The 2ft 7in x 2ft 11in (80 x 90cm) oil painting captured transport manager David McKenna (1911-2003) playing a clavichord. A close friend of the artist, McKenna combined a successful career in transport – the Victoria line on the London Underground is largely credited to him – with a lifelong devotion to music.
It was painted in 1935, a year after McKenna’s marriage to Lady Cecilla Keppel, daughter of the 9th Earl of Albemarle.
Less enthusiasm emerged for two crayon and chalk portraits by Lamb of the McKennas’ eldest daughter, Myee Miranda McKenna. Both failed to find buyers against estimates of £3000-5000 each.
Lamb is known for his sensitive Post- Impressionist style portraits of fellow members of the Bloomsbury Group whom he met via his tutor, the Welsh painter Augustus John.
Lamb’s portrait of the writer Lytton Strachey, which hangs in the collection of the Tate in London, is arguably the artist’s most famous painting, studies for which have sold for six-figure sums at auction.
Two 20th century German bronze sculptures by separate avant-garde artists and consigned from a single private source sold strongly in the Cheffins sale.
Offered first and making a rare appearance on the rostrum was a sculpture by Oswald Herzog (1881-1939). Cast in bronze as a reclining female nude, it far exceeded its £3000-5000 guide to sell for £13,000, the second-highest price on the day.
A well-established sculptor based in Berlin, Herzog was associated with the famous Der Sturm circle of artists. The Der Sturm exhibitions became the mainstay of Berlin’s modern art scene from 1912 until 1932 when it was condemned as ‘degenerate’ by the Nazis. Several of Herzog’s works were shown in the Nazi Entartete Kunst exhibition in Munich in 1937.
The following lot at Cheffins contained a Cubist composition by Rudolf Belling (1886-1972), whose art was also branded degenerate by the Nazis and he was banned from working in Germany. Dated to 1935, it notched up £4800 against a £2000-4000 guide.
Martin Millard, director of fine art at Cheffins, said: “The bronzes had both come from the same private vendor, and with their wonderful patination they were always destined to do well, but the results on the day were very strong indeed.”
Elsewhere, a 1950s pencil drawing of Assisi in Umbria by Ben Nicholson (1894-1982) sold above estimate at £12,000.
Nicholson visited Italy in 1950, producing various drawings inspired by the architecture and landscapes he found in the regions of Tuscany, Lazio and Umbria.