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The Ionian Dance and eerie moonlit paintings amongst myriad of highlights in Bonhams sale
John Atkinson Grimshaw (British, 1836-1893), Glasgow docks. Signed and dated 'Atkinson Grimshaw 1883+' (lower left). Oil on canvas, 51.5 x 76.5cm (20 1/4 x 30 1/8in). £150,000-200,000. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- The Ionian Dance by Sir Edward John Poynter, rediscovered after almost 100 years out of the spotlight, was the highlight of Bonhams’ 19th Century Paintings sale today on 10th July, selling for £301,250 to the successful buyer amongst a multitude of telephone bidders.

The re-emergence of The Ionian Dance at auction is the first time that the work has been seen for generations, having last appeared on the market in 1915. The Ionian Dance (1895) hails from the artist’s most successful period, painted one year after Poynter was appointed Director of the National Gallery and one year before he was elected President of the Royal Academy.

The painting was purchased by the notable collector Robert English and remained in his collection until his death in 1914. It was subsequently sold in his estate sale in 1915 and has remained in private hands since then.

Charles O’Brien, Head of Bonhams 19th Century Pictures department commented, “With 80% of lots sold and a sale total of just under £2.8million we were thrilled with the result yesterday. Bidding was strong from collectors worldwide and we set several new world record prices including £97,250 for a wonderful fairy painting Scene from a Midsummer Night’s Dream by the Bristol artist John Simmons, £62,450 for a lovely interior scene by Vittorio Bressanin and £85,250 for a large poignant work by the Irish artist William Henry Bartlett. The catalogue was carefully curated and a considered selection of works combined with strong marketing ensured an outstanding sale.”

Moonlit scenes proved popular with buyers today. Other highlights from the sale included an eerie midnight harbour scene, Glasgow Docks (circa 1883) by John Atkinson Grimshaw which sold for £205,250 to a bidder on the telephone. Dock scenes of great ports in Scotland and the north of England became a defining theme throughout Grimshaw’s career. Grimshaw transforms what would have been a dreary rather unsavoury dock into an attractive night scene bathed in moonlight.

Another notable lot was Stanhope Alexander Forbes’ harbour scene showing a sailor heading out to sea by candlelight ominously entitled Out into the Dark and Silence which realised £181,250.

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