The 7½ x 11in (19 x 28cm) oil on panel was by James Bolivar Manson (1879-1945), a painter who was inspired by the works of Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro. In 1919 he formed the short-lived Monarro Group of painters along with Camille’s son Lucien Pissarro.
Manson was also a writer, art historian and curator. He became secretary of the Camden Town Group and later served as director of the Tate Gallery in the 1930s, where he did much to build up its Impressionist and Post- Impressionist collection.
Breton Farm, a small but composed example of his later work, emerged at Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood on January 17. The back of the picture had a label for a dedicated exhibition of the artist’s work at Leicester Galleries in London in the 1940s.
While some of Manson’s smaller works have sold at auction for a few hundred pounds, this one looked a good bet against a £120-180 estimate thanks to its attractive composition and provenance. It was duly bid to £4000, selling to an online buyer.
Also bringing competition against a lowly pitch and selling to an internet bidder at the Exeter sale was a shimmering view of a fishing fleet at sunset by Thomas Lucop (c.1834-1911).
The Hull painter was a friend and pupil of the better-known Henry Redmore but as a master mariner in his own right his works are admired for their levels of observation and details of the shipping depicted.
However, the principal attraction of the 11¾ x 173/4in (30 x 45cm) oil on canvas here, which was signed and dated ‘90 to the lower left, was its evocative atmosphere alongside its ‘come and buy me’ estimate of £80-120.
After a good contest, the gavel fell at £2400 – a sum that appears to be the second highest for Lucop at auction, only behind a more close-up portrait of two ships that took £3400 at Hawleys of East Yorkshire in November 2020.
Owl's first flight
Elsewhere in the sale, an oil on panel of a long eared owl by Henry Stacy Marks RA (1829-98) turned a few heads. Measuring 151/4 x 111/2in (39 x 30cm), it was signed with the artist’s initials to the bottom left with a further signature and inscription on the back.
While pelicans, stocks and flamingos appear more regularly, this was seemingly the first time a painting of an owl had emerged.
Estimated at £800-1200, it sold at £3700 – a good sum for a small-scale ornithological work by the artist which mostly reflected the rarity of the subject.