Autumn sale of Modern & Post-War British Art is led by an exciting array of paintings, works on paper and sculpture by the most celebrated and recognised names in the field, capturing the truly international scope of the British Arts scene over the course of the past century.
EVENING SALE HIGHLIGHTS
Henry Moore, Family Group, bronze, conceived in 1946 and cast by 1947 (est. £1,300,000-1,800,000)
A seminal work by the most celebrated British sculptor of the past century, Henry Moores Family Group represents the zenith of the sculptors lifelong obsession with the universal motif of parenthood. To Moore, the family became a symbol of hope, of the intransience of human bonds of support, compassion and care, and of turning to the domestic life in the face of immense experiences of trauma.
The large-scale iteration of this piece was a fundamental spring-board to Moores post-war career. Immediately after the war, architect Eugene Rosenberg commissioned the artist to create a sculpture for his project, the Barclay School in Stevenage Moores first large-scale commission in bronze. This was the first purpose-built comprehensive secondary school built in Britain after the war and Moores monumental version of Family Group was installed in 1950.
International appreciation of Moores work was burgeoning immediately after WWII with his first ever major retrospective taking place at The Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1946. This maquette boasts exceptional provenance, having been acquired by MoMA just two years after its conception.
William Roberts, The Joke, oil on canvas, 1923 (est. £300,000-500,000)
Few works of the early twentieth century paint as vivid a picture of the heady Bohemian London nightlife as William Roberts The Joke, which is appearing at auction for the first time, having been acquired by the grandfather of the present owner from the artists very first solo exhibition in 1923.
The evocative painting depicts the artists fellow Slade student and brother-in-law Jacob Kramer and the well-known Creole model Hélène Yelin at the Harlequin Tea Rooms. Situated on Beak Street, tucked away behind Londons bustling Regents Street, the Harlequin became a hub for artists, models and muses in the 1920s. The atmosphere and subject matter of the Harlequin led Roberts to produce some of the most striking and important paintings of his career. Shaking off the confines of tradition, they capture the growing influence of New York over British culture, and the birth of the Jazz age, with the great sense of excitement that abounded during this post-war period.
Sir Peter Blake, Strong Man, 1, oil on board with collaged elements, 1957 (est. £150,000-250,000)
I paint about the life I knew. It isnt Victoriana, its nostalgia, or rather a sentimentality, for my childhood, but its also a feeling for whats going on now an emotion
Unseen in public for well over half a century, Peter Blakes Strong Man, 1 comes from a small group of proto-Pop works created by the artist whilst still in his early 20s, exploring his fascination with characters that populated the fringes of society, as well as his love of nostalgia. The witty works that Blake produced during this period, executed on found wooden boards, become objects relic-like scarred by the hand of the artist and the imagined passing of time. The paint surface is rubbed, taking on an antique appearance and referencing the fading memory of childhood experiences.
The popular English pastime of the circus, in all its faded glory, fascinated the artist. As a student at the Royal College, each Christmas for three years Blake was allowed backstage at Bertram Mills circus at Londons Olympia once finding himself sketching alongside artist Dame Laura Knight. He was to be inspired not only by the performers he observed there, but also the broader visual style of the circus, with bright, bold lettering that was to appear in many of his works.
Included in one of the artists first public exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in 1958, this painting was acquired by a young art student living in London at the time purchased as the very best of the contemporary British art scene.
Gillian Ayres, Nimbus, oil and Ripolin on canvas, 1961 (est. £40,000-60,000)
Nimbus is one of the finest examples of Gillian Ayres work from the late 1950s and early 60s, encapsulating the sheer quality, vitality and expressive power of her canvases. One of Britains most significant abstract painters, Ayres, who passed away earlier this year at the age of 88, stands alongside her American contemporaries Joan Mitchell and Helen Frankenthaler. Like Mitchell and Frankenthaler, Ayres has until recently been overlooked in favour of her male counterparts in the narrative of British abstraction an attitude that is changing as historians, museums and collectors look to redress the gender imbalance.
This work is in many ways the sister painting of the magnificent Break-Off, which was painted in the same year and now hangs in Tate Britain. Conceived on an American scale, it shares the same expansive framework, the same courage of gesture and the same beautiful balance of colour, between the bright, shiny surfaces of Pop and the more sombre palette of Abstract Expressionism.
Sir Winston Churchill, On the Rhine, oil on canvas, circa 1930 (est. £70,000-100,000)
Continuing Sothebys unrivalled experience of offering works by Sir Winston Churchill, Novembers sale features three paintings by Britains most famous Prime Minister, including On the Rhine, appearing at auction for the very first time. This view of the Rhine was most likely painted by Sir Winston Churchill when he visited Germany in 1932, whilst touring the battlefields to write the biography of his famous ancestor the First Duke of Marlborough. The trip was a mere six months before Hitler took power and, famously, the two came the closest they ever would to meeting face-to-face. Given this timing, the importance of the Rhine in the Second World War, and the extraordinary role that Churchill was to play, this painting takes on an added significance as an important historical visual document, painted at a politically sensitive time in a hotly contended area.
