Outstanding works by British, Irish and Scottish artists will lead Sothebys
sale of British and Irish Art in London on Thursday, 10 May 2012. The company is redesigning its traditional auctions of Victorian and Edwardian Art, and Irish Art and these sales will be retitled British and Irish Art: VictorianEarly 20th CenturySporting & MarineScottishIrish. These auctions will take place in May and November and will bring together the finest drawings, watercolours and oil paintings from the Pre-Raphaelites to the British Impressionists. In addition, these two sales will have dedicated sections for Victorian Art, Early 20th Century British Art, Marine Art, Sporting Art, The Scottish Sale and The Irish Sale. Celebrating the distinct character of British and Irish Art will no doubt engage collectors worldwide, in response to the demands of new buyers who collect across a variety of genres. Comprising 185 lots, the sale is estimated to bring is excess of £7 million.
Victorian Art: Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Arthur Hughes
Joan of Arc by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) is one of a series of depictions of passionate heroines that the artist painted from the mid-1860s. The subject of Joan of Arc was a character that Rossetti portrayed as a sensual warrior-maid in a battlefield tent decorated with Fleur de Lys motifs. Kissing the Sword of Deliverance, she makes her final prayers before battle and turns her eyes heavenwards. The cold shining armour and chainmail contrasts with the warm flesh tones, embroidered tunic and cascading, auburn hair. The theme of women, beauty and battle are interwoven in the present watercolour, dated 1864 and estimated at £250,000-350,000. It was commissioned by Louisa, Lady Ashburton, who was famous for her friendship with many of the greatest luminaries of the period and as a liberal patron of the arts. It is difficult to be certain about which of Rossettis models sat for Joan of Arc, and likely that such an ideal of female beauty is an amalgamation of the features of several women. In 1882, a few days before the artist died, he finished another version of the subject, proving his enduring fascination for this willful and defiant heroine.
A Birthday Picnic by Arthur Hughes (1832-1915) was commissioned in 1866 by William Watson Pattinson of Felling, near Gateshead, to mark the occasion of the fifth birthday of his son Norman. William Pattinson was a nephew and business partner of Hugh Lee Pattinson, a Tyneside chemical manufacturer who had patented a process of de-silvering lead in 1833. Hughes was a master of portraiture and is arguably at his best when painting commissioned likenesses. In the present work, the artist deploys an imaginative and poetic placing of figures within a glade of Felling woods close to their home on a spring day. The mother, Mrs Anna Pattinson, is seated on the grass with her six children arranged around her, while a terrier snoozes beside a picknic-basket and hamper among the birch trees. The composition is completed by a canopy of pink blossom over the sylvan idyll, a floral motif echoed by the garlands of bluebells being prepared. The scene is a world away from the polluted air of Pattinsons chemical factories in the town below the woods. One of the greatest Pre-Raphaelite portrait groups from the most fertile period in the movements history, A Birthday Picnic is estimated at £400,000-600,000.
Sir William Orpen (1878-1931) is celebrated for his masterful portraiture. The May sale will bring to the market for the first time two fine portraits that embody a life-long love match. Portrait of Rose, Fourth Marchioness of Headfort, estimated at £300,000-500,000, and Portrait of Geoffrey, Fourth Marquis of Headfort, estimated at £60,000-80,000, are being presented for sale together for two reasons. The sitters, Geoffrey Thomas Taylour and Rose Boote, fell in love in the face of disrepute and disgrace, and it was a love that endured until Geoffreys death in 1943. Rose commissioned the portraits and they were first exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in the 147th Summer Exhibition of 1915, by which time Orpen was unquestionably the leading portrait painter of his generation in the Royal Academy. When Headfort House was sold in 1949 to become a school, the Marchioness retained the portraits, passing them on her death in 1958, within the family. Orpen has opted for a three-quarter length portrait of Rose and takes full advantage of the striking seed pearl and lace filigree, and ermine fringed sleeves of her dress. The gloved arms are exquisitely realised and her face is framed by diamond pendant earrings. The subtle modelling of Roses face, neck and shoulders is a masterly characterisation of the fourth Marchioness. With the outbreak of the First World War and the prospect of separation, Rose commissioned the portrait of her husband as a simple, informal likeness by which he would be remembered. The fourth Marquis would serve in Gallipoli, Salonika and France and some of his resolve is seen in the folded-arms and steel-blue eyes.
