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Never-before-seen carving by Eric Gill offered at Bonhams Modern and British Art Sale
Girl with Comb in her Hair, circa 1928, Eric Gill. Estimate £200,000-300,000. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- A major carving – never-before-seen in public – by master sculptor Eric Gill (1882-1940) leads Bonhams Modern British and Irish Sale on Wednesday 12 June in London. The sculpture, Girl with Comb in her Hair, carved circa 1928, has an estimate of £200,000-300,000.

It was commissioned in 1928 as a 21st-birthday present for Desmond Flower, the son of Sir Newman Flower, whose publishing house Cassell & Co was at the time preparing a volume of Gill’s essays for publication. Girl with Comb in Her Hair has been in the family since it was made. Although it was known to exist – it is mentioned in the memoirs of Desmond Flower and in Robert Speaight’s The Life of Eric Gill – it had only ever been seen in private.

Gill is best known as a sculptor – his Prospero and Ariel were made for BBC Broadcasting House in London in 1932 – but the typefaces he invented have perhaps been as influential, with his elegant Gill Sans used on the covers of Penguin Books, Church of England service books and the BBC, among many other organisations.

Matthew Bradbury, Head of Bonhams Modern British and Irish Sale, said “We are delighted to bring this masterpiece by Eric Gill into the public sphere for the first time since its creation. The work is a beautiful and powerful example of Gill’s ambition to inject new life into the female nude by rejecting naturalism.”

A painting by Walter Richard Sickert (1860-1942) entitled Woman Seated at a Window (Mornington Crescent) is also in the sale. Painted circa 1908-9, the work shows a nude gazing out of a window in Sickert’s first-floor studio in Mornington Crescent. It has an estimate of £150,000-250,000.

Writing for the Spring Edition of Bonhams Magazine, Matthew Sturgis, the author of the award-winning biography of Walter Sickert, wrote, “The motif of the woman with bared breasts was one to which Sickert often returned. It reached back to the Renaissance portraits of courtesans he had seen in Venice, but he argued that the nude worked best in conjunction with the clothed. It is an idea brilliantly illustrated by the painting of the partially clothed girl at the Mornington Crescent window.”

Other highlights include:

• Old Dwellings by L.S. Lowry (1887-1976). Painted in 1961, the work has an estimate of £400,000-600,000. It is one of six works by Lowry in the sale from the same private collection.

• Five Goats by John Craxton (1922-2009) was a highlight in Craxton’s January 1967 Whitechapel Art Gallery retrospective. Craxton considered the goat an ‘essential domestic animal in the Mediterranean’ and repeatedly depicted them throughout his career. Five Goats has an estimate of £100,000-150,000.

• Maquette II Sitting Couple on Bench by Lynn Chadwick (1914-2003) has an estimate of £100,000-150,000.

• Untitled by Richard Lin (1933-2011), painted circa 1970, was acquired directly from the artist and has an estimate of £100,000-150,000.

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