GF Watts

GF Watts, self-portrait 1867, acquired for the Watts Gallery.

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Watts self-portrait heads to gallery

A self-portrait by artist George Frederic Watts (1817-1904) has been acquired by Watts Gallery in Compton, near Guildford, via the Acceptance in Lieu scheme, run by Arts Council England, and settled £92,978 of tax. It came from the collection of Ivor Kerrison Preston, advised by Christie’s Heritage and Taxation Advisory Service.

This self-portrait from 1867 was painted in the year the artist was elected both an associate of the Royal Academy and a full academician.

It shows Watts aged 50 and it is the first self-portrait from this period to join the museum’s collection. The gallery has other self-portraits including the artist’s first, aged 17 from 1834, and his final self-portrait from 1904.

Dorset auction house expands

South Dorsetshire Auctions in Wareham has expanded.

Founded by former antiques centre owner Mark Croucher and ceramics dealer John LeJeune in 2021, the firm has taken on a larger, adjacent unit to its existing premises on John’s Road in Wareham.

It is currently fitting out the new space to create two salerooms plus storage and office space. The existing warehouse unit will then be used for storage and as an ‘emergency’ saleroom.

Croucher said the firm will move to a weekly schedule from April 21 with regular specialist sales slotted into the expanded auction calendar starting with an electrical, musical electronics and IT sale on April 28.

He added: “We already hold quarterly specialist model railway and toy sales, and this increase in space will allow us to utilise the experience and knowledge of our team of valuers and auctioneers and expand into other specialist areas.”

Croucher previously owned an antiques centre called Eklektika in Swanage and LeJeune specialises in Poole Pottery, owning Studio Poole on Poole Quay.

Mover and shakers in the auction world

1818 Auctioneers

Rowan Hughes

Rowan Hughes of 1818 Auctioneers.

1818 Auctioneers has recruited a junior silver and jewellery valuer.

Rowan Hughes joins the saleroom on the Cumbria and Lancashire border, moving down from Glasgow where she worked for Mulberry Bank Auctions. She will work alongside Jackie Rothwell, specialist valuer, who has led the jewellery team at 1818 for over a decade.

Bishop & Miller

Mikey Higginson

Mikey Higginson of Bishop & Miller.

Auction house Bishop & Miller has promoted Mikey Higginson to become its 20th century furniture and design specialist. He joined the team just over three years ago, becoming a music specialist thanks to his experience in audio and music.

Higginson has developed an interest for 20th century and retro objects.

Bishop & Miller said 20th century design consignments have increased in the past 18 months and due to this it will hold five auctions throughout 2024 in this sector.

Tayler & Fletcher

James Bridges

James Bridges of Tayler & Fletcher.

Martin Lambert, who ran Tayler & Fletcher’s fine art and antiques department, has retired. He had been with the Cotswold firm for 27 years and prior to this worked at both Lawrences and Sotheby’s.

James Bridges, previously managing director at Martel Maides in Guernsey, joined last summer and is now head of its fine art department. He spent 16 years at the Channel Islands firm and has nearly 30 years’ experience in the sector having joined Bonhams as a porter in 1993 working his way up to head its toy department before joining Sotheby’s in 1998 in the same role.

British Museum appoints director

Dr Nicholas Cullinan OBE has been appointed as the new director of the British Museum.

He takes over from interim director Sir Mark Jones and will take up his role this summer. Cullinan was previously director of the National Portrait Gallery and before that, a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and Tate Modern in London.

As widely reported, last summer the museum announced the discovery that items were missing from its collection. Investigations were launched and appeals made for the return of objects that had been sold on.

Museum director Hartwig Fischer announced he would leave his post and Jones took up the post on an interim basis in September 2023.

In March lawyers for the museum brought a civil case in the High Court against a former employee regarding the theft of up to 1800 ancient gems and jewellery.

The London court ordered the defendant to provide the museum with a list of all items he is suspected of taking and to return those still in his possession. Documents filed in his defence show he intends to dispute the claims.

A Met Police investigation into the thefts continues but the individual has not been charged.

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In Numbers


The percentage rise in the price of gold since the start of 2024. With gold reaching an all-time high and silver rising to its highest level for 12 months last week, ATG received reports of large numbers of items being sold for scrap including silver teasets and salvers, bottom-marked spoons and gold chains. Some jewellers were also scrapping objects in their stock as the value of the metal outweighed selling prices.