Artists who represent key art movements of the 20th century set the pace during last week’s Modern British art auctions in London. At Sotheby’s, top price was for A Dawn, 1914, a classic First World War vorticist picture by C R W Nevinson – a patchwork of angles portraying French soldiers teeming through a street on the way to war.
“It was a rare opportunity that had to be seized,” says Gordon Samuel, a London dealer who fought off rival dealers Daniel Katz and Richard Nagy to buy the painting for £1.9 million, a double estimate record and almost quadruple the artist’s previous record.
Nevinson, A Dawn, oil on canvas, 1914
At Bonhams, sparks were flying for another vorticist-related work – a 1913 drawing for a mural about Billingsgate Market by William Roberts, made when he was a student and which prefigured his shift into vorticism. It tripled estimates to sell for £162,500.
At Christie’s, a collage by the British pop artist Richard Hamilton, a study for his 1958 painting $he, which riffs on domestic products and consumer culture, stormed beyond its £120,000 estimate to sell for a record £440,750. And fellow pop pioneer Peter Blake’s 1965 painted collage of a female wrestler, Little Lady Luck, just pipped Blake’s previous record to sell for £704,750. The painting was owned by restaurateur Mr Chow, who bought it in 2000 for around £90,000.
Pauline Boty (1938-1966), BUM, oil on canvas. Estimate: £200,000-300,000. Sold: £632,750 CREDIT: © CHRISTIE’S IMAGES LIMITED 2017
A painting by rediscovered artist Pauline Boty – a fellow student of Blake’s who died at 28 – doubled estimates to sell for a record £632,750. Boty’s works were unearthed in a garage in the late Nineties, when collectors queued up to purchase them. This particular example came from the estate of Kenneth Tynan who commissioned the 1966 painting – aptly titled BUM, for his erotic cabaret Oh! Calcutta!.
Christie’s sale also expanded into the contemporary with an 8ft bronze dancing hare, titled Nijinski Hare, by Barry Flanagan. It scored a record £1.3 million, selling to art adviser Gilly Kinloch.
Barry Flanagan, R.A. (1941-2009) Nijinski Hare (numbered ‘4/5’) Conceived in 1985 in an edition of five, plus three artist’s casts. Estimate: £600,000-800,000. Sold: £1,328,750 CREDIT: © CHRISTIE’S IMAGES LIMITED 2017
At Christie’s British Impressionism sale, a large 1904 hunting picture showing the four children of Edward Lycett Green (one of the then Prince of Wales’s gambling set) on horseback, provoked a bidding battle between private dealers Anthony Mould and Guy Morrison that pulverised the previous record for artist Charles Wellington Furse. Morrison won the painting for £668,750. Generally, though, the sale was a subdued affair, with few true impressionist paintings.