Two unexpectedly high prices were paid for very different pictures at Lawrences (25% buyer’s premium) of Crewkerne. Both selling for four-figure prices, these were highly notable results for the artists concerned.
Surging over a £400-600 estimate on April 6 was a twilight landscape by William Kiddier (1859-1934) which set a new benchmark at auction for the Midlands artist.
The 2ft 11in x 3ft 2in (85 x 96cm) signed oil on canvas came to auction from the estate of the late Anthony Noel Roper, a collector, museum buff and voracious antiquarian. Lawrences had already sold dozens of pictures from his collection in general sales and a further 24 were offered at this auction.
Judging by the artist’s rather thin track record at auction, the estimate was about right – even a little strong perhaps.
But, on the day, the picture drew a prolonged contest between the Midlands trade and another bidder who owned a matching work in an identical frame by the same artist. It was eventually knocked down to the former at £5500, a sum almost 10 times more than any previous auction result for Kiddier. Lawrences picture specialist Richard Kay admitted the price seemed a little perplexing.
Also exceeding predictions at the Somerset sale, but for more obvious reasons perhaps, was a painting of a ship designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
The 15¾ x 23¾in (40 x 61cm) pastel study of SS Great Britain was by Samuel Walters (1811-82), a noted Liverpool maritime artist. Signed and dated 1852, it was a rare depiction of the vessel from this period and in this medium in particular.
The saleroom described it as “beautifully refined” in terms of its execution.
It came to auction with excellent provenance, having descended through the family of the Clydeside and Merseyside naval architect Francis George Bryant. It is thought Bryant acquired it in the late 1930s when based in Liverpool himself.
The estimate of £1500-2000 was always likely to be surpassed given the fame of the vessel (which is now moored in Bristol and is accompanied by a museum alongside it) and the rarity of this work as a pastel (only one other pastel by Walters is recorded).
It was knocked down at £9000 to a London buyer with underbidding coming from a West Country bidder. Although larger marine paintings by the artist can be more valuable commercially, this was a strong sum given the size of the work – indeed, more commensurate with prices for a Walters oil painting.
The Lawrences sale also set the highest price at auction for any watercolour by Edward Gurden Dalziel (1849-88) in over 35 years.
It depicted the home of the Sydenham family in West Somerset. The house itself had once been part of Cleeve Abbey but the Sydenhams acquired it after the dissolution of the monasteries (it was once the home of Elizabeth Sydenham who married Sir Francis Drake).
Dalziel executed the 2ft 9in x 23in (83 x 58cm) watercolour and bodycolour in 1870, adding working figures to the foreground and background, and exhibited it a year later at The Royal Academy (its title then was An Old House in Somerset). It was signed with the artist’s initials.
The picture came to auction from a Somerset vendor whose parents owned the house from 1951-63 and who helped restore it from its dilapidated state with assistance from the Ministry of Works as a place of historic interest.
The picture here had been unsold at Sotheby’s in 1986 against a £1200-1800 pitch and this, as well as the presence of two noticeable breaks in the paper to the left and right of centre, led to a cautious estimate of £400-600.
This helped draw more interest, however, and it eventually sold at £2600 to the current owner of the house against some determined underbidding online.