The highest auction price for five years for a work by the artist Frederick William Jackson (1859-1918) came at a recent sale held by Surrey saleroom Ewbank’s (25% buyer’s premium).
Three works by the Manchester School and Staithes Group painter were consigned from the deceased estate of a private collector based in London, each bringing interest and selling over estimate.
While the artist has made five-figure sums on a handful of occasions, the well-documented difficulties in the market for Victorian pictures has meant that, more recently, most paintings have been fetching sums in the low thousands or even hundreds of pounds.
For the artist’s following to still turn out in force, works need to be fresh to the market, keenly pitched, well handled in terms of quality and ideally in attractive condition.
When these requirements are met, buyers can be prepared to compete quite strongly – as was the case especially with the top-selling work at the Woking sale on September 22.
Jackson was born in Middleton Junction, Oldham, and retains a good number of supporters in his locality.
The son of a photographer, one of his brothers became a musician and the other an art dealer who ran a gallery in Manchester (indeed, Charles Arthur Jackson supported his brother during his career, helping him both financially and by supplying canvases and materials, not unlike Theo van Gogh).
Becoming part of the group of young artists known as the ‘Manchester School’ who were influenced by French painting such as the works by Barbizon School of painters, his early landscapes and marine paintings were much admired including the scenes around Conway Valley in north Wales, where he was based from 1880.
After living in Paris for five years and travelling in Italy, he returned to live in Hinderwell, North Yorkshire, near the fishing village of Staithes.
There he met Gilbert Foster who had founded the Staithes Group of artists.
As with other members of the colony, Jackson painted the rugged beauty of the Yorkshire coastline en plein air and, like the Barbizon artists, drew on ordinary scenes of contemporary life for inspiration.
The works at Ewbank’s were part of the latter category with all three pictures depicting rural landscapes with animals or figures working.
First up was a fairly routine work on paper with cattle to the foreground and a farmhouse beyond. The 10½ x 15in (27 x 38cm) watercolour was signed and estimated at just £200-400 – a realistic pitch given the current state of the market for traditional British watercolours.
Nevertheless, it attracted attention and, after a decent bidding battle, sold at £500 to a UK buyer from the north of England.
Next came an oil painting of another country scene: a landscape with haystacks and a couple of figures and chickens.
The 18½ x 22½in (47 x 57cm) signed oil on canvas again found admirers against an appealing estimate, in part thanks to its airy composition and attractive summer colours. Estimated at £1000-2000, it sold at £4400 to a UK dealer – a good price for a Jackson rural landscape judging by results in the last few years.
The following lot was the pick of the Jackson works in Surrey. The landscape with geese to the foreground was attractively bright, loosely handled and had busier composition and an Impressionistic air. At 9½ x 12½in (24 x 32cm) the signed oil on board was also in a small but manageable size that may have appealed to certain buyers.
It was also offered with a lower pitch of £500-800 that may have helped generate extra interest although, as is generally the case, the lower estimate does not necessarily lead to a higher price in the end.
After determined bidding it was knocked down to a UK gallery at £8500 – the most for any work by Jackson in a little over half a decade.
Partner and auctioneer at the Surrey saleroom Andrew Ewbank said: “The appeal of Jackson is no surprise when you look at the quality, light and vivacity of his compositions.
“His leading role as a member of the Staithes Group also comes into play here, and the multiple-estimate result for the landscape with geese was particularly pleasing because of the ongoing confidence it displays in his market.”
Elsewhere at the auction, a still-life by George Clausen (1852-1944) was also purchased by a UK gallery. While his vivid portraits and figurative studies are more highly valued commercially, he also produced landscapes and scenes of rural life which are highly regarded.
His still-lifes are rarer and arguably less recognised but examples in a number of UK public collections, including the Royal Academy, show that he could apply his considerable talents to flower subjects too.
It has been some time since such a high-quality Clausen still-life has emerged on the market and so the 13½ x 11½in (34 x 29cm) signed oil on canvas from 1902 here was always bound to catch the eye.
The condition was not perfect: it suffered from a few areas of loss and craquelure as well as a small hole towards the top left of the canvas. While this probably restricted the value somewhat, keen bidding still emerged on the day.
It doubled the top estimate at £10,000, a sum that appears to be among the top half-a-dozen prices at auction for a Clausen still-life, the highest being the £30,000 for Carnations and Pinks sold at Sotheby’s in 2008.
Pasmore early work
Another still-life of flowers, this time of roses, at Ewbank’s was an early work by Victor Pasmore (1908-98).
The 5¾ x 8in (14.5 x 20cm) oil on board had a very different appeal to the normal Pasmore following which tends to focus on his much better known abstract prints from the 1940s-50s. His still-lifes are not without appeal, however, and a handful have made five-figure sums at auction.
This diminuative work sold at the lower end of its £3000-5000 estimate, not too bad a sum for a work of this size and subject.