One mans nostalgia for the pastoral qualities of the English landscape will come to the fore at Sothebys
in London on 22 May 2014 when the company offers Christopher Cones collection of British landscape paintings. A Green and Pleasant Land comprises a cohesive and lovingly assembled group of sixty-three oils, watercolours and drawings, from John Constable in the early 19th century to Richard Eurich in the mid-20th century. The vision of England conjured by these artists is meticulous in detail, delicate in colouring, and romantically lyrical. Collectively, this wealth of little masterpieces of landscape painting speaks to the viewer of a piece of land that is forever England.
For 32 years, Christopher Cone was the partner of the late Stanley J. Seeger, one of the greatest collectors of our time, and together they amassed a succession of exceptional treasures. Christopher went his own direction too, with his eye honed by several memorable years working as a Victorian paintings specialist at Sothebys Belgravia in the 1970s, during which time he calculates he catalogued more than 10,000 pictures. Memories of his childhood in Yorkshire, and a yearning for the natural landscape when he was confined to the city, or travelling abroad, fuelled his nostalgia.
Philip Hook, Sothebys Senior Director, Impressionist & Modern Art Department, commented: Christopher put together this collection with great love and discrimination, always heeding his mantra, Buy what you like. It would give him enormous pleasure if new collections and collectors emerged from the opportunity to buy that this sale of his treasures represents.
John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836 1893) A Mountain Road, Flood Time oil with pencil on paper laid on canvas Estimate £30,000-50,000
This dramatic painting by Grimshaw was discovered in 2004 and was an important addition to the small group of early pictures by the artist that celebrate the magnificent wilderness of the Lake District. Grimshaw combines the attentive Pre Raphaelite approach to landscape painting in the foreground, crystalline in its silvery detail, with the more atmospheric style of Turner in the sky, which has a celestial intensity. The arc of a rainbow unifies the composition, and its presence may have had a deeper religious symbolism for Grimshaw who had recently converted to Roman Catholicism. The liquidity of the medium thin glazes of oil paint on paper allowed the artist to flood areas of the picture with transparent colour to create mottled textures. The choice of waterproof oil paint suggests that it may have been produced within the landscape rather than in the studio.
Peter de Wint (1784 1849) Harvesters by a Stook with a Haycart in the Distance oil on millboard laid down on paper Estimate £4,000-6,000
Peter de Wint is widely regarded as one of the most influential exponents of the watercolour medium, but he also utilised oil, albeit rarely, as a means of expressing the freshness of the English countryside. The haymaking subject lends itself easily to the panoramic type of composition the artist has so effectively used here. De Wint most probably painted this lively sketch in 1814, during a tour around Lincolnshire. The freedom of execution gives the subject immediacy and vitality, whilst at the same time reflects the technique de Wint employed in his watercolours.
John Constable, R.A. (1776 1837) A Study of Burdock Leaves pencil on paper Estimate £5,000-7,000
John Constables reputation as one of the greatest landscape painters of the 19th century continues to this day, due in no small part to his constant examination of the natural world. The artists detailed studies from nature rarely appear on the market, and similar drawings to this study can be found in public collections.
William Turner of Oxford, O.W.S. (1782 1862) A Cornfield at Sunrise (watercolour over traces of pencil Estimate £3,000-5,000
William Turner is intrinsically connected to Oxford. His arrival in London to take up an apprenticeship coincided with J.M.W. Turners rise to national fame, and as a result the younger man became known as Turner of Oxford. One of three works in the sale, this watercolour almost certainly depicts the Otmoor countryside near to Oxford and presents an unspoilt landscape that basks in a glorious summers day. Mature trees overlook a field ripe for harvest, while in the centre, a narrow path leads the viewer enticingly into the countryside beyond.
Sir Edward John Poynter, Bt., P.R.A.., R.W.S. (1836 1919) Lynmouth watercolour Estimate £2,000-3,000
In this atmospheric and dramatic seascape, a small steamer can be seen dwarfed by a vast expanse of sea, looming cliffs and a curtain of rain. Poynter was drawn to Devonshire coast and here he contrasts the spectacular effects of a looming storm with the sunlight piercing through the abating clouds, and a small patch of green grass in the left hand corner with the stark and gloomy rocky faces of the hills in the background. It is likely that Poynter painted Lynmouth in the studio, working from both preliminary drawings and memory.
George Price Boyce, R.W.S. (1826 1897) Valley of the Teme and Malvern Hills from the Neighbourhood of Worcester, Sunny November Morning watercolour Estimate £2,000-3,000
The sale features a group of characteristic landscape sketches made by George Price Boyce in the 1860s, when he was closely associated with Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Boyce painted this watercolour from Ankerdine Hill, looking south across the valley of the River Teme. In the left-hand distance are the purple Malvern Hills shadowed by gathering rain clouds. Boyces exuberant and humourous character is hinted at by the presence of his diminutive dog running along the edge of the hillside carrying the artists walking stick in his mouth, of which there are four sketches on the mount of the watercolour. The reverse of the mount has a note scribbled by Rossetti to Boyce. This picture does not appear to have been exhibited during his lifetime and remained in Boyces collection until his death.
Albert Goodwin, R.W.S. (1845 1932) Near Winchester pencil and watercolour Estimate £5,000-8,000
The auction also includes work by Boyces friend and fellow landscape painter Albert Goodwin, painted at a time when the artists were closely allied in their desire to depict the British rural idyll in the Pre-Raphaelite style. This watercolour was bought from the 19-year-old artist by Boyce through the intermediary of Ford Madox Brown. Watercolours by Goodwin painted in the Pre-Raphaelite manner are not numerous and due to its exhibition in Washington in 1993 and at Tate in 2004, Near Winchester has become one of the best known of Goodwins watercolours in this style.
George John Pinwell, R.W.S. (1842 1875) The Fine Lady pencil, watercolour and bodycolour Estimate £5,000-8,000
This beautiful watercolour is reminiscent of and certainly influenced by some of the great Pre-Raphaelite works. Pinwell uses the white of the paper to create opalescent translucency in his bright and colourful tones, adding chalky bold bodycolour to create an intensely imaginative dreamlike scene. An elegantly dressed lady shades herself with an umbrella whilst reading a novel as the day draws to an end, seemingly unconscious of her surroundings. The moon is partially evident in the blue sky, anticipating the transition from day to night. Pinwell became a full member of the Royal Watercolour Society in 1870, but sadly his artistic career was short lived, contracting a fatal illness whilst travelling in Africa.
Thomas Cooper Gotch, R.B.A., R.I. (1854 1931) Sunset oil on canvas Estimate £3,000-5,000
Gotch sustained an interest in landscape painting throughout his career, but pure landscapes such as Sunset are rare. Although the location cannot be pinpointed, it evokes a south west view, where the artist lived, and bears the freedom in brush and colour that characterises his work.
George Spencer Watson, R.A., R.O.I. (1869 1933) The Cottage Garden oil on canvas Estimate £3,000-5,000
This oil depicts Dunshay Manor, Watsons Dorset home, and shows a vegetable patch attached to a cottage adjacent to Dunshay. The coast of Dorset was a refuge and haven for the artist, while the house and its environs, where most of his best work was painted, became a source of inspiration.