Although he has never reached the heights of his better-known compatriots commercially, a healthy supply of appealing pictures demonstrating his works’ stylish handling and tonal qualities has encouraged an active secondary market.
With prices at auction tending to fall across a broader range, his pictures are also within the reach of a wider body of collectors.
Six of 'The Fifth'
A recent sale at McTear’s (24% buyer’s premium) in Glasgow offered six works by the artist. All of them sold, with one, a watercolour of haystacks, selling for just £900. Two of the lots with more desirable subjects, however, drew lively interest and made substantially more, particularly another watercolour depicting the market at St Tropez.
The 14½ x 19¼in (37 x 49cm) signed picture was described in the catalogue as “an exceptionally fine and rare example” of one of Maclauchlan Milne’s French watercolours, few of which have emerged at auction in recent years.
The artist first went to France when he left his Dundee home to fight on the Western Front in the First World War. He then had long spells in the country from 1919-32, staying in Paris but also visiting Cassis with Peploe, Cadell and Duncan Grant, as well as St Tropez where he spent some considerable time.
His bright 1920s Mediterranean subjects which show the inspiration he derived from Cèzanne’s paintings are particularly sought after.
Maclauchlan Milne’s auction record still stands at £62,000 for a scenic painting of cottages in Provence from 1924 that sold at Sotheby’s back in 2010.
A view of the rooftops of St Tropez from the same year also made £50,000 at Bonhams in 2012 – the third-highest auction sum for the artist.
While watercolours of French subjects are more elusive, a view of St Tropez did appear at McTear’s in 2014, making £6500. The current example came to auction from a private vendor from south of the border who had recently inherited it from a longstanding family collection.
Estimated at £2000-4000, it drew a number of bidders who carried it above this level before it was knocked down at £8500 to a Scottish private buyer.
The price was the third highest ever for a Maclauchlan Milne watercolour (source: Artprice by Artmarket) and the fact that it outsold the 2014 picture (a larger work with the added appeal of boats in the harbour) should give some encouragement to the market.
Decent interest also came for an oil painting by the artist. The Green Pool, Iona was acquired in the late 1930s when the artist stayed at the tiny St Columba Hotel on Iona and was permitted to show some of his views of the island in the dining room. The buyer bought two works for his daughter as a wedding gift, acquiring them barely days after they had been painted.
Around 50 years later, the daughter gave this picture to the vendor, a close friend, when she downsized from her Glasgow home. With the vendor herself having now downsized, it came to auction with a £20,000-30,000 estimate.
It had never previously been exhibited (except for briefly at the hotel) and the fact that it was market fresh and ‘unseen’ added to its commercial appeal.
The 17 x 21in (43 x 53cm) signed oil on board was also in good untouched condition and with the subject of Iona holding a special place for Scottish collectors, especially those who favour Colourist pictures, the work was deemed an attractive proposition by a number of parties.
After a good competition, it sold at £29,000 to a private Scottish buyer, fetching the top price of the McTear’s sale.
Also sparking a bidding contest was a trademark view of sheep in a snowy setting by Joseph Farquharson (1846-1935). It came to auction from a private Scottish collection.
The artist was a Scottish laird who had inherited his family estate of Finzean in Aberdeenshire in 1918, following the death of his brother. Finzean was the setting of the current picture and the subject, style and composition were all highly familiar to followers of the artist.
The 9¾ x 13¾in (25 x 35cm) signed oil on canvas was a small but technically proficient example of his work. Its format with the sheep walking toward the viewer was adopted in a number of other works by the artist, not least Through the Calm and Frosty Air that fetched a record £270,000 at Sotheby’s back in 2005.
Estimated at £10,000-15,000, it was knocked down at £24,000 to an English private buyer. The price was the highest sum for Farquharson at auction this year and was particularly notable given the work’s small size.