Weeds by Maxwell Ashby Armfield – £4200 at Sworders.

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Against appealing estimates they generally met a good reaction, with some in particular drawing high levels of competition.

One of the strongest contests at the auction on October 11 came for Weeds, a watercolour by Maxwell Ashby Armfield (1881-1972).

A small still-life from 1905 measuring just 3¼ x 4¼in (8 x 11cm), it was a simple composition that showed the Hampshireborn artist, illustrator and writer’s love of plants – he and his wife Constance Smedley published their collaborative project The Flower Book in 1910.

As well as the Baer collection, it also had provenance to the Andrew McIntosh Patrick collection and had appeared at the Fine Art Society’s 2007 exhibition of works from that source.

Signed with the artist’s initials, the watercolour was in decent condition apart from a couple of specks of foxing. Estimated at £200-300, it was knocked down at £4200 to an online UK private buyer. For a work of this size, this looked a strong price and in fact appears to be the highest for one of Armfield’s plant studies.

Self Sergeant


Self-portrait: Reflection in a bevelled mirror by John Sergeant – £4200 at Sworders.

A more recent work on paper from the Baer collection that brought demand against an even lower estimate was a self-portrait by John Sergeant (1937-2010).

Dating from 1996, the 12½x 9½in (32 x 24cm) pencil drawing depicts the artist painting his own reflection in a bevelled mirror.

An intriguing composition, it had been exhibited at Baer’s dealership Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox as part of a dedicated show of Sergeant’s drawings in 1996.

Estimated at just £100-150, it drew strong interest and was knocked down online at £4200 to the French trade.

Other than a watercolour showing the statue of Buddha at Annabel’s restaurant, sold for £7500 at Sotheby’s sale of the Mark Biley collection in 2013, this was the highest price at auction for the artist (source: Artprice).