Dealer Andrew Sim of Sim Fine Art says the fully conceived oil painting dates from Freedman’s time as an official war artist during the Second World War.
“The outstanding work he produced as a war artist virtually all resides in public museums, so it is an incredibly rare opportunity to acquire something from that period,” he says. “I reckon it is the most significant picture by the artist to have hit the market in decades.”
Soldiers in Town is being offered for the first time since it was painted in Normandy in 1944 and has an asking price in five figures.
It forms part of the gallery’s 12th annual war art exhibition Holding the Line, which is being unveiled at Olympia for the first time (Sim usually holds the show at the British Art Fair).
Further highlights in the exhibition include a newly discovered collection of First World War watercolours and drawings produced by orderlies at a French field hospital run by heiress and author Mary Borden, a suite of pictures relating to the London Blitz and a rare bronze by Reg Lewis (1899-1990) of Alex Henshaw, the legendary test pilot who flew 10% of all the Spitfires used during the Second World War.
The long-awaited winter edition makes a welcome return to the National Hall at Olympia in West Kensington for its 30th anniversary, running from November 2-7 with a private preview on November 1.
After three cancelled summer and winter editions in the last two years because of the pandemic, fair director Mary Claire Boyd said she was “thrilled” to be opening the doors once more and marking the winter fair’s three-decade milestone with a physical event. She added the event was taking all necessary steps to ensure a safe event for visitors and exhibitors.
Smaller and more intimate than its older sister, the summer Art & Antiques Fair Olympia, the winter edition is situated on the gallery level where this year around 70 dealers bring over 20,000 pieces of stock, many with a distinctive British flavour ranging from furniture, art and silver to jewellery, ceramics and glassware.
The event also coincides with the larger Spirit of Christmas Fair at the venue, the fourth time the two have run side by side.
Among the dealers eager to return is Robbie Timms of S&S Timms Antiques, specialist in traditional English furniture.
“I am looking forward immensely to getting back to Olympia which has consistently been both our most successful and also enjoyable fair, both summer and winter, over the past 10 years or so,” said Timms. “Mary Claire and her team always work tirelessly to create the best event they possibly can for those of us who exhibit there, and this has often been under very difficult circumstances in previous years, which bodes well for the current climate.”
He added: “I personally believe Clarion Events’ commitment to our industry, for what must have been very little return on many occasions recently, warrants our support as a trade to help get the Olympia fairs thriving once again.”
Among the items he is bringing are several fine pieces of Georgian furniture including an early burr walnut chest on chest or tallboy dated to c.1720 and ticketed at £11,000.
“It will be really great to have the opportunity to re-connect with so many of our regular clients who sadly didn’t make it to the Decorative fair, but who have told me already that they will be in attendance at Olympia after receipt of their invites from us,” said Timms.
For silver specialist Neil Shepperson of Mary Cooke Antiques, this will be the second London fair in a few short months after standing at the Chelsea Antiques Fair in September. “The winter antiques fair has its own identity and will be an opportunity for clients to see our recent acquisitions for the winter and Christmas, quite appropriate when the fair is also held in conjunction with the Spirit of Christmas Fair,” he said.
Among the silver he has selected for Olympia is a large George III jug influenced by the celebrated silversmith Paul Storr and made by William Fountain at his workshops in Clerkenwell in 1806.
With a handle described as a “tour de force” of silver design and bearing the arms, motto and coronet of the 6th Duke of Bedford at Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire, the stately piece is ticketed at £13,500.
Elsewhere, specialists in antique boxes and accessories Mark Goodger Antiques brings one of the smallest and most detailed sewing cottage boxes the dealership has ever seen. Naively hand-painted with a red thatch effect roof and small chimney and complete with a fully working lock and tasselled key, it dates to c.1800 and is priced at £5200.
Also returning to the fair are Geoffrey Stead Antiques, Anthea AG Antiques, Haynes Fine Art, Andrew Muir (see this week’s 5 Questions), Morgan Strickland, Laura Bordignon, Hickmet Antiques and British art dealer Freya Mitton, who brings a Newlyn harbour view by Paul Mount (1922- 2009) priced at £3800 (plus ARR).
Two new exhibitors join the ranks: Moonstruck Experience from South Africa with handbags and other vintage pieces and Sandy Stanley, who specialises in mostly British, French and Scandinavian jewellery from the 1960s-80s by names such as Andrew Grima, John Donald and Georges Lenfant.