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Sotheby's London to sell the Ronald Horton / Derek Ancil Collection of pictures by Edward Seago
The Gallop, Weston on the Green by Edward Seago, Estimate: £60,000-80,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

LONDON.- Sotheby’s will offer a group of forty works by British artist Edward Seago in a sale of British & Irish Art in London on Tuesday, 13 November, 2012. The Ronald Horton / Derek Ancil Collection comprises one of the most important groups of its kind ever to come to auction. With estimates ranging from £3,000-5,000 to £60,000-80,000, the collection is expected to bring in excess of £500,000.

The story of their journey to the open market can be traced back directly to Seago and the unique relationship that formed between artist and patron. Ronald Horton first encountered Seago’s work at the artist’s second London exhibition, held at the Sporting Gallery in 1933. Of the sixty pictures on view, more than half were circus scenes, with a further twenty equestrian subjects. Seago’s imagination had been captured by a visit to Bertram Mills’ travelling circus in Norwich in 1930 and he decided to follow the circus and paint. This led to his encounter with the Baker Boys, famous for their riding acts with horses, and it was with three of the brothers that Horton attended the opening of the London exhibition. Horton himself had also become intoxicated with the circus when he visited the Continent in the early 1920s, and his introduction to Seago at the exhibition came at a time when his interest in business ventures and horse-racing allowed him to invest in paintings. Following the purchase of two circus scenes, he went on to form over a thirty-year-period one of the most significant private collections of Seago’s work in the UK, buying and exchanging pictures in consultation with the artist.

Edward Seago (1910 – 1974) is an artist whose work is recognised for its rich, and often personal, record of people and places, at home and abroad. This characteristic of his oeuvre had a particular resonance for Horton. As his prosperity grew, and fired by his passion for horses and his quest for a quieter life in the country, Horton set up the National Hunt stables at Middleton Stoney House, his home in Oxfordshire. Both the surrounding landscape and the horses are captured in a number of pictures by Seago in the present collection. Two of these, a sketch and a finished painting, depict Derek Ancil (1924 – 2010) on ‘Old Ginger’, and he is almost certainly among the riders in The Gallop, Weston on the Green (est. £60,000-80,000) and May Morning, Middleton Park (est. £40,000-60,000). Ancil gained a reputation as a talented amateur jockey and began riding for Horton at the Middleton stables, where he attained the status of professional. On Horton’s death, he was the sole beneficiary of the house, the stables and the entire collection of pictures, and during his illustrious career, he rode eleven times in the Grand National, prior to his retirement in 1989.

The connection between Seago and Horton does not only encompass their mutual love of the circus and horses. During the intervening years between the end of the First World War and the breaking of the Second, Horton had perceived a repeat of the threat to the national home front and became aware of the potential for the re-armament programme in the event of conflict. His business provided legitimate cover for travelling through Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia and the Balkans on his mission to glean military intelligence. Seago was one of the few to know of Horton’s intelligence activities and was in turn encouraged to involve himself in unofficial espionage work, using a Continental circus as cover, and recording anything that might be of military significance in infra-red paint, which he then over-painted with landscape scenes.

The voluminous clouds and the equestrian subject of October Sky reflects Seago’s two primary influences, the cloud studies of John Constable and the paintings of horses by Alfred Munnings. Seago met Munnings in 1929 at the Arlington Gallery in Old Bond Street where Seago held his first solo exhibition which was almost a sell-out. Munnings was greatly impressed by Seago’s work and was instrumental in having a painting by him hung in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition of 1931. Painted in 1942, the present work is estimated at £40,000-60,000.

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