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Gauguin punch up with sailors recalled by Irish artist featured in Bonhams sale in London
Roderic O'Conor (Irish, 1860-1940), Paysage Breton. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- Works by some of the greatest names of Modern British and Irish art will be sold as Bonhams offer works from The Barbara & Arnold Burton Collection in the evening sale on November 17 at 101 New Bond Street.

The objects being sold are some of the finest examples of the genre. A sculpture titled Cantate Domino by Dame Barbara Hepworth (British, 1903-1975) leads the group. Estimated to sell for £500,000 to £700,000 this bronze with a green patina 209.8 cm. (81 1/2 in.) high work was conceived in 1958, the present cast is number 2 from an edition of 6 and was cast by the Art Bronze Foundry. It was acquired from the 1958 Leeds City Art Gallery exhibition. Other casts have been exhibited in some of the greatest art museums in the world, including the Rijksmuseum and the Tate, St.Ives, Museum of Modern Art in São Paolo, Middleheimpark, Antwerp and McNay Art Museum, San Antonio.

An oil on board painting by Roderic O'Conor (Irish, 1860-1940), titled Paysage Breton, estimated at £150,000-200,000, has never been offered at auction previously. This rare Pont-Aven landscape by Roderic O'Conor has not been seen in public for over half a century. It dates from 1894, the most momentous year of the artist's career when he met and befriended Paul Gauguin, a liaison that would culminate in an invitation to partner him on his second trip to Tahiti. In the end he did not go, fearing a personality clash and financial concerns.

O'Conor lent Gauguin his studio in the ramshackle Manoir de Lezaven on the slopes above Pont-Aven. On 25 May, O'Conor joined the group of bohemian artists on an ill-fated excursion to the fishing port of Concarneau, when a fight broke out with local sailors and Gauguin's ankle was broken by a well-aimed wooden sabot. Laid up for two months, he still managed to work on monotypes and woodcuts and hold court with fellow artists, characterising O'Conor as "one man of Samoa."

The subject of Paysage Breton is most probably the slopes of the Bois d'Amour, a well known beauty spot in Pont-Aven. The terrain was described by Henry Blackburn: "The views in the neighbourhood of Pont-Aven are beautiful, and the cool avenues of beeches and chestnut trees, a distinctive feature of the country, extend for miles."

All O'Conor's landscapes dating from after his encounter with Gauguin in May 1894 and before his move to Rochefort-en-terre in 1895 are devoted to trees in the open or in woodland settings. The introduction of subtle colour harmonies, sweeping arabesques and painterly brushwork into Paysage Breton are sure signs of Gauguin's influence or, more accurately, his spoken advice: "Gauguin's strength of character and convincing style of talk made a deep impression on the young, or youngish, Irishman" (Clive Bell, Old Friends, 1956).

A Street in Clitheroe by Laurence Stephen Lowry R.A. (1887-1976) painted in 1961 is estimated to sell for £80,000-120,000.

Dame Elisabeth Frink R.A. (British, 1930-1993) is represented in the Burton Collection by a Larger Lying Down Horse signed and numbered 'Frink/4/6' (on the right-hand shoulder) bronze with brown patina, conceived in 1972 and estimated at £100,000-150,000.

Also a stellar Keith Vaughan (1912-1977) Green Kitchen Group signed and dated 'Vaughan/49' (lower right); and titled 'GREEN KITCHEN GROUP' oil on canvas, estimated at £100,000-150,000.

The Burton Collection:
Arnold Burton, a philanthropist, motor sport enthusiast and the youngest son of the founder of one of Britain’s biggest tailoring manufacturers was a modest discreet man. He quietly supported many causes in medicine, welfare and education. During WW2 he served as an engineer with the RAF in Burma. One of his abiding passions was motor cars and he competed regularly at international rallies. He was chairman and MD of the British Sports Car manufacturer TVR in the 1960’s. His wife Barbara Flatau attended Les Beaux Arts in Paris and then worked briefly as a graphic designer before WW2. She was a regular at all the London galleries where she bought with discrimination.

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