LONDON – Lilies of the Valley by Sir William Nicholson topped Bonhams’ Modern British and Irish Art Sale in London on November 24. The work was painted in 1927 and critics have noted its atypical “radiant sweetness” as well as the boldness of the brushstrokes and the layering of tones. It sold for £237,750, having been estimated at £60,000-£80,000. The sale made a total of £2,484,083 with 82% sold by lot and 92% sold by value.
Bonhams Director of Modern British and Irish Art, Matthew Bradbury, said: “This has been an exceptionally strong sale and the high prices across the board and keen competitive bidding for all the key works demonstrate the continued health of the market for good quality Modern British and Irish Art.”
Other highlights included:
Painted in 1976, Four Pears by William Scott was inspired by a pear tree growing outside the artist’s studio at Coleford in Gloucestershire. The painting has not been seen in public since it was exhibited at Irish Art in the Seventies: The International Connection in 1980. It achieved £187,750 against an estimate of £150,000-£250,000.
In the Park by William Roberts is among a group of pictures from the first half of the 1920s that can be said to have connections to the artist’s own life. On his return in 1918 from war service in France both as a combatant and later a War Artist, Roberts settled down with his long-term girl-friend Susan Kramar. After he welcomed a child in 1919 and married in 1922, families began to appear in his work – The Poor Family (1921-22), for example, and Happy Family of 1924. In the Park realized £162,750 against an estimate of £70,000-£100,000.
Patrick Heron’s Soft Discs in Red: September 1962 was purchased in 1963 by a foremost modernist British architect and has remained in the same family collection ever since. The architect forged relationships with many well-known artists (including Louis le Brocquy, Graham Sutherland, Augustus John, Sir Eduardo Paolozzi and Keith Vaughan) and Patrick Heron had become a close acquaintance. The work sold for £137,750 against an estimate of £100,000-£150,000.
Also performing well was Landscape by Michael Andrews, which sold for £162,750 against an estimate of £50,000-£80,000. Although the painting is undated and the precise location unknown, the topography suggests Digswell in Hertfordshire which appears in other of Andrews’ works. In Landscape the artist has employed economic yet varied mark making to describe a road leading the eye to a small cluster of rural buildings and telephone poles.
A final strong highlight was Purple Hills by Paul Henry, which achieved £106,500 against an estimate of £50,000-£80,000. Painted between 1932-1940, this work demonstrates why Henry is regarded as the finest Irish modern landscape artist. Renowned for his Post-Impressionist evocative depictions of the West of Ireland, the artist gets to the essence of his subject, observing things in simple, direct terms and setting them down harmoniously in closely modulated tones.
The current rate of exchange is £1 = $1.37.
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