In all, 44 of the 55 lots offered on June 14 at the west London firm sold, attracting 34 different buyers of whom 11 were from abroad. The overall total was £180,000 including premium.
The leading light in terms of individual pictures was a rare painting by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska (1891-1915) which, although selling to a British buyer in this case, was the subject of overseas underbidding.
The French artist produced numerous sculptures and works on paper but only a small number of oils on canvas are known – less than 10 have emerged at auction in the last 30 years according to Artprice.com.
The Madonna of ‘The Miracle’ with self-portrait dated from 1912. It shows a statuette in the foreground: a plaster figure that Gaudier had recently completed of Maria Carmi in the leading role of the Madonna in The Miracle, a huge theatrical production performed at the London Olympia exhibition halls, appropriately enough given the location of this auction.
The plaster cast is now in the collection of Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge. A silhouette self-portrait of the artist himself holding a brush also looms in the background of teh painting.
The 21¾ x 17in (55 x 43cm) oil on canvas was almost certainly painted in the Thameside home of the artist’s patrons Mr and Mrs Leman Hare. Thomas Leman Hare (1872-1935) was a painter, collector and writer on art who subsequently became editor of Apollo magazine in the 1920s.
The picture resided at the family’s home in Chiswick Mall for many years before passing to their god-daughter. After selling at Sotheby’s back in 1981, it was purchased by a private collector in Kew from the Alton Gallery in Barnes. Following the collector’s death it came to auction here from their estate.
Being a rarity both in terms of medium and subject, the auction house described it as “a unique example in Gaudier-Brzeska’s oeuvre” and gave it an estimate of £15,000-20,000.
While the artist’s most sought-after works on paper can make substantially more (the record stands at £210,000 for a charcoal, pastel and watercolour titled Homme Et Cheval), the highest previous price for an oil painting was only £20,000 for a self-portrait sold at Sotheby’s in 2007.
Generating international interest including from a French institution, the lot was the subject of a bidding battle on the day and it was eventually knocked down at £32,000 to the UK trade. The sum was not only the highest at auction for an oil painting by Gaudier-Brzeska, it was the fourth-highest price for any picture and the highest for a non- Vorticist work by him.
Olympia Auctions’ head of department Adrian Biddell said: “I am particularly pleased that the Gaudier-Brzeska achieved such a strong price. It is a very rare oil and its composition so typically idiosyncratic – one of his sculptures with his self-portrait glimpsed from behind it.
“It also has specific links to west London: its source of inspiration was a production at Olympia exhibition halls; it resided for many years on Chiswick Mall, home of one of Gaudier’s early patrons; and has more recently been in a private collection in Kew.”
Among the lots going overseas was a view of the harbour town of Leuvehaven, located close to the centre of Rotterdam in the Netherlands, by Evert Moll (1878- 1955). Estimated at £3000-5000, it
sold to a Dutch buyer at £6000.
A self-taught artist from Voorbug in southern Holland, Moll worked in Paris, London and The Hague as well as his hometown. He also had a spell as an art dealer.
The 2ft 4in x 3ft 8in (70cm x 1.11m) oil on canvas here was one of his loosely painted impressionistic views of Leuvehaven showing steam boats on the Nieuwe Maas and capturing the bustle of the port.
The setting was one of the prolific Moll’s favourite locations to paint. Around 20 works depicting the port have sold at auction in the last 20 years according to Artprice.
These include a similar panorama painted from the same spot with Sint-Laurenskerk church and the Twee Leeuwen brewery visible in the distance, but around half the size, that sold for €13,000 (£10,440) at Christie’s Amsterdam in 2008. It still holds the artist’s auction record.
The current picture, which dated from 1914, was one of Moll’s largest works. It came to auction from a vendor whose parents had bought it from Dutch dealership Simonis & Buunk back in 1988. While the price suggests something of a decline in demand since the time of Christie’s sale, the sum was nevertheless the second highest at auction for one of Moll’s Leuvehaven scenes.
Also attracting international interest, an intriguing painting by an unknown artist titled A Greek Freedom Fighter duly sold to a Greek buyer.
Depicting a wavy-haired moustachioed man wearing typically Greek garments, gripping the hilt of a sword and leaning over a cannon, the painting was thought to be inkeeping with 19th century French styles. The auction house suggested it was probably by a painter who trained in one of France’s many academies, not necessarily in Paris.
The 2ft 11in x 4ft 3in (97cm x 1.29m) oil on canvas had been purchased by the UK vendor in around 2008, the previous owner having apparently bought it in Paris in the late 1990s. Catalogued as French School (19th century), the flamboyant portrait clearly caught the eye of a number of interested parties, improving on a £1500-2500 estimate and selling at £8500.
Two drawings by George Chinnery (1774-1852) sketched during his travels in Macau also commanded overseas bidding, selling to different buyers in Macau and Hong Kong respectively.
First up was a 7½x 10¾in (19 x 28cm) pencil, pen and brown ink view of the isthmus that separates Macau peninsula from mainland China. A stone remnant of the border wall constructed in 1573 stands in the foreground.
Inscribed Near the Barrier and dated 1836, it was executed four years before the Battle of the Barrier broke out between the Chinese and the British, a defining moment during the first Opium Wars.
The drawing had been purchased from London dealer Agnew & Sons by Gerald Palmer, the writer, translator and politician, who died in 1984 and bequeathed it to the late husband of Olympia’s vendor. Estimated at £1000-1500, it was knocked down at £4500 with the winning bid coming from Macau itself.
The following lot which went to Hong Kong also had an Agnews provenance. A single sheet filled with annotated sketches depicting scenes from everyday life that Chinnery recorded in Macau, the most prominent image was of a blacksmith at work. Estimated at £1500-2500, it sold at £2400.