Early coastal scene by landmark Australian painter goes five times over estimate at Ewbank's
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Early coastal scene by landmark Australian painter goes five times over estimate at Ewbank's
Haughton Forrest (Australian, 1826-1925). Cowes, Schooner and other ships in a Bay against a mountainous landscape. Signed H. Forrest, Cowes, 18??. 44cm x 75cm. Estimate £1,000-1,500 at Ewbank’s Auctions on March 19. Sold for £7,800. Image courtesy of Ewbank’s Auctions.

WOKING.- An early coastal scene of Tasmania has sold more than five times its top estimate at a UK auction. Haughton Forrest’s (1826-1925). Cowes, Schooner and other ships in a Bay against a mountainous landscape, sold to a bidder from New South Wales for £7,800 against an estimate of £1,000-1,500 at Ewbank’s Auctions of Surrey.

Forrest (1826-1925) was a significant figure in the history of Australia. When the six colonies of pre-Federation Australia chose the images for their first ever set of pictorial stamps, the authorities in Tasmania turned to Forrest, one of the first Western artists to capture the majesty of the country’s landscape on canvas.

His painting Russell Falls, depicting a celebrated tiered cascade at the centre of Tasmania, was selected as the image for the 4d stamp, while his view of Mount Wellington was used for the 1d stamp.

The set, first issued in 1899, was reprinted and reissued several times until 1912, with Australia as a nation issuing its first set of stamps in 1913.

‘Cowes’, Schooner and other ships in a Bay against a mountainous landscape is a signed, dated and inscribed oil on canvas (the exact date is indistinct) from the period when Forrest took up residency on Tasmania.

The son of an equerry to Queen Victoria, Forrest took up sailing and painting in the south of England following a military career as a Captain in the Honourable Artillery Company, and produced a number of canvases of boats and ships, later painting others in the setting of Highland lochs.

He left England with his family in 1875, initially to try his hand running a plantation in Brazil then, a year later, in north eastern Tasmania, before abandoning the idea and becoming a Crown official. In 1881, he gave up all his official posts and devoted his attention full time to painting, settling in a suburb of Hobart.

With a career spanning more than 70 years, he produced over 3,000 paintings, many in public and private collections in Australia.

Auctioneer Chris Ewbank, who offered the painting in a mammoth three-day sale to celebrate 30 years in business, was delighted and relieved that despite the unprecedented blow to the economy and society inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic, around two thirds of the lots on the second day sold, with a combined hammer total that was nearly 20% higher than the low estimate.

This followed a successful day one, where a large number of jewellery items sold well over estimate – in some cases going for multiple times the high estimate – with bids coming in from all over the world, including countries like Italy and Japan. In all, over 90% of the lots sold went to online bidders.

As bidders continued to compete for items online on day three, the auction house had already racked up a sales total of £378,000 for the first two days.

“The economy and the public desperately need a success story to lift the mood and spread some hope,” said Mr Ewbank. “I realise it is a case of ‘early days’ and we need to be careful not to read too much into this, but the results across what is a major sale for us are very encouraging indeed, and I’m delighted because we employ 35 people who have worked very hard to make this a success.”

Ewbank’s have also heard of similar success stories at other UK provincial auctioneers in the past few days.

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