With a mix of pictures, furniture, ceramics and works of art, the final tally came to £737,828 (including buyer’s premium) with a 95% selling rate.
While the Indian ornithological paintings drew considerable demand (see main report this issue), the May 18 auction also set a number of records for Modern British artists including some with associations with the East Anglia School of Painting and Drawing which were championed by the Sally Hunter Fine Art gallery in Knightsbridge.
The firm had devoted exhibitions to the work of Lucy Harwood (1893-1972) and Allan Walton (1892-1948) and both were represented here by five pictures.
Harwood was one of the school’s longest-serving members, attending from its opening in Dedham in 1937 and later at Benton End where she was a central figure in the school’s social life, insisting on a formal afternoon tea every Sunday.
She was greatly influenced by the school’s founder Cedric Morris and still-lifes, and landscapes of Suffolk around her home at Upper Layham in the county were her main subject matter.
Works by East Anglian School artists have been lifted over the last few years as prices for Morris himself have rocketed. All of the top five auction prices for Harwood, for example, have been set since the start of 2020 with the highest for an individual work before this sale being the £3500 for Still Life with Portrait sold at Bonhams in December (source: Artprice by Artmarket).
Here the 2ft 6in x 2ft 1in (77 x 64cm) signed oil on canvas Traction Engines Resting had a good subject and an attractive 1930s date as well as Harwood’s trademark palette and thick brushstrokes. Estimated at £800-1200, it was knocked down at £7500 to a UK private buyer – raising the bar for the artist.
An auction record was also set for Walton, another artist regularly sold by Sally Hunter Fine Art and who was a teacher at Benton End.
The quintet of oils were led at £5550 by a scene of holidaymakers enjoying the Suffolk coast titled Bawdsey End, Old Felixstowe. Estimated at £2000-3000, the 2ft 1in x 2ft 6in (64 x 76cm) oil on canvas took £5500, beating the previous auction high of £2000 for Storm at Lowestoft sold at Christie’s in March 2004.
The collection included 13 works by Joan Warburton (1920-96), another of Cedric Morris’ first students at the East Anglian School. The five oils and eight works on paper made a combined £18,770.
The 1957 oil on canvas Nine Pigeons in London sold at £5000 while her 1948 painting Cats with milk, although suffering from craquelure throughout, sold at £6550 against a £400-600 estimate to a private buyer bidding online and made another artist record.
“As always we achieved good prices for local artists like Harwood, Walton and Warburton,” said Sworders’ specialist Jane Oakley.
“As the best works by their tutor Cedric Morris are now priced beyond the reach of most collectors, these artists are becoming more and more popular.”