The Year’s Most Valuable Paintings Sold By Ewbank Clarke Gammon Wellers
Fine art and antiques worth in excess of £2 million changed hands at Surrey’s premier auctioneers Ewbank Clarke Gammon Wellers in 2011. To mark the close of one year and the beginning of a new year of collecting opportunity, here’s a look back at some of the most valuable pieces that have passed under auctioneer Chris Ewbank’s hammer. This week, the top 11 paintings sold in 2011.
The most valuable proved to be a marine watercolour by the Newlyn School artist Walter Langley (1852-1922) which also emerged as the best performer against its estimate. The painting depicted an old woman seated on rocks at the water's edge with fishermen tending their boat and children playing in the background
It sold to a Devon collector for £10,400 and was in effect going “home”. The Newlyn School was a colony of artists based in or near to Newlyn, a fishing village near Penzance, in Cornwall, which existed from the 1880s until the early 20th century. They were drawn there by the amazing light to be found in the area, and became fascinated by the fishermen living there, the sea and everyday life in the harbour.
Birmingham-born Langley won a scholarship to South Kensington Art School aged 21. He was one of the first artists to move to Newlyn and is best known for his 1883 “For Men Must Work and Women Must Weep”, now in Birmingham City Museums and Art Gallery, based on Charles Kingsley's poem “The Three Fishers” (1851).
Proof that it is not necessary to sell fine art and antiques in the big London salerooms in order to attract dealers and collectors prepared to pay top prices came in a series of sales, which included the contents of historic More Place - described as “the most romantic house in Betchworth” - for more than £46,000, and property from a home near London’s Marble Arch, which raised a total of almost £25,000.
The latter home produced the second most valuable picture of the year: a charming painting titled “Three Little Sisters”, by the Belgian artist Bernard Pothast (1882-1966). The oil on canvas depicted an interior scene with an infant in a cot being handed a doll by her older siblings, one of whom is wearing wooden clogs. Pothast attended the Ecole des Beaux Arts and was subsequently a pupil of the Dutch artist August Allebe (1838-1927). His forte was beautifully lit sentimental views of peasant life with mothers and their children in rustic interiors. Still in its original frame, the painting sold for £5,500 to a local private collector.
Close behind at £5,100 and starring in the final sale of the year was 'Lamorna Cove', a signed oil on board by Samuel John Lamorna Birch, British (1869-1955) which had been acquired directly from the artist and had been inherited by the vendor, who came from Witney in Oxfordshire. The picture was purchased by a Worcestershire dealer.
Like Walter Langley, Cheshire-born Lamorna Birch was attracted to the artist’s colony that sprang up in Cornwall but instead started his own group of artists nearby in his adopted home of Lamorna. He adopted the name at the suggestion of fellow artist Stanhope Forbes to distinguish himself from another artist called Lionel Birch.
A trio of works shared a selling price of £5,000. In the contemporary art section of the June sale, "Rough Sea" an oil on canvas by Patrick Hughes (b. 1939) signed, titled, and dated 1987, sold for above its top estimate to a London collector, as did an oil on canvas of a fair haired young girl holding red flowers by the Scottish artist David Abercrombie Donaldson (1916-1996). Offered by Ewbank Clarke Gammon Wellers in the September sale, the work had been previously exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy.
Also from the final sale of the year was a fine portrait by George Frederick Watts (1817-1904), during his lifetime widely considered to be the greatest painter of the Victorian age and dubbed “England’s Michaelangelo”. The portrait depicted the artist John Wichelo, who gained renown for his paintings for the Prince Regent. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1840 and was Watts’ first named portrait shown there. Since then, it had remained in the same family ownership, passing by descent to the present vendor, making the December sale the first time the portrait had been seen on the market. Curiously, it was purchased by a buyer from Eastern Europe. Watts is an artist linked to his adopted home of Compton, near Guildford, by the Watts Gallery, which opened to the public in 1904.
Strange bedfellows each recorded winning bids of £4,000 in the March sale. An 18th century painted Greek icon, the central depicting with Virgin and Child flanked by St George and the dragon and other saints, had been given to the vendor's father in the 1960s as a gift by a German business colleague. It was estimated at £2,000-3,000. In contrast was “XV Seconds”, a 24-feet long scale working copy of a massive artwork used in 2000 to wrap Selfridge’s London flagship store in Oxford Street to hide scaffolding while renovation work took place. Signed on the reverse by its creator, the talented UK conceptual artist Sam Taylor-Wood, the giant photomontage was her version of the Elgin marbles, a frieze in which the Greek gods were replaced by 21 icons of modern culture including Sir Elton John, Blur guitarist Alex James, Ray Winstone, Richard E. Grant, Timothy Spall, Adrian Dunbar, Jane Horrocks, Amanda Ooms and models Jodie Kidd and Alex Wek. It was purchased by a London gallery.
Myles Birkett Foster (1825-1899) was another watercolourist drawn to painting in the outdoors – en plein air – depicting the English countryside in sometimes overly sentimentalised views. He was born in North Shields and travelled widely, notably in Scotland and throughout Europe, but in 1863, he moved to Witley, near Godalming where he produced the works for which he became most famous. His "Near Connel Ferry, Braeside”, a work exhibited at the Royal Watercolour Society in 1895, sold to a Surrey collector for an above top estimate £3,400 in the June sale.
However, it was left to Indian pictures to complete the round-up. They were among Persian rugs and carpets and Eastern and Oriental School pictures and works of art which had been donated to Queen Elizabeth’s Foundation for Disabled People, a national charity based in Leatherhead, Surrey, which works with people living with physical and learning disabilities or acquired brain injuries to support them to achieve their goals for life. More than £23,000 was raised in the Ewbank Clarke Gammon Wellers auction, money which was to be used for modernising and updating training, accommodation and leisure facilities.
A painting on silk depicted a figure with a Jambudivipa at his centre, all above multiple horizontal bands of figures being impaled, tortured and fighting. A label on the reverse read “Lok Purusha Gurjurat 1725”. It was estimated at £300-500, but sold to a New York dealer for £3,200. Jambudivipa is the island of the terrestrial world, as envisioned in the cosmologies of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, which is the realm where ordinary human beings live. In the same collection, a watercolour study of an Indian couple sitting on a balcony by the Danish artist Gerda Wegener (1885-1940) sold to a London buyer for £3,000, a figure three times its pre-sale high estimate.
Entries are now being accepted for 2012 sales, the first of which on January 18 will offer Victorian and later furniture and antiques. The next fine art sale is on March 21. For further information, please contact the auctioneers on 01483 223101 or email@example.com.