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Irish School watercolour of William Winter and his family from the Pinkers collection – £15,500 at Dreweatts

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A single-owner collection of British and American folk art, including several significant works from the genre, was a sell-out at Newbury saleroom Dreweatts (25/20/12% buyer’s premium).

The Pinkers Collection of British, American and European Folk Art amounted to nearly 50 lots in the Old Master, British and European Art auction on November 24 at Donnington Priory.

The group, which took its name from a 17th century fisherman’s cottage on the Kent coast where it hung for the past 20 years, comprised watercolours and oils from the 17th to early 20th centuries painted by a variety of journeymen artists, artisans and amateurs.

The owner bought from leading folk art collectors and dealers on both sides of the Atlantic, combining a strong folk art aesthetic with fresh condition. Indeed, many lots were offered in their original frames.

Enduring popularity

On the day, the entire collection sold to total just over £100,000, comfortably exceeding the low estimate of £40,000. Brandon Lindberg, joint head of the picture department at Dreweatts, said the result was “testament to the enduring popularity of folk art and market fresh lots with impeccable provenance”.

The vast majority of buyers were private from the UK and North America, he added.

Family line-up

Displaying the immediacy and playfulness that collectors of the genre admire was an early 19th century Irish School watercolour of an extensive Gloucestershire family.

The 7¼ x 11¾in (18.5 x 30cm) work, executed in pen, ink and watercolour was commissioned by Private William Winter for his family while he was garrisoned in Dublin in 1816 and was probably painted by a professional letter-writer. This precious insight into its creation came from a letter penned by Winter to his family which had been discovered with it in a chest of drawers by folk art dealer Robert Young.

Estimated at £4000-6000, the watercolour attracted multiple bids and sold for £15,500.

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The States Eagle, early 19th century American School – £16,000 at Dreweatts.

An appealing early 19th century watercolour of a gawky and splayed States Eagle was the star of the American section. The bald eagle enjoyed a profusion of interpretations in the hands of American folk artists during the early days of the young nation.

Believed to have been painted in New England in c.1810, this 8¾ x 7in (23 x 18cm) example, with its evident charm and patriotic connotations, drew multiple bids before it was knocked down at £16,000.

Elsewhere, three 19th century Channel Island school watercolours depicting an estate on Sark sold for a combined £22,000 – more than a tenfold increase on their previous auction price in 1999. Dreweatts described the trio as “strikingly modern landscapes” encapsulating “many of the timeless qualities that make primitive art by academically untrained artists so beguiling”.

The 7 x 8½in (18 x 22cm) works, dated 1849, depicted the views and buildings at La Moinerie, one of 40 Sark tenements established by Helier de Carteret in the 14th century. The two tenement pictures sold in a single lot for £16,000 (estimate £4000-6000) while the third landscape made its top estimate of £6000.

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'Christmas Eve' by Carle LF Rumpf – £4500 at Dreweatts.

A festive watercolour depicting a busy and jovial German Christmas Eve scene was the highlight among a small contingent of European entries, chosen for the catalogue cover.

Probably painted in Frankfurt-am-Main in 1821 and possibly showing choristers in a cathedral school awaiting midnight mass, the 12 x 17in (30 x 43cm) watercolour, bearing the artist’s signature Carle LF Rumpf, sold for £4500 against a £3000-5000 estimate.

Paradise found 

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Copy of Jan Brueghel the Younger’s paradise landscape 'The Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man', £16,000 at Dreweatts.

Outside the Pinkers Collection, an accomplished copy of Jan Brueghel the Younger’s famous paradise landscape The Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man sold for £16,000 at Dreweatts.

The 11¼ x 14in (29 x 36cm) oil on copper in an 18th century English frame was catalogued as ‘follower of’ the renowned Flemish painter and estimated at £10,000-15,000 in the Old Master, British and European Art sale on November 24 at Donnington Priory.

Fresh to the market, it had remained in a private collection since 1958.

Brueghel’s fantastical landscape, with its catalogue of exotic animals (inspired by the zoological menageries of his patrons in Antwerp) and a tiny naked Adam and Eve about to commit original sin, was a popular subject copied throughout the 17th century and beyond.

The sale also included a painting directly attributed to another from the Brueghel dynasty of artists: a decorative Baroque still-life with flowers by Abraham Brueghel (1625-90). With provenance to London dealer MacConnal Mason & Son and an attribution endorsement from Fred Meijer at the RKD-Netherlands Institute for Art History in The Hague, the 14¾ x 11¾in (38 x 30cm) oil on canvas was knocked down at £18,000 (estimate £7000-10,000).

Both paintings “attracted international interest from private and trade buyers alike”, said Lindberg.