The canvas was one of many by the Anglo- Jewish painter offered for sale on behalf of a descendant at the Richard Winterton sale on April 27.
Born in London as Michael Goldberg, Gilbery’s talent was first noticed as a 17-year-old when a portrait of his father was hung at the Royal Academy.
He gained a scholarship to St Martin’s and later the Royal College of Art, where he studied under tutors such as Roland Pitchforth, Sir William Rothenstein and Gilbert Spencer.
Another tutor, Percy Horton, wrote: “Mr Goldberg is an able draughtsman and a powerful and solid painter… perhaps Mr Goldberg’s chief ability however lies in the direction of portraiture where he has shown real accomplishment – a facility for obtaining a likeness combined with a lively and sympathetic handling.”
Gilbery would make a living from portrait commissions, occasionally exhibiting at the Royal Academy, Royal Society of Portrait Painters and the New English Art Club.
Although he was not a religious man, he gained recognition for his scenes of London Jewish life, some of which were exhibited at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1932.
The previous four-figure prices paid for works by the artist at auction have been for Jewish subjects.
In the unframed 2ft 7in x 23in (77 x 58cm) self-portrait he chose to depict himself wearing a tallit, the Jewish prayer shawl. It was perhaps painted around the mid-1940s when the artist was in his 30s – a theory supported by a portrait of an unknown sitter that appears verso. It is signed Goldberg: the Germanic name that the artist chose to change by deed poll during the Second World War.
The estimate for the picture was just £100-150 but it attracted many admirers, both as an accomplished mid-century self-portrait (always a popular genre) and particularly as a self-portrait by a Jewish artist. The final price (close to £13,000 including 20% buyer’s premium) was tendered by a phone bidder.
Gilbery is represented in relatively few public collections: for example, the Ben Uri Gallery and Museum in London, a specialist in pictures by Anglo- Jewish artists, does not currently hold any (although one of his pictures was included in the Festival of Britain exhibition Anglo-Jewish Art 1851-1951).
This group of works came for sale from Roger Bilder, whose mother Gilbery had married in the 1980s when both were in their latter years. The dozens of paintings and sketches ranged from unfinished college portfolio works from the late 1930s to fully realised professional portraiture of the early 1970s and landscapes completed during travels through Europe. They had been kept in a cellar in a property in St John’s Wood, London.
Offered via the live online format in 48 lots with guides from £50-500, these modest expectations were routinely bettered ten-fold or more, with the collection selling to a range of private, institutional and trade bidders for around £35,000.
Two of the most commercial finished portraits, a half-length of a young man in a college scarf and duffle coat holding a book identified verso as Maurice Barrett (£2500) and a three-quarter-length oil on canvas portrait of a seated lady signed and dated (19)55 (£1900), are pictured here. Both were sold to online bidders via thesaleroom.com.