A group of cutting-edge objects consigned by British textile artist and designer Ann Sutton (b.1935) were offered as part of the Lyon & Turnbull (26/25/20% buyer’s premium) Modern Made auction.
De-cluttering with the sale of 43 lots from her very personal art collection, Sutton chose to part with some of the 1980s furniture created for her Arundel studio by former student Jim Partridge (b.1953).
Artist cabinet-maker Partridge, who studied at the John Makepeace School for Craftsmen in Wood at Parnham House in Dorset, recalled that the pair worked together on a new kind of furniture that, while certainly not fine cabinet making, had plenty of attitude.
He described these pieces as pioneers of “a new language for woodworking. I had exhibited this work before, but Ann was the first to buy it, to understand, trust and encourage the qualities I was hoping to achieve.”
A total of 22 lots by Partridge were offered at The Mall Galleries in London on April 28 – the first time any quantity of this type of material was given the auction stage.
It was a positive outcome: all but one lot sold.
The major pieces were a two-seat plank bench (£4000) and a warped stool (£2400), both from 1984, and a bookcase from 1987 (£3400).
All were simple forms made in the saw-cut and scorched oak that would become Partridge’s signature with the shapes created as the boards warped as they seasoned.
Small-scale domestic wares do occasionally appear for sale. At Lyon & Turnbull an egg rack (1986) and a toast rack (1984) took £650 and £550 respectively, while a series of bowls (perhaps Partridge’s most recognisable form) sold for prices between £320 and £1100.
Sutton herself has often pushed the boundaries of what can be ‘woven’, enlarging the possibilities of the geometry of warp and weft.
As a student in the 1950s she heard a senior and much-fêted craftsman scoff that modern weavers would even work with barbed wire if they could, and she interrupted from the lecture hall: “Why not?”
One of Sutton’s immediately recognisable framed weaves comprising multiple threads arranged vertically titled Double Knots Colour I from 2020 sold at £1400, although perhaps it is not quite her time. Two others failed to sell.
Le Carré’s desk
The format of these sales, headed by Philip Smith, combines work across a range of mediums from Modern and Post-war art to Contemporary crafts.
The desk on which John le Carré wrote some of his last novels sold for £17,000 (estimate £6000-8000). The modernist maple and brushed steel desk and ensuite document chest were designed by Chinese architect Chi Wing Lo (b.1954) for Italian firm Giorgetti.
The two pieces were acquired by Le Carré (David Cornwell) from his friend of almost 50 years, Gerald Moran, and were used in his workspace in London as he penned his final books from the end of 2009 until he died in 2020.
Using the desk, he wrote A Delicate Truth (2013), A Legacy of Spies (2017, the companion volume to The Spy Who Came In From The Cold), Agent Running In The Field (2019), Silverview (published posthumously in 2021) and his memoir, The Pigeon Tunnel (2016).
Within the drawers of the chest, Le Carré stored his manuscripts during the editing process.
The Modern Made sale came at the end of a run of four auctions that included offerings of Lalique glass and vintage posters.
Competition for 150 lots of Lalique glass offered on April 27 came from the UK, US, Canada, Europe, Japan and Australia. Just under two-thirds got away.
Attracting a good level of interest was the 14in (36cm) high Grand Boule Lierre with low relief leaf and vine decoration.
This is a particularly early mould blown piece, numbered 877 in the René Lalique catalogue raisonné and designed in 1912, shortly after the designer (better known at the time as a superb artist jeweller) changed medium and began to produce decorative glass. In clear and frosted glass with slight sepia staining, it sold at the top estimate of £20,000.
Both a 13in (33cm) high Nanking (No 971) vase and the 9in (23cm) Aras (No 919) vase were designs from Lalique’s fashionable pomp in the mid-1920s. The 1925 Nanking, formed of patterns of adjoining triangles picked out in black stain, more than doubled its estimate to sell at £15,000.
Among specialist Joy McCall’s favourite pieces in the auction, the 1924 Aras vase depicting macaws in flight and perched among foliage was seen here in a remarkable cased jade and white enamelled glass. An unusual and beautiful variation, it sold for £18,000.
It was a classic image from the golden age of travel that topped the 50 lots of Travel & Vintage Posters on April 26: AM Cassandre’s (1901-68) Normandie.
Perhaps the artist’s greatest poster design, the image of a towering ‘floating palace’ was commissioned in 1935 to mark the opening of the ocean liner’s service with the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique.
The poster sold at the lower end of a £10,000-15,000 guide.
Consultant specialist Sophie Churcher of Tomkinson Churcher was particularly pleased with a group of 16 Scottish railway posters, of which 15 sold for a total of nearly £36,000 against a pre-sale estimate of £18,000.
Henry George Gawthorn’s Over the Forth to the North for LNER took £9600. Dating from 1928, the bold Art Deco style scene in shades of blue depicts the railway bridge crossing the Forth estuary in Scotland which had the world’s longest span when it opened in 1890. Another version had sold in 2022 for £10,000.
Norman Wilkinson’s 1927 Royal Highlander Approaches Aberdeen took £6500 while his Unkeld Cathedral, River Tay, c.1935, made £1200.
This sale also featured Art Deco designs by Charles Paine: the 1921 London Underground posters for the Boat Race (£6500) and the penguins at London Zoo (£4200).