The auction record for the Anglo-Czech painter Ernest Neuschul (1895-1968) was broken twice at Sworders
sale of Modern & Contemporary Art on April 25. Two oils by the increasingly collectable artist, entered for sale by London private clients, attracted international bidding.
Estimated at £2000-3000, but sold at £23,000 to Czech buyer was Woman holding a bowl of fruit The subject, shown against a black background, is said to be Neuschuls first wife, the Dutch-Javanese dancer Takka-Takka (real name Lucie Lindenmannovou) who he met in Prague shortly after the First World War. They enjoyed Weimar Berlin together as Neuschul made his name as a painter in the avant-garde New Objectivity movement. However, as a socialist and pacifist of Jewish descent, he was later declared a degenerate by the Nazis and fled first to Russia, then to Czechoslovakia and eventually to the UK.
As a convinced socialist, Neuschul frequently painted the lives of working people. His oil on canvas titled Railway Workers showing a crew using a lever to move a rail into position was typical of the politically-charged scenes that earned him the approval of Soviet Russia. Estimated at £1800-2000, it too broke the previous record for the artist selling for £14,000 to Czech buyer.
Amy Scanlon, head of Modern and Contemporary art at Sworders, said the sums underlined the new levels of interest in the painter who had slipped into obscurity by the end of his life. A series of exhibitions, including a retrospective at the Leicestershire Museum and Art Gallery, have helped raise the artists profile and his story and he is now becoming increasingly collectable. We sold a 1927 nude of a woman of African descent two years ago for £5500 but these were record prices for Neuschul the previous high being £12,000 set for a 1926 picture of rowing boats on the Elbe sold in German in 2021.
The sale also boasted a joint record for a watercolour by the Great Bardfield School artist Edward Bawden (1903-1989). He discovered the village while cycling in Essex one summer with fellow artist Eric Ravilious. The pair craved its peace and serenity and soon after moved to The Brick House with their wives Charlotte Epton and Tirzah Garwood, who were also artists.
This 45 x 56cm watercolour, gouache, ink and pen sold at £19,000 was a local scene. Titled A Snowy Day, High Street, Great Bardfield, it was signed and dated 1955. Part of the Bawden exhibition held at The Minories, Colchester in 1973, it was expected to sell for £7000-9000 but a bidder in the room more than doubled the guide. It matched the £19,000 bid for a Bawden watercolour in 2009.
Sworders' sale included a number of Bawdens watercolours and his trademark linocuts. The Mill, an early pencil and watercolour work by the artist with similarities a painting of Bullford Mill in the Fry Art Gallery collection that is dated 1927, sold for £4200 while Mine buildings, Minions, near Liskeard, Cornwall dated 1958 brought £6500.
Another artist who left behind the social whirl of London for rural Essex was John Aldridge (1905-1983). He moved to Place House in Great Bardfield in 1933 and worked in the 16th century brick-built property for half a century, nurturing its two-acre garden and painting the fruits of his labours in bold colour.
His impressive oil titled Path to the House depicting the artist's garden at Place House was estimated at £5000-7000 and sold for £11,000. Signed and dated 1973, it was purchased at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 1975.
Aldridges work is selling for increasingly high sums.
Sold for £10,000 and £16,000 respectively were Hall Meadow, Gt. Bardfield and Rocks in a Pool in Richmond, Yorkshire. Both were signed and dated 1955.
In the year it was painted, Rocks in a Pool had formed part of the 'Bardfield Artists' exhibition at the Hintlesham Festival and in 1957 had been shown at the Royal Academy, London. The winning bid at Sworders came from the US.
Amy Scanlon declared it a great day for local artists while also noting the depth of bidding across the Modern British spectrum. Modern British continues to thrive. We had great results for works by Alan Davie, Paul Nash, John Hoyland, Ken Howard and Maggi Hambling in particular. Four in every five pictures found a buyer (82%) with the average lot value more than £1500.
A fine work by Paul Nash (1889-1946) sold for £11,000. Titled A path through the woods, this view of stylised trees came for sale from the estate of Jasper Gibbons Grinling, a member of the Gilbey-Grinling drinks dynasty who oversaw the firms Scotch whisky division and the renovation of Chateau Loudenne in the Medoc. He lived with his wife Jane in two notable houses in Hampstead, London, in the 1970s and 1980s but later moved to The Old Vicarage, Helions Bumpstead, Essex.
Bargain hunters enjoyed the very recent backstory to a small oil by the celebrated British abstract painter John Hoyland (1934-2011). Bought by a keen-eyed buyer at an auction house in Hertfordshire last year for just £12, Little Dancer, signed and dated July 12, 1982, was authenticated by Sworders and valued at £3000-5000. It sold at the top estimate. The work will now be included in the John Hoyland online catalogue raisonné.
Sold at £13,000 was Bird Cage No.1 by Alan Davie (1920-2014). It was signed and dated verso for 1956 - a pivotal point in the artists career.
Davie was one of the first British artists of his generation to be exposed to Abstract Expressionism and the New York school and through Peggy Guggenheim was introduced to the dealership Gimpel Fils.
In 1956, the year of this work, Davie had his first New York exhibition with works purchased by the Museum of Modern Art.
Interest in John Tunnard (1900-71), another British Modernist that Peggy Guggenheim once declared a genius, diminished after his death. However, his brand of Surrealism and Neo Romanticism is making a return to fashion. Reflection', an oil signed and dated 1960, sold here for £7500.