On the market for the first time since leaving the artist’s studio, they include five works by Cockerell himself plus four by two other well known Victorian painters: Frederic, Lord Leighton PRA (1830-96) and George Frederic Watts (1817-1904).
Cockerell was a painter, sculptor and writer as well as an avid art collector who favoured works by artists working in the Pre-Raphaelite style. His father and grandfather were both well known architects (his grandfather, also called Samuel Pepys Cockerell, was great-great nephew of the diarist Samuel Pepys).
The standout piece in the collection is George Frederic Watts' portrait of Cockerell himself. An unusual portrait showing Cockerell seated on a dining chair set against a deep red background, he is shown in profile facing away from the viewer.
The two artists knew each other well. Cockerell’s elder brother Frederick Pepys Cockerell (1833-1878) followed in their father's footsteps and became an architect, and later provided designs and ceiling panels for Watt’s home, New Little Holland House in Melbury Road, Kensington. Cockerell had collaborated with his brother on the project and, following Frederick’s sudden death in 1878, Watts painted this portrait which was thought to have been executed between 1880 and 1881.
While Watts’ is better known for his symbolist and allegorical paintings, the like of which can make six-figure sums, this portrait was one of Watts’ Royal Academy exhibits and was kept by Cockerell until his death, passing to his daughter and then by direct descent to the current vendor.
It is estimated at £30,000-50,000 at Dreweatts’ Old Master, British and European Art sale on May 27.
Friendship with Leighton
One of the most influential figures in Cockerell’s life and career was Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830-96). They had a close friendship and would share advice about the design and composition of their pictures. Cockerell was present alongside Leighton’s family when he died and was one of the executors of his estate.
Included in the Dreweatts consignment are three of Leighton’s landscapes depicting views of Lindisfarne Castle which were given to Cockerell by the artist while staying with him nearby. The three small oil sketches show the 16th-century castle in Holy Island, Northumberland at different times of the day and range in estimate from £2500 to £8000.
The auction house has produced a promotional video with Brandon Lindberg, Joint Head of Dreweatts Picture Department discussing the works by Leighton that can be viewed below.
Meanwhile the works by Cockerell himself at the sale range in estimate from £500-800 for two small watercolours of Oxford (offered separately) to £1000-1500 for two portraits of his daughter and an oil sketch of the statue of Pope Julius III in Perugia.
The latter, a 9.25 x 6in (24 x 15.5cm) oil on panel, shows his particular interest in sculpture and its comparison to the other works in the consignment demonstrates the range of subjects that the artist tackled as he exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1875-1903 as well as at the Grosvenor Gallery, the New Gallery and the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool during his lifetime.