Published 21st July 2012
Perhaps Lot 235 circle of Sir Peter Lely had the most interesting history. The portrait of the Honorable Mrs Grimston was large, some 124 x 95 centimetres, and was in a rather damaged condition. The reason for this was that the picture had been involved in a recent burglary from a farmhouse in the South Hams.
The canvas had been cut off its stretcher, which along with its frame had been left in the house. The canvas had been rolled and left hidden by a perimeter fence presumably to be collected at a later time or perhaps the robbers had been disturbed. The canvas was found the next day after the police had been alerted to the burglary. Fortunately the weather earlier in the year had been kind overnight and there was no further damage.
The picture was rehung by the expert saleroom display staff and could be seen on the view days, almost in its former glory. Despite a large tear and some paint loss the picture was in remarkably good order and attracted considerable interest, resulting in a very healthy £5,200 hammer price.
Keeping with portraiture there were two most interesting pictures, character studies, by the Jewish/Czech artist Michel Fingesten. Born in 1884, he was considered one of the most original and productive graphic artist and book plate designer of the 20th century. He is especially noted for his surrealist and cubist influenced prints and paintings that capture the darkening mood of Europe as it slid into the brutality and devastation associated with Fascism, Nazism and World War II. Works by Fingesten rarely come to the market and Lot 239 and 240, Gentlemen drinking and smoking at a table and a study of two naval gentlemen, each received worldwide attention, resulting in two strong prices of £4,500 and £3,800 respectively.
Another highlight of the sale was Lot 244, a rare and delightful study of the High Street, Rye by the Irish artist Walter Frederick Osborne (1859-1903). The picture department, headed by Daniel Goddard, were quick to recognise and interpret the initials WO as being by the Irish master Osborne and with well found research discovered the oil to be a7nbsp;preparatory work for the world-renowned master work 'Cherry Ripe' of 1889 in the possession of The Ulster Museum, Belfast.
The small, 23 x 15 centimetres, unframed, oil on board made a very pleasing figure of £8,800 The vendor who was in attendance at the sale was astounded by the result, having no expectations of the picture when he first brought it to Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood's attention.
There was a good section of 20th century works by such notables as David Tindall RA, Anthony Gross and Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson. An interesting album containing watercolour drawings mainly of views of Grenada, Mauritius, Barbados, Jamaica and St Helena by the family of amateur military artist, Turner, again attracted international interest. As did an early Dutch winter landscape in the manner of Aert van der Neer.
Victorian paintings, contrary to recent trends held up well. Works by William Widgery, Edward Henry Holder and James Francis Danby selling for mid estimate, but oh dear! good middle range watercolours from this period are struggling compared to ten years ago. An example being Lot 284, a delightful sunlit Devon lane with sheep turning along a path by the little know Ernest Pile Bucknall with a modest estimate of £250-£300 selling on its reserve of only £200. There are some wonderful bargains to be had in this area at the moment.
Lastly the Marine section had no outstanding works on offer, but a good variety of mid-range pictures by the likes of Henry Moore, George Gregory and Frederick James Aldridge. This section sold very well and was immediately followed by a very strong maritime artefact section put together by our resident specialist Brian Goodison Blanks.
The Picture Department is now working on its next fine art sale, scheduled for 31st October 2012, and invites suitable quality and interesting pictures to be included and is confident the current strength of the market will continue.