9 December fine art auction saw a strong picture section highlighted by the sale of Galaxy, a pencil and green charcoal drawing by the fascinating modern British artist and occultist Austin Osman Spare, which sold for £7,200.
Having trained initially as a draughtsman through a scholarship at the Royal College of Art, Spare went on to be the youngest entrant at the 1904 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. Despite initial acclaim Spares career went in to decline after a spell as the official war artists during the First World War, and he spent the 1920s living in abject poverty in London.
A growing interest in surrealism during the 1930s saw his career resurrected by a small following of critics and collectors citing him as an early precursor to the surrealist movement. Spares work draws on preoccupations with symbolism and art nouveau, as well as his emphasis of the unconscious mind, much of which can be seen in Galaxy.
The old master section of the auction saw classic French artists achieve high prices with an oil on canvas by the salon painter and printmaker Charles Joshua Chaplin selling for £4,560. Entitled The Seamstress the beautiful portrait of a young lady, for which Chaplin is most famous.
Dated 1869, the picture encompasses elements of the artists later, more sensual, style which was popular with members of the French high society during the French Third Republic. A member of the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture, and an artist who exhibited widely, Chaplin was one of the most popular and celebrated artists of his time. [Lot 643]
Three oil on panels entitled Carnaval à Venise by the French painter Jean-Gabriel Domergue also attracted a great deal of interest. Crested between 1927 and 1928, the works were signed by the artist who is best known for his portraits of Parisian women.
Within his lifetime Domergue painted over 3,000 portraits of women, and his classical but fashionably elegant style makes him an instantly recognisable artist, and one that was popular amongst high society. During his career the artist turned his hand to designing dresses and accessories for various couturiers including Paul Poiret and Henry Marque, an influence which can very much be seen in the costumes in Carnaval à Venise. The three panel painting sold for £4,320. [Lot 604]
Elsewhere in the sale a selection of six works by the Dutch born British artist Albert Houthuesen from the art collection of the former St. Gabriels College in Camberwell, London sold well above estimate. A former teacher at the college, it was the artwork he had collected that formed the art collection that was curated by his wife Catherine Dean.
Houthuesen worked alongside Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Edward Burra, Ceri Richards and Cecil Collins at The Royal College of Art during the 1920s, but worked in isolation for the remainder of his career. Heralded as one of the future great figures of post-World War II Western art, his work has been acquired by many of the most prominent art galleries and collectors.
From the six painting collection offered for sale, an oil on canvas of a colliers miner smoking a pipe drew the greatest interest. Houthuesen himself said of painting the miners at the Point of Ayre Colliery In the evening, I would watch the colliers walking back from the Point of Ayre Colliery. It was the first time I'd seen these fellows. They came into that village absolutely black so that until eventually I came to know them and saw them washed, I couldn't recognise them as being the same men. Sometimes I would just begin to ask one or two colliers if they would sit." The portrait sold for £3,600. [Lot 844]