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Dedicated Sale of 20th Century British Art Announced at Sotheby's for December 15th
Sir Stanley Spencer, Hilda and I at Pond Street, oil on canvas, est: £400,000-600,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

LONDON.- Following the success of The Robert Devereux Post-War British Art Collection at auction last month, Sotheby’s will stage its dedicated sale of 20th Century British Art in London on Wednesday, December 15, 2010. A number of distinguished private collections will form the core of the sale, as will a group of de-accessioned works from an array of US museums, all of which are being sold to benefit future museum acquisitions.

Property from the Estate of the late Maurice Cooke (1915-2010):
Maurice Cooke purchased his first picture in 1946, aged 32 and in his first year of reading history at Oxford University. Following this initial purchase he went on to amass a superb collection of 20th Century British Art. After Oxford he became a lecturer in the History Department at Bangor University in North Wales, where he was able to develop his interest in art and architecture and became a Senior Lecturer in History of Art. He was a key figure in the growth of the arts in Bangor and became Director of the gallery opened by the university with the help of the Welsh Arts Council. He also served on the Welsh Arts Council Art Committee and invited many eminent speakers to Bangor such as Antony Blunt, Alan Bowness, Neil McGregor and Michael Jaffé.

Henry Moore, Dame Barbara Hepworth, Lynn Chadwick, Graham Sutherland and William Scott are well represented among the Cooke Collection presented for sale. Maurice had a particular passion for the work of Henry Moore and his Maquette for Three Piece No. 3 Vertebrae (lot 6) carries an estimate of £60,000-80,000. Maurice described this work as “one of the most important works of the last 20 years of Moore’s life.” Dame Barbara Hepworth’s Core (lot 9) – a bronze with dark brown patina, estimated at £150,000-250,000 – is a further notable highlight of the Cooke works going under the hammer.

Property from a Private Collection, London:
This private collection focuses on a group of works by Frank Auerbach, Leon Kossoff, David Bomberg, Paula Rego, Lynn Chadwick and L.S. Lowry. Leading the group in terms of estimate are: Frank Auerbach’s E.O.W., Nude, Lying on her Back (lot 95), which dates from 1959 and is estimated at £300,000-500,000; Paula Rego’s monumental pastel work of The Aunt (Nada) (lot 105), which takes its inspiration from a celebrated Spanish novel called Nada (meaning nothing) and is estimated at £250,000-350,000; and Leon Kossoff’s Nude on a Bed (lot 93) from circa 1980, estimated at £180,000-250,000.

At the heart of the group of works on offer is a relationship that connects the heady days of Vorticism prior to the outbreak of World War I with the very different reality of post-World War II London. In 1912-15, David Bomberg had produced some of the most avant-garde paintings then seen in Britain, indeed in Europe. In his later life he found his vocation as an inspirational teacher and in his classes at the Borough Polytechnic he had two young students who he impressed with his dedication to stripping away the irrelevant to get to the heart of the subject. Those two students were Leon Kossoff and Frank Auerbach, and the works by them that are presented for sale in this collection show just how Bomberg’s teachings would influence their work.

Works from US museums:
Among the works that are being de-accessioned from US museums is Sir Stanley Spencer’s Hilda and I at Pond Street (lot 56), which is being sold by The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago to benefit the Museum’s acquisition fund. This is arguably the finest work by the artist to appear on the market in the last five years and it comes to auction with an estimate of £400,000-600,000. There can be few artists of the 20th century for whom the fusion of life with art is more deeply embedded than Stanley Spencer. His visionary paintings – covering almost five decades – transport the viewer to an imagined realm in which the artist’s memories, feelings, relationships and circumstances fold in upon themselves over and again to forge a world that is quite unlike anything else.

Hilda Carline was perhaps the most important figure in Spencer’s life. They first met in the early 1920s and married in 1925. To Spencer, the relationship with Hilda was miraculous, the intimacy and union of their two beings becoming a source of wonderment. Everything about Hilda fascinated Spencer. However, personal circumstances in Hilda’s family led to her spending long periods of time away from her husband, who - in her absence - befriended Patricia Preece, another artist living in Cookham. Hilda and Spencer later separated and this would become Spencer’s biggest regret and he did everything he could to make up for his actions.

A bronze sculpture – entitled Girl – by Reg Butler (lot 156) is presented for sale by The Museum of Modern Art in New York – to benefit the museum’s Nina and Gordon Bunshaft Fund for the acquisition of painting and sculpture. The female form was by far the largest part of Butler’s subject matter in the 1950s and the image of the figure wrestling with a piece of clothing – a chemise or a vest – is one that captivated his imagination. Girl, dating from 1956-7, is estimated at £100,000-150,000. Works from The High Museum of Art in Atlanta and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Califormia also feature in the sale (lot 92 and 42). The High Museum of Art is selling to benefit future acquisitions while The J. Paul Getty Museum is selling to benefit future painting acquisitions.

A charcoal and chalk drawing by Frank Auerbach – entitled Head of Helen Gillespie II (lot 89) – has been in the same family collection since 1962, after it was chosen by the mother of the present owner for her 21st birthday – she chose the painting instead of a car! During the first two decades of Auerbach’s career he used a small group of sitters, all of whom were close to the artist. Helen Gillespie was one of those sitters and the three drawings he did of her between 1961-2 are all incredibly bold statements and sit at a point in Auerbach’s development where the concentration on the rendering of the darks and lights within the images was reaching an extreme. The drawing presented for sale is estimated at £300,000-500,000.

* Pre-sale estimates do not include buyer’s premium

Sotheby's | 20th Century British Art | The Robert Devereux Post-War British Art Collection |

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