group of 10 watercolours by William Payne which has been kept in a folio and never hung on a wall, thus retaining an incredible freshness and vibrancy. Payne travelled through the British Isles, and several of these drawings are of recognisable places, while others are capriccio landscapes, constructed solely in the artist’s mind.