Published 20th October 2016
It's always exciting to advise on 'a collection of pictures'. Authentic collections have real potential to be something special. We were recently asked to sell the property of a gentlemen from a cottage near Lustleigh in mid Devon and among the artefacts, furniture and works of art was a small collection of 20th Century British pictures, which in terms of the picture market ticked a lot of boxes.
The collection made £80,000 in our October 2016 Picture Auction. The pictures were in a dusty, but superb original condition with excellent provenance to selling exhibitions and good London galleries.
There was little information about how the collection had been formed but it was clearly by someone who was close to an interesting group of artists with an avant-garde eye and was active supporting new artists by buying new work that was fresh to the market in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s.
The group included works by John Piper, Edmund Dulac, Eric Gill, John Nash and Paul Nash and the star of the group was arguably a pencil portrait of Augustus John by Percy Wyndam Lewis. An interesting collection indeed.
Wyndham Lewis was an English painter and author. He studied at the Slade School of Art, was co-founder of the Vorticist Movement and edited their magazine Blast. It was during the period 1913-1915 that he developed the style of abstraction, which his close friend Ezra Pound dubbed Vorticism, a combination of Cubism and Futurist Art.
After the war, Lewis resumed his painting career with an exhibition at the Leicester Galleries called Tyros & Portraits and today is considered to be amongst the best of painters and writers from the 20th Century.
Dulac was born in Toulouse where he first studied law and then took up Art. He went to the Academie Julian for a brief period, leaving for London in 1905. He became a brilliant and versatile illustrator, portrait painter and set designer. He looked to the Middle and Far East for inspiration. His watercolours have a gem like brilliance, found in Mogul pictures and a stylised space and beauty influenced by Japanese prints, and in depictions of character there are also clearly borrowings from Rackham mannerisms.
John Piper was a painter, notably of architecture and landscape, a designer of stained glass, theatre sets, author and writer. He studied Art at Richmond, Kingston, The Royal College and in Paris was absorbed by the abstract painters he met there. In 1937, he worked, along with John Betjamin, on the famous Shell Series of Guide Books.
His first solo show, of collages and drawings, was at the London Gallery in 1938. At this time he was also a prolific writer, working for the New Statesman and the Athenaeum. John Piper went on to exhibit with the Leicester Galleries from 1940-1960. In 1940, Piper persuaded the War Artists Commission that he should paint the sites of bombed churches and as a convert to the Anglican Church and with the subject of ruined buildings being close to his heart, this agreed commission produced a number of his finest mixed media works.
If you have a collection of pictures or have inherited a collection of pictures and would like an up-to-date valuation or advice then please contact Dan Goddard or Martin Scadgell in the Picture Department.