LONDON – Paintings by British women, including artists whose works are rarely seen at auction, feature in Bonhams‘ Blazing a Trail: Modern British Women Artists sale in London on Wednesday September 29. They include Opportunity, a newly discovered work by Evelyn Dunbar, estimated at £5,000-£8,000, and Mrs Ody, a portrait by Jessica Dismorr, which has an estimate of £6,000-£8,000. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
Bonhams Director of Modern British and Irish Art, Christopher Dawson, said of the 63-lot sale: “One of our ambitions with Blazing a Trail has been to showcase the work of undervalued and overlooked British women artists and bring them back to public notice. Jessica Dismorr’s Mrs Ody, for instance, is rich in texture and a striking example of her ability. It is astonishing to think that her work is so rarely available at auction. Evelyn Dunbar’s Opportunity is a reminder of the talents of an artist whose early death and innate modesty contributed to a neglect of her achievements. I expect the opportunity to acquire pieces by these and other talented but lesser-known names will create a great deal of interest among collectors.”
Jessica Dismorr (1885-1939) studied at the Slade School of Fine Art from 1902-03 and became a member of Wyndham Lewis’ Rebel Art Centre, signing the Vorticist manifesto published in the first issue of Blast in 1914. She was one of only two female members of the Vorticist Group and appears in the William Roberts’ painting The Vorticists at the Restaurant de la Tour Eiffel: Spring 1915, although she is relegated to the background. She painted several portraits of women, many of whom were part of the intellectual and creative circles she moved in. The subject of the portrait in the sale is Mrs. Ann Ody, the first wife of Dismorr’s solicitor.
Like much of the work of Evelyn Dunbar (1906-1960), Opportunity, painted in 1936, is a strongly coded personal statement, reflecting her on-off relationship with fellow artist Charles Mahoney. The pair worked side-by-side on a series of murals in a school in Lewisham, south London and grew close professionally and personally. Dunbar nurtured hopes of an even closer union; Mahoney was lukewarm. Opportunity can be read as part of this lopsided courtship. The sunflower in Opportunity’s hat, for example, refers to Mahoney’s obsession with sunflowers, and thus targets him directly.
The sale also includes:
A Dance by the Sea by the Bloomsbury Group painter Dora Carrington (1893-1932). The male figure in the work – a mixed media and foil collage on glass – has always been understood to be based on Lytton Strachey with whom she conducted an all-consuming friendship (Strachey was gay). Strachey was the original owner of the painting. Although Carrington’s work was almost entirely neglected during her brief lifetime – she committed suicide when she was 32 – it has in recent years started to attract the critical attention it deserves. Estimate: £18,000-£25,000.
These Feelings Were True by Tracey Emin (b. 1963-). The complete set of eight lithographs dating to 2020, five printed in blue and black, three printed in black, on Somerset Velvet Warm White paper. The set carries an estimate of £40,000-£60,000.
Revision of January 10 by Bridget Riley (b. 1931-), which is estimated at £50,000-£80,000.
The current rate of exchange is £1 = $1.36.
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