Toad’s infamous sentiments in the Wind of the Willows on the joys of driving were echoed in an amusing 19½ x 2ft 5in (50 x 75cm) oil titled The Inconsiderate Driver offered at Tennants (20% buyer’s premium) in North Yorkshire.
The work, showing a motor car hurtling down an idyllic countryside track, whipping up dust and causing horses to rear in fright, was painted by the prolific English painter, Terence Cuneo (1907-96).
From a long-standing private collection in London, it drew plenty of interest on the day and was knocked down at £10,000 to a private buyer, five times its attractive top guide.
Commercially speaking, Cuneo’s dramatic depictions of railway, military and industrial subjects are his most sought-after works on the secondary market, followed by his motor car scenes.
From the same source came a quite different Cuneo oil. Slightly larger at 2ft x 2ft 5in (62 x 75cm) and depicting a calm fishing scene by a sun-bathed river, it sold to another private buyer for £6000 against a £1500-2000 guide.
20th century art
The two works formed part of a 206-lot sale of Modern and Contemporary art, held on June 2. With a good take-up across the board, particularly for privately consigned fresh works, the auction did better than pre-sale predictions to produce a £149,850 hammer total and a high sell-through rate of 88%.
The last of the studio dispersal of Ilkley artist Marie Walker Last (1917-2017), split across several Tennants sales since last year, provided some good prices. The most keenly contested was Flower Form, an undated 21in (54cm) high bronze by the York sculptor Austin Wright (1911-97), whose large-scale works can be seen today in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
Estimated at £800-1200, it was knocked down at £6000.
Although considered a pivotal figure in the development of abstract British sculpture, Wright’s work seldom appears on the secondary market.
This was the third and most expensive piece by the sculptor to appear at Tennants, offered at a time when the market for Mod Brit bronzes is particularly active. Sotheby’s London set a new record for Wright last year with a 1955 diminutive bronze titled Lovers, which sold for a multi-estimate £7750 with premium.
The sale’s top lot was a Fine Art Trade Guild print of LS Lowry’s famous image, Going to the Match.
The 20 x 2ft 2in (52 x 68cm) colour reproduction, produced in an edition of 300, had been acquired from the Ribblefort Gallery and was offered together with a copy of the original purchase invoice from 1976.
It sold just below bottom estimate to a private buyer at £14,000. Other reproductions have made more in this edition, including the £22,000 paid for another Guild print at Tennants in 2015.
Are we seeing a slight correction in the market for Lowry prints? “We have achieved higher prices in the past for Lowry prints,” said Francesca Young, picture specialist at Tennants, “but we are still getting very good prices at the moment.”
Other trademark Mod Brit names produced dependable results, including pictures by Carel Weight, Peter Brook, Brian ‘Braaq’ Shields and Ken Howard. However, bidders also showed their picky side with a Venetian scene by the prolific John Bratby unsold against a £4000-6000 guide.
Among the most appealing pictures in terms of artist, subject and estimate was a small 10 x 13in (25 x 34cm) oil on board Greek scene by Roger Fry (1866-1934). Depicting a figure holding a parasol on the Acropolis in front of the ancient Greek temple Erectheion, it sold for £2100 against a £500-800 guide.
Fry is known to have visited Greece in 1932 with Virginia Woolf, Leonard Woolf and Margery Fry, the artist’s sister. It is therefore possible that the figure might be Fry’s sister or Virginia Woolf.