Works from such sources are often doubly commercial, not just because they often supply some fresh-to-the-market material, but also because they provide items that give an intriguing insight into the artist’s life and work.
Sometimes these consignments come with greater flexibility in terms of vendor reserve levels too.
This as was the case with a couple of recent sales that were punctuated by collections that came from either friends, neighbours, fellow artists or immediate contacts of an important modern painter.
Hockney close companions
Dorset saleroom Charterhouse (25% buyer’s premium) recently offered a fascinating group of 59 lots from the estate of a couple who were close companions of David Hockney (b.1937).
Ann Graves (née Upton) met Hockney in 1960 – a long time before he became the world’s most expensive living artist (an accolade he achieved in 2018). She became his model a few years later and featured in many of his drawings and paintings over the next two decades. A pencil sketch showing her from 1975 sold at Sotheby’s New York in March for $80,000 (£77,000).
In early 1970 Ann met David Graves, a sculptor and paper restorer, through a mutual friend, and they started living together.
David, having subsequently met Hockney at the opening night of Rakes Progress at Glyndebourne Opera where the latter had designed the set, became Hockney’s assistant, later moving to Hollywood with him. David himself began to appear in Hockney drawings in the early 1980s.
When David and Ann decided to get married while on holiday in Hawaii in 1983, Hockney acted as their wedding photographer. He later made a simple etching commemorating the event – The marriage in Hawaii of David and Ann was released in an edition of 60 (plus ten artist’s proofs), copies of which tend to fetch around £1000 at auction today.
The couple retired to Sherborne, Dorset, in 2013 and, after Ann died in 2017 and David in 2019, works from their collection came up at Charterhouse, the local auction house, on June 4-5.
The selection may not have included the kind of large-scale oil paintings of figures and swimming pools that represent the upper echelons of the Hockney market but they were interesting items that drew significant attention nevertheless. On the day, all 59 of the lots sold for a combined £31,360.
“The Hockney connection seemed to encourage collectors, some new, and of all ages out of the woodwork to bid,” said Charterhouse director and auctioneer Richard Bromell. Speaking about the sale more widely, he pointed to the lots from such “deceased estates where we had free rein to value the pictures” as being particularly beneficial to the proceedings.
Stanley: a cut above
Among the lots bringing the strongest competition was a charming creation by Hockney: a cut-out from a Tate gallery poster from 1987 showing his print Little Stanley Sleeping (a work depicting one of his beloved dogs).
Copies of the limited-edition print appear occasionally nowadays and standard copies tend to sell for under £1000 at auction, which may have led to the £500-1000 estimate here.
But this fragment was something rather different. It had been mounted on fibre board by Hockney who then attached some string and wrote an amusing presentation inscription to Ann on the back with a drawing showing them how to hang the work.
It read: Dearest Ann, here is a framed picture of little Stanley sleeping, to hang up straightaway, – or it can be thrown away. Much much love David XXXX. The hanging instructions included an area marked Nail needed here.
The whole piece measured 10 x 12in (26 x 31cm) and it drew strong pre-sale interest thanks to its appeal mainly as a personal item. With phone and internet bidders competing on the day, the lot was knocked down to a collector from London at £5000 – a significant sum for a simple cut-out inscribed, even if an original Hockney lithograph inscribed to a close connection would no doubt fetch at least double.
Simple but in demand
Another lot demonstrating the demand brought by the connection to the artist rather than to his art was a simple colour printed image of an interior which was inscribed Dear Ann and David, I’m feeling better and quietly painting by the sea much love David. It overshot a £200-400 pitch and sold at £1400.
Also bringing considerable contests were two group lots offering faxes and photocopies containing images of Hockney’s designs for various projects. One group of 26 sheets in a folio, with some dated December 1989, sold online for £2800 against a £100-200 estimate. The other, comprising 32 sheets dated September 1989 and titled DH in the hills, made £2200 against a £300-500 estimate.
A number of photographs also drew hefty competition. Two mounted Polaroid photographs of Byron Upton, Ann’s son, taken and inscribed by Hockney overshot a £400-600 estimate and sold for £3600. Byron sadly lost his life in an accident aged 16 in 1982.
A copy of a photograph of Hockney sitting for his portrait by Lucian Freud also overshot a £100- 150 estimate, selling at £780. The colour print shows the duo in 2002 when Hockney had the “terrific experience” of sitting for Freud for a total of 120 hours. “He could paint faster if he pre-mixed a few colours… but I realised he likes you there longer,” Hockney had said.
The photograph was taken by Freud’s assistant David Dawson (b.1960) just after the portrait had been finished. A copy of the photograph can now be found in the National Portrait Gallery collection.
Overall the Sherborne sale offered 125 picture lots of which 117 sold for a total of £43,000.
Meanwhile, down in Cornwall, David Lay’s (18% buyer’s premium) sale of Cornish art in Penzance on June 11 offered a couple of pictures formerly owned by Joan Manning Sanders (1913-2003), an artist from the West Country who knew many of the painters that formed the artistic colony in and around Newlyn.
Manning Sanders was regarded as a child prodigy, becoming the youngest painter to have had a work hung at the Royal Academy when she was just 16.
As a young girl, she came under the wing of fellow artists including Laura Knight, Harold Harvey and Dod Procter (1891-1972), the latter whose influence was particularly evident in her paintings.
Manning Sanders’ own artistic prominence was comparatively short lived, lasting about a decade before she faded into relatively obscurity. She rented a studio in St Ives and later enrolled in Chelsea Art School, exhibited seven pictures at the Royal Academy overall. But she appears to have stopped painting during the Second World War and was never able to fully revive her career subsequently.
A 2011 exhibition at Penlee House Gallery & Museum in Penzance brought some interest and a few portraits have since been offered at David Lay, selling for between £1000-2600.
While Manning Sanders’ may be remembered now more for her connections with other artists, the stand-out lots at the June 11 sale were two paintings by Procter bequeathed by Manning Sanders to the mother of the vendor at the auction. One was the portrait titled Lydia that sold for £26,500 (featured in News, ATG No 2448).
The other was Still Life, a 2ft x 20in (61 x 51cm) signed oil on canvas. As with the portrait, the estimate was set at an attractive level for a market-fresh work by a highly sought-after Modern British artist such as Procter, in this case £2000-4000.
Although her still-lifes tend to command less than her portraits, this was deemed an appealing work in terms of composition and colour and it attracted strong interest. After a tense and drawn-out bidding battle it sold to the same London dealer on the phone who acquired the portrait – outbidding the same private underbidder on both lots.
The £18,000 hammer price was among the highest for a Procter still-life sold at a UK regional auction.