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Sotheby's Sale of 20th Century British Art Establishes a New Auction World Record
Sir Stanley Spencer's, Hilda and I at Pond Street sold for £1,430,050 ($2,249,612), far in excess of its pre-sale estimate of £400,000-600,000. Photo: Sotheby's.
LONDON.- The sale of 20th Century British Art at Sotheby’s in London established a new auction record for a work by Sir Stanley Spencer (in pounds – see note at foot of email), when his Hilda and I at Pond Street sold for £1,430,050 ($2,249,612), far in excess of its pre-sale estimate of £400,000-600,000.

(The previous auction record for Spencer was £1,320,000 ($2,161,454) and this was achieved for his The Crucifixion, which sold at Sotheby’s in London in 1990.**)

Hilda and I at Pond Street, from 1954, was arguably the finest work by the British artist to appear at auction in the last five years. It was offered for sale by The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago , to benefit the Museum’s acquisition fund.

Talking about the record-breaking price, James Rawlin, Senior Director in 20th Century British Art at Sotheby’s, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to see such an amazing response to Spencer’s Hilda and I at Pond Street, which had all the classic elements that one wants to see in any great work of art: a beautiful painting and a wonderful provenance, having never been on the open market since it was originally purchased in 1955. Today’s result really helps to establish Spencer as one of the central figures of figurative art in Britain in the 20th Century.”

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.

Works by Frank Auerbach, Dame Barbara Hepworth, L.S. Lowry, Christopher Wood and Lynn Chadwick also performed well in the sale of 20th Century British Art and the sale overall achieved a total of £8,255,625.

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