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Highly important work by Stanley Spencer leads the Modern British & Irish Art Sale at Christie's London
Laurence Stephen Lowry, R.A. (1887-1976), May Day, signed and dated 'L.S. LOWRY 1935' (lower right), signed again 'L.S. LOWRY' (on the canvas-overlap). Oil on canvas, 21 x 17 in. (53.4 x 43.2 cm.). Estimate: £700,000 - £1,000,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2013.

LONDON.- Christie’s will offer a highly important work by Sir Stanley Spencer, R.A. (1891-1959) in the Modern British & Irish Art Evening Sale which will take place on 20 November 2013. Christ Preaching at Cookham Regatta: Conversation Between Punts is part of Spencer’s celebrated series painted in the 1950s, which explores the idea of Christ’s presence in his home town of Cookham, Berkshire (estimate: £3 – 5 million). This series was the most important in the artist’s career and the one he was working on towards the end of his life. Spencer painted imaginative, biblical scenes set in realistic and familiar landscapes and was one of the most original British painters of his generation.

André Zlattinger, Senior Director, Head of Modern British Art, Christie’s London: “We are delighted to present this masterpiece by Stanley Spencer; the series from which this work comes was the most important in the artist’s oeuvre. The Evening Sale presents works from over 100 years of British Art and spans all categories.”

The Modern British Art Evening Sale will also feature works by L.S. Lowry, Ben Nicholson, Samuel John Peploe, Lynn Chadwick and Barbara Hepworth. Comprising 42 lots the sale is expected to realise in the region of £12 million. The Modern British & Irish Art Day Sale on 21 November 2013 will present 120 works by leading British & Irish artists including William Scott, Ivon Hitchens, Elisabeth Frink and Jack B. Yeats. The Day Sale will also include a selection of works from the Estate of David Bomberg which are being sold to benefit Hadassah UK.

Modern British Painting
Summer 2013 saw the highly successful Laurence Stephen Lowry (1887 – 1976) retrospective at Tate Britain which highlighted the enduring popularity of Lowry’s glimpses into daily British life. His works focus predominantly in the north of England between the 1920s and 60s, drawing largely on the artist’s own environment. Christie’s continue to dominate the market for works by Lowry and are proud to offer May Day in The Modern British & Irish Art Evening Sale (estimate: £700,000 – 1 million).

May Day belongs to a group of pictures from the middle of the 1930s in which the artist presents a theatrical incident to the viewer which had occurred to punctuate the daily life of the city. These works are usually created in a vertical format, much rarer for Lowry than his characteristic landscape format, and as such, create a sense of drama and focus for the viewer as if he is witnessing a scene from a play. Many of these vertical format pictures seem to have been created from the artist's architectural drawings of the 1920s, which also capture watching the scene unfold. The street child in the top hat who appears to be negotiating with a shady figure leaning against the side of the warehouse building, gives a pantomime sense of good and evil as the innocence of the May Day ceremony unfolds behind him.

British Pop artist Allen Jones R.A. (b. 1937) was at the end of a two-year stay in New York when he was struck by an article by the critic Max Kozloff that commented on what he perceived to be the adherence to a new set of academic principles by young painters. This galvanised Jones into a decision to break as many of those unwritten rules as possible. Jones embarked on a series of canvases, all in a square or nearly square format, each of which pictured a shapely pair of highly modeled female legs tightly encased in form-hugging rubber, leather or diaphanous silk. To complete these games of reality versus illusion, Jones appended to the lower edge of each of these canvases a plastic-faced shelf that brought the pictorial fantasy right into the ‘real’ space of the spectator. Of this series, Gallery Gasper is one of the most wilfully decorative and ebulliently colourful, and particularly playful in its evocation of a shallow space (estimate: £200,000 – 300,000). Christie’s is currently staging the first ever exhibition of British Pop Art at the new Mayfair gallery space. When Britain Went Pop! aims to show how Pop Art began in Britain and how British artists like Richard Hamilton, Peter Blake, David Hockney, Allen Jones and Patrick Caulfield irrevocably shifted the boundaries between popular culture and fine art, leaving a legacy both in Britain and abroad. The exhibition will run until 23 November 2013.

The Scottish Colourists are represented by works by Samuel John Peploe R.S.A. (1871-1935), Anne Redpath, R.S.A., A.R.A., A.R.W.S. (1895-1965), and Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell R.S.A. (1883-1937). Still life with roses in a blue and white vase by Peploe was painted in the first half of the 1920s at the height of the artist’s career, and this wonderful composition is among one of his most sophisticated and beautiful (estimate: £300,000 – 500,000). The soft tones and subtle square brush strokes produce the superbly balanced and harmonious colour which is so typical of his finest works of this period. Throughout Peploe’s life he was driven by the ambition to paint the still life, not as is often wrongly believed in a decorative sense, but as an intellectual exercise, combining the analytical and scientific process of pictorial composition.

The selection of modern British sculpture on offer features works by Dame Barbara Hepworth, Dame Elisabeth Frink and Henry Moore. Leading the selection is Carved and Pierced Form by Hepworth (estimate: £250,000 – 350,000). In 1959, Hepworth returned to carving in stone, a medium that had been central to her output in the 1930s, but that she had used only sparingly during the previous two decades. Dating from 1964, Carved and Pierced Form, demonstrates the mastery Hepworth had achieved in this medium. In 1964 she wrote to Norman Reid, ‘I am one of the few people in the world who know how to speak through marble’. Hepworth acknowledges the landscape around her, an echo of the heavy sedimentary rock to be found in the Cornish coastline. By anchoring the marble on a solid grey slate base Hepworth has provided a grounded point that offsets the form, whilst juxtaposing the natural attributes of each material, the slate in particular a material plentiful in Cornwall. The marble is intended to be seen in the round, it changes colour and presents different perspectives with the different light and the angle of viewing. This enables the present work to provide the viewer with a piece that never remains the same, much as stone changes in an external landscape.

Two monumental head sculptures by Dame Elisabeth Frink – In Memorium I and In Memorium II are estimated at £200,000 – 300,000 each. The motif of the head was a crucial one throughout Frink’s career. As she explains, ‘Heads have always been very important to me as vehicles for sculpture. A head is infinitely variable. It’s complicated and it’s extremely emotional. Everyone’s emotions are in their faces.’

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November 2, 2013

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