Euan Uglow, Striding Figure, oil on canvas, 1975 (est. £200,000-300,000)
Being offered on the market for the first time since it was acquired directly from the artist, Striding Figure is the first of four near life-size works depicting the model Alex Morland and encapsulates Euan Uglows principal concerns. Ambitious in scale and intent, the painting is a rigorous examination of anatomy, flesh, movement, geometry, form and the dynamic between painter and model.
The blue of Striding Figure, the colour that would become indelibly associated with Uglows work, came from the commercial bleach powder, Reckitts Blue. For the present work, it was rubbed directly into the wet plaster of the studio wall, fresco-like in colour and substance, and recreated on the canvas. Profoundly influenced by the Early Renaissance, Uglow compared this blue to that of Giottos Arena Chapel fresco cycle.
Patrick Heron, Rumbold Vertical Two: Reds with Purple and Orange: March 1970, oil on canvas (est. £120,000-180,000)
Following this summers major retrospective of the work of Patrick Heron at Tate St Ives currently touring to Turner Contemporary, Margate until 2019 this auction features three masterworks by the artist, showcasing his brilliant and unrivalled understanding of the power of colour in paintings.
ART / IDENTITY / MIGRATION: PROPERTY FROM THE BEN URI GALLERY & MUSEUM
Ben Uri was founded in July 1915 in Jewish Whitechapel, East London at the height of the First World War. The founding idea behind the extraordinary initiative was to champion émigré artists and artisans, predominately Jewish, often arriving in London without language or support and consistently spurned by the establishment. As London became home to ever more diverse émigré communities, so the scope of the Ben Uri mission grew to explore and spotlight the contribution of immigrant artists to Britain since 1900 irrespective of origin or ethnicity. As a result of the museum's curatorial re-definition of the Collection and Collecting policies, a number of works will be offered for sale. Proceeds will be reinvested to further the three core areas of focus for Ben Uri going forward:
- The Ben Uri Research Unit, building on work started in 2003, will create an illustrated dictionary, freely available on-line, recording the lives and contributions made to the British Visual Arts by immigrants since 1900.
- The institutions Acquisition Fund will be significantly bolstered by the sales, enabling the museum to accelerate its Collection and Collecting plans
- The funds will establish the Ben Uri Arts and Dementia Institute, building on work started in 2008, is tasked to develop the UKs first accredited nationally available set of art interventions for those living with or at risk of dementia.
David Bomberg, At the Window, oil on canvas, 1919 (est. £500,000-800,000)
A powerful portrait of a place and time, painted in the bitter aftermath of the First World War, At the Window captures Bombergs post-war disillusionment following the trauma of the trenches, the death of his brother, and his difficult war commission for the Canadian War Memorials Fund. The female sitter, dressed in black and reworked from an earlier painting, was modelled by his sister Raie, who had also died in the interim from rheumatic fever. The bold palette and hard-edged modernist style link the painting emphatically to Bombergs earlier pre-war avant-garde experiments and to those of his European contemporaries, while the overwhelming sense of confinement echoes that of his wartime studies of sappers.
DAY SALE HIGHLIGHTS
Dame Barbara Hepworth, Miniature of Winged Figure, aluminium and stringing, 1967 (est. £70,000-100,000)
As one of Londons most recognised landmarks, adorning John Lewis flagship store, Barbara Hepworths Winged Figure is seen by millions of visitors to the capital every year. This miniature prototype offers a chance to see the monumental work up close, and garner a greater understanding of the sculptors working methods. The full-size sculpture by the pioneering British female artist, who was at that time garnering international acclaim, was unveiled on the building on the 21st April 1963, where it remains as an icon of the London landscape today.
Michael Andrews, Portrait of Victor Willing at the Seaside, oil on board, 1967 (est. £50,000-70,000)
This portrait by Michael Andrews depicts Victor Willing, a fellow classmate at the Slade and husband of artist Paula Rego. Painted whilst on holiday together, Andrews captures a spontaneous moment when Willing placed his head in a face-in-hole board. The work is a study for the model in the left panel of the triptych Good and Bad at Games (1964-8), which is now held in the collection of the National Museum of Australia. The last of a series of works known as the party paintings, Andrews explores the psychology of social interaction.
L.S. Lowry, Figure Study with Dogs, watercolour on paper (est. £15,000-25,000)
This rare watercolour by Britains beloved painter L.S. Lowry was gifted by the artist to Percy Warburton, a tutor of Lowrys at the Salford School of Art. They shared a close friendship that lasted until Warburtons death in 1969, and Lowry liked him as a tutor because he let me get on with it. Lowry was a regular visitor to the Warburtons home, and having very infrequently used watercolours, on one occasion borrowed a box from Percys daughter just to try them out.