During four years at the Slade from 1908-12, the young Gertler adopted a strong Italianate-portraiture style, which was regarded as so fine he gained a reputation as the successor to Augustus John, the star pupil of a former generation.
This portrait of an unidentified young girl dates to the early period. The firm outline to the face, darkening around her right cheek and jaw and soft shading to the neck and hair are all hallmarks of his Slade training.
The signed 9 x 7in (23 x 18cm) work, dated 1913, was offered at Scarborough saleroom David Duggleby (21% buyer’s premium) in North Yorkshire on September 14.
It is possible it depicts one of Gertler’s Jewish neighbours in the East End where the artist was living at the time, examples of which feature in collections at Leeds City Art Gallery and The Whitworth in Manchester.
The drawing had passed by family descent from the collection of Francis Bate (1853-1950), an artist and founder member, treasurer and secretary of the New English Art Club, the society founded in 1885 as an alternative venue to the Royal Academy. It was consigned along with eight other lots of unframed watercolours and pencil sketches in the sale, which together made just over £13,400.
A combination of bids from private and trade buyers in the room, online and via commission pushed the price above its conservative guide of £400-600 to £6700, where it was knocked down to a private collector on the phone.
Auctioneer David Duggleby said: “Prices for Gertler’s works are usually related to the subject matter. With this particular piece featuring an unknown child, plus the foxed and unframed condition, meant we were reserved with the estimate. We also feel that the provenance helped to elevate the price.”