'The Piper who played the retreat at Tobruk' by Winifred Nicholson, £11,000 at Lyon & Turnbull.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

The Piper who played the retreat at Tobruk by Winifred Nicholson (1893-1981) attracted a number of bidders at the live online auction held on October 23.

The 2ft 4in x 3ft (70 x 90cm) signed oil on canvas dated from c.1952 and had remained with the artist and passed to her descendants after she died.

During the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s, Nicholson visited the Scottish Highlands many times, often with her close friend, the poet Kathleen Raine.

As with other works that she produced showing the effects of light created by the ever-changing weather conditions, this picture was painted while staying at a retreat at Sandaig in Ross-shire on the west coast of Scotland. The piper depicted was a local shepherd whom she befriended during her time there.

Estimated at £7000-10,000, it was knocked down at £11,000.

While the artist’s still-lifes and views of the Cornish coast have made considerably more at auction before, this was a mid-range sum for a Scottish subject.

Novel technique

Two days before, L&T held a Paintings and Works on Paper sale also as a live-online event.


'The Sub Prior and Edward Gendinning' by John Pettie, £1500 at Lyon & Turnbull.

A painting by Scottish artist John Pettie (1839-93), The Sub Prior and Edward Gendinning, depicted a scene from The Monastry, a novel by Sir Walter Scott published in 1820 – presumably when the protagonist confesses to his jealousy of his brother and resolves to become a monk.

Pettie spent much of his career in England where he exhibited at the Royal Academy and historical and literary subjects were a significant part of his oeuvre. This example certainly linked back to his Scottish roots, which may have helped it commercially.

The 2ft 6in x 2ft 1in (76 x 63.5cm) signed oil on canvas from 1862 was estimated at £500-700 but more than doubled predictions, selling at £1500.