The Big Wheel by Karl Hagedorn – £5000 at Bellmans.

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Works from the collection of author Darren Shan provided a boost to Bellmans’ (22% buyer’s premium) latest sale of Modern British and 20th Century Art.

The 59 pictures, of which 42 sold for a total exceeding £20,000, comprised predominantly voguish pieces of contemporary art but also one of two slightly older pictures.

Shan is well known as a writer of horror and fantasy novels whose books include the 12-part book series The Saga of Darren Shan and The Demonata. His novels, which are primarily aimed at young adults, have now been translated into 32 languages and 30 million copies have been sold worldwide.

“When my books started to sell well in the early noughties, I began thinking about what to do with the money that I was now making,” said Shan. “As a big fan of comics, I started to collect comic art, something I have continued to do over the years since. But as my interest in comic art deepened, I also found myself starting to explore the world of ‘fine art’ too.

“I began visiting art galleries and museums, and going to auction houses, learning as I went. With no background in art appreciation, I simply gravitated towards pieces that grabbed my interest, works that my eyes kept returning to. I never felt tied to any particular styles, and never limited myself.”

As for his reasons for selling the works, he said: “The hoarder in me wanted to hang onto them indefinitely and never let them go. But I’ve run out of wall space, and I didn’t want to lock them away in storage where no one could appreciate them, so I forced myself to go through and whittle down my collection.

“It was hard, and I’m already regretting letting some of the paintings go, but hey, as I keep telling myself, my loss is somebody else’s gain.”

Colourful Hagedorn

With some of the works acquired at auction in the last 15 years, the lack of market freshness in some cases appears to have been a factor in the performance of some of the lots as certain works fetched less than the prices Shan had originally paid.

One of the most colourful works in the collection that attracted interest at the sale in Billingshurst, West Sussex, on May 10 was one of the earlier works in the collection.

Dating from the 1920s, The Big Wheel by Karl Hagedorn (1889- 1969) was a work well known to the trade. It had been through dealers John Noott Galleries and Waterman Fine Art and had appeared at auction a number of times in the last 35 years, most recently at Sotheby’s in 2007 where it was knocked down to Shan at £7500.

The artist was born in Berlin in 1889 but settled permanently in England in 1905, training as a textile designer at Manchester School of Technology and subsequently studying at Manchester’s School of Art, the Slade in London and Maurice Denis’s art school in Paris.

Although he became an important figure in Manchester’s art scene (a 1994 retrospective at Whitworth Art Gallery was titled Manchester’s First Modernist), the scene depicted in this 21¾ x 18in (55 x 46cm) signed oil on board appears to be London. The fact that it had the artist’s address in Belsize Park on the back suggested it most likely depicted a fun fair in the capital (possibly the bank holiday fair on nearby Hampstead Heath).

In terms of its style, Hagedorn was inspired by the Cubist and Futurist work he saw during his time in Paris but the kaleidoscopic approach here may also have reflected his early training in textile design.

Either way, the attractive subject with figures from policemen to pedlars depicted in a myriad of colours clearly appealed to bidders against the £3000-5000 estimate. It eventually sold on top estimate to a UK private buyer. Even though it failed to match the 2007 price, the final sum was still in the top 10 auction prices for the artist.

Richter duo


Marin Et Fille Au Café by Aurel Richter – £1000 at Bellmans.

Elsewhere among the lots from the Shan collection were two works by Hungarian artist Aurel Richter (1870-1957) that also attracted interest but fetched sums that represented a loss for the author.

Both Cubist-style pictures of sailors with women, first up was Marin Et Fille Au Café, a 19¾ x 10½in (50 x 27cm) gouache on board for which Shan had bid £2000 at Sotheby’s in 2006. Here it was estimated at £700-1000 and again sold on the upper end of predictions.

The following lot, Le Marin Et Fille, a 19¾in (50cm) square gouache on board which sold at the same Sotheby’s sale for £1700, this time made £1100 against the same £700- 1000 pitch.

Fedden and Dyf


The Purple Table by Mary Fedden – £21,000 at Bellmans.

Outside of the Shan collection, a painting by Mary Fedden (1915-2012) brought lively interest and led the sale.

The Purple Table, a 20in x 3ft 4in (51cm x 1.02m) signed oil on board from 1987, was a combination of still-life and landscape – a format that often finds appeal among the numerous works by the artist that appear at auction each year.

Estimated at £10,000-15,000, it was knocked down at £21,000 to a UK private buyer.

Only a couple of works by the artist have fetched more in the last two years according to Artprice – another still-life in a landscape titled White arches that made £39,000 at Woolley & Wallis in August 2020 and Julian’s mug that sold for £23,000 at Lyon & Turnbull in April last year.


Crepuscule en Bretagne by Marcel Dyf – £7500 at Bellmans.

Another lot that caught the eye was a Marcel Dyf (1899-1985) coastal scene with boats that sold well against a £1500-2500 estimate.

Again, works by the artist crop up frequently at auction but the pleasing subject showing a small group of boats off the coast of Brittany, together with the fact that it was signed and had a label on the back for dealer Frost & Reed, gave it more appeal than many that emerge.

The 15 x 18in (38 x 46cm) oil on canvas was relatively small for a Dyf but, selling at £7500 to a UK buyer, it achieved a decent sum and an even more notable price per square inch.