Rose Elizabeth Boote (1878-1958), the daughter of touring actors, was a Gaiety Girl who sang the part of Maisie 'The Messenger Boy' in 1900 under her professional name of Miss Rosie Boote. 'Gaiety Girls' was the name given to the chorus line girls who sang in musical comedy spectacles at the Gaiety Theatre on The Strand in London. She met and fell in love with the young, eligible Marquis of Headfort, Geoffrey Thomas Taylour (18781943) and they married on 11 April 1901. The marriage surprised and intrigued Edwardian society, and was met with opposition. The Marquis was from one of the most prominent Protestant families in Ireland and Rose was a devout Roman Catholic. Geoffrey had succeeded to the title Fourth Marquis of Headfort on the death of his father in 1894 and with a number of estates in Ireland totalling about 22,000 acres, he moved in the highest echelons of British Society. Destined for a distinguished military career in the 1st Life Guards, he promptly resigned his commission after becoming enamoured with Rosie Boote. Upon her marriage, Rose left the theatre and resided with her husband at Headfort House in Ireland. After being quickly accepted there, it took several years to win over English society, a fait accompli by 1903 when, living in Hampshire, they at tended the Grosvenor House Ball.
The sale will also include Portrait of W. B. Yeats by Augustus John (1878-1961), an oil on canvas estimated at £30,000-50,000.
British Paintings Munnings
Three works by Sir Alfred James Munnings (1878-1959), the subject of a recently completed film Summer in February**form a strong group of pictures that demonstrate the British artists skill in depictions of both equestrian portraiture and rural society. Somewhere the Sun is Shining, estimated at £250,000-350,000, is painted with great spontaneity, a practice which served Munnings well during the period in which he would travel across his native East Anglia, with a caravan of horses, searching for moments of beauty. The group of friends is described in a vivid recollection that is notable for a lack of contrivance, a feature that is strongly reminiscent of the Newlyn School, with whom Munnings had a close association, having lived there in 1911.
Crossing the Ford, a small watercolor measuring 28 by 33cm and dated 1908, shows a group of ponies being led across a ford, emerging from the water and confronting the viewer at close quarters. Munnings was a staunch advocate of painting en plein air and he reserved an important place in his oeuvre for the works in which he was able to experiment with his observations of the horses as they repeatedly crossed the shallow waters in front of them. Rapidly capturing the effects, and painted with great energy, the present work is estimated at £100,000-150,000. Munnings had a profound and intimate knowledge of horses and a finely-tuned understanding of their behavior, and this gives his paintings their conviction and vitality.
The third painting in the group is a Portrait of William Waldorf, 2nd Viscount Astor on Bills Simondale II. Painted in oils in 1930, the setting for the portrait suggests the paddock beyond the formal gardens at Cliveden, the family estate which had been a wedding gift from the sitters father, following his marriage to Nancy Witcher Langhorne in 1906. Munnings found Cliveden an inspiring place to paint and a lyrical appreciation of the landscape is clearly evident in the present work. The lengthening shadows of evening enhance the majestic parkland, which is rendered with typically deft brushstrokes. The last vestiges of sunlight illuminate the clouds directly behind the sitters head, bringing the portraiture into sharp focus. The chesnut horse Simondale II presumably belonged to Lord Astors eldest son William, later 3rd Viscount Astor, but known as Bill. The horse is in perfect tonal harmony with its surroundings, a feat achieved by the artist through his distinct use of reflected light. The painting is estimated at £250,000-350,000.
