In the last few years, highpoints have included the monumental A Dorset Landscape making £225,000 at Duke’s in Dorchester and Regent’s Canal, Paddington, £75,000 at Woolley & Wallis in Salisbury. Both selling in May 2021 (ATG No 2493), they posted the top and fourth-highest auction prices for the artist respectively according to Artprice.
Although 2022 was a bit quieter when it came to works emerging by the London-born artist, the signs are that 2023 looks more promising after two contrasting works both drew strong interest at separate sales in Scotland and Essex held days apart.
The view downstream
Barring a view across London from Buckingham Palace that took £50,000 at a Sotheby’s online sale in November 2022, the highest price for Newton since the Duke’s and Woolley & Wallis auctions came at Thomson Roddick (18% buyer’s premium) last month.
Offered in Rosewell, near Edinburgh, on February 16, the view of ‘London Bridge’ (but probably Waterloo Bridge given the position) was a typically atmospheric scene with the muddy banks and boats and a series of landmarks, including Somerset House and St Paul’s Cathedral to the background.
The 23½in x 2ft 11in (60 x 90cm) oil on canvas was consigned from a deceased estate and was part of a local house clearance. It had the artist’s monogram and was dated ‘25 to the lower right. The back of the picture retained a label for Edinburgh’s Anthony Woodd Gallery, the dealership where seemingly its previous owner had purchased it.
The catalogue stated that it was in good condition overall but had some craquelure and appeared to have been relined. The picture came to auction with a previous valuation of £800 provided by an independent source – something that maybe led to the cautious £500-1000 estimate here.
However, a few days after the catalogue was published online, condition report enquiries and a soaring number of ‘watchers’ meant that, come sale day, the auction house expected a five-figure sum.
With a series of keen bids left on the book, the bidding opened at a few thousand pounds. After a number of parties competed, including a few internet bidders, the lot was knocked down to an online buyer at £30,000.
The sum was reflective of its attractive subject and composition, although the fact that the scene depicted a cloudy evening meant it lacked the kind of evocative light found in some of Newton’s other top-selling pictures.
Two days earlier at Reeman Dansie (22.5% buyer’s premium), a smaller painting by Newton of a street in Hampstead came to auction from a source around two miles from the auction house in Colchester.
The collection yielded a host of good-quality furniture and silver and this picture was acquired many years ago by a member of the vendor’s family.
The 6 x 8¾in (15 x 22cm) oil on board was believed to date from the early 1930s. With information provided by the Newton family, it was thought to be the same picture as one titled Upper Park Road, Hampstead exhibited at a dedicated show at the Leicester Galleries in 1933.
The Times’ review of the Paintings around London by Algernon Newton exhibition stated: ‘In all technical matters Mr Newton is a very accomplished painter, as, for example, in comparing real and reflected objects, which he does in many of his pictures. “Canal, Maida Vale”, “Twilight in Hampstead”, and “Upper Park Road, Hampstead” are three good examples of his work.’
The gallery sold the picture in November 1933 for 13 guineas and Reeman Dansie director and auctioneer Jonathan Benson thought it probable that the vendor’s relative was the buyer.
“No one had ever seen it before,” he told ATG. “It was fresh to market and beautifully presented in its original frame.
“We think it may have depicted a road he used to live in or had a studio [Newton was born in Hampstead] and so with all this in its favour we weren’t surprised it attracted interest.”
The picture had a linen mount which had some minor staining and some slightly loose joints to the frame. Otherwise it was in a good untouched state.
Ahead of the February 14 sale two large commission bids were received. These were exceeded as bidding in the room and on the phone emerged and the painting was knocked down at £12,000 to a European buyer.
Although a decent sum for a work of this size, it was not the highest for a small-format work by Newton.
That accolade belongs to House tops and sky, another oil on board that featured in the 1933 Paintings around London show which made €28,000 (£23,995) at the sale of the Pierre Le-Tan collection at Sotheby’s Paris in March 2021.