She described Bathing Machines, Aldeburgh, dated August 1938, as "an absolute corker! Interesting subject matter, superlative technique, and as ever faultless design".
Bidders agreed when the painting was offered for sale with an estimate of £40,000-60,000 on September 27. With eight phone lines and various bidders in the room, it sold to a London buyer at £265,000 (plus 18% buyer's premium).
The proceeds represented a boon for the owner whose late wife - seemingly with no knowledge of the artist and believing it to be a print - had bought it privately only a year ago from a deceased estate. J.S. specialist Sarah Lewis told ATG it had arrived in the back of a van together with a £15,000 Edward Bawden watercolour showing the back of Brick House, Great Bardfield, and a mass of prints of no value.
As indicated by labels to the reverse of the original sycamore frame, Bathing Machines, Aldeburgh had been bought from the artist's exhibition at Henry Tooth & Sons in May 1939.
Scholars were aware of the existence of a work with this title, although it has been attributed to a different painting.
James Russell, biographer and expert on Ravilious who prepared the catalogue footnote for J.S. Auctions, said the artist painted three watercolours of the blue-and-white-striped bathing machines he saw on Aldeburgh beach in the summer of 1938. In this case the composition is centred on the parking sign and its shadow, around which the other elements including an attendant, a winch and amusement machines, are carefully arranged.
The price is a new artist's record. Ravilious' similarly-sized Wiltshire Landscape from 1937 had sold for £200,000 at Christie's on June 26.