The Scottish Pictures section of the sale will feature a sophisticated painting by Scottish Colourist Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell (1883-1937). The Red Fan is representative of the artists mature still life style of the 1920s, with a double-interior setting. The still life in the foreground and a fragment of another of his paintings The Rose and Lacquer Screenin the background is demonstrative of Cadells mastery of using cropped compositions, a vivid palette and multiple perspectives to explore form and colour. Repeated motifs include the elegant wine glass and the tall glass, and the geometric red fan and its stylised black companion. The Fauvist-inspired red, yellow and blue colours are framed by the muted white and lilac tablecloth and wall, striking a harmonious balance. The painting was likely completed in 1924 when Cadell lived at 6 Ainslie Place in Edinburgh, a fashionable residence that the artist filled with props for decorative effect. Estimated at £250,000-350,000, The Red Fan was acquired by Murray Reid for £35 at The Society of Eight Exhibition in Edinburgh in 1930. It has since passed through the original owners family and comes to auction and the market for the first time in its history.
British Paintings London Views
Two paintings in the auction capture famous London landmarks as they appeared in the nineteenth century. Ludgate, Evening by John OConnor (1830-1889) was painted in 1887 from the north side of Fleet Street, looking towards the Wren church of St Martins and the front portico and towering dome of St Pauls. The verticality of the church spires and the four-storey shops is broken by the wrought-iron Ludgate Viaduct, across which is travelling a passenger train that has just left Ludgate Hill station on the London, Chatham and Dover line, leaving a trail of blue steam in its wake. The viaduct, opened in 1874, stands as a symbol of modernity and industry, and alongside the shops, gas-lamps and advertisements, contrasts with the venerable nobility of Wrens edifices. Victorian London was a city in flux, the beating heart of the British Empire. The bustle of modern life horse-drawn vehicles, two-wheelers, hansoms, wagons and omnibuses, evening journals being sold on the pavement is presided over by the grandeur of the past. Exhibited at the Royal Academy in the year it was painted, Ludgate, Evening is estimated at £150,000-250,000.
London Flower Girls, Piccadilly Circus by Benjamin Evans Ward (1857-1933) provides an important historical record of an area that had recently undergone much change. Piccadilly has always been a significant locality, but took its present shape in the 1890s, when Shaftesbury Avenue was built and the area reconstituted. Sir Alfred Gilbert's winged god known as Eros (it actually depicts the Angel of Christian Charity), a memorial to Lord Shaftesbury, was unveiled in 1893 and the low wall that initially surrounded the aluminium monument was removed in 1895, the year in which the present work was painted. Ward's flower girls sit on the steps, and children peer into the fountain's upper-storey. On windy days it was said that the water would spray out so vigorously that the flower-sellers required umbrellas. Flower girls were an indigenous part of London life, disseminating out from Covent Garden - site of 'five hundred flower stalls' - where blooms could be purchased at wholesale prices. Estimated at £60,000-80,000, London Flower Girls pictures the hustle and bustle of Circus life in the closing years of the nineteenth century.
The Newlyn School
Headlining the group of works by the Newlyn School artists is Waiting for the Boats by Walter Langley (1852-1922), a large watercolour measuring 42 by 120cm and dated 1885. Langley was one of the first artists to settle in Newlyn and his watercolours of the West Cornish fishermen and their families are central to our concept of the Newlyn School. This group of artists collectively represents one of the most important manifestations of late Victorian naturalism and plein-air painting. Langleys knowledge of Cornish life made him able to sympathetically depict the locals and he was at his best when painting in watercolour. A retrospective of his work was held in Newlyn in 2011 and it is now recognised that, with the exception of Stanhope Forbes, there was no artist who made a greater contribution to the Newlyn School of painting. The 1880s were the heyday of Langleys career and Waiting for the Boats belongs to a series of large-scale watercolours painted between 1884 and 1886. His mastery of the medium allowed him to capture the clear morning light of Cornwall as the fisherwomen wait on the quayside by the seawall in the last few moments of leisure when they are able to share news, knit and read letters from relatives as they await the arrival of the herring fleet that has been away at sea and is returning with the days catch. The expression on the youngest womans face betrays an anxiety that stands in sharp contrast to the weather-beaten skin and demeanor of the older women, who no doubt are well-versed in the practice of sitting and waiting. Langley was able to convincingly capture this subtlety because of his kindred relationship with the community and his own humble background. The present work is estimated at £120,000-180,000.
*Pre-sale estimates do not include buyers premium.
** Summer in February stars Dan Stevens and Dominic Cooper, and tells the story of Munnings and Gilbert Evans, who both fall for artist Florence Carter-Wood in the years before the First World War.