The Redcoat by William Ranken, £3800 at Young’s.

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Having previously been kept at a modest house in Aldershot, it was originally destined for the skip along with many of the other contents of the property. However, on a hunch, the late owner’s niece decided to call the auction house in Farnham for advice.

A handwritten label to the back of the 3ft 7in x 2ft 9in (1.09m x 85cm) oil on canvas gave the artist as William Bruce Ellis Ranken (1881-1942) and the title as The Redcoat. While the identity of the sitter was initially unclear, the saleroom believed that it dated from before the First World War when the aesthetic artist was called up and spent time in the trenches in France.

Young’s decided to place a £1000-2000 estimate on the work and offer it as part of its February 17 sale.

ATG previewed the work in issue No 2628 and, as a result of the article being published, the saleroom was contacted by Wendy and Gordon Hawksley who run the website and have spent many years researching the artist. They shared some information regarding the picture, including the fact that it had been previously believed lost for around 100 years.

The catalogue entry was then updated with the history of the work. It was first shown at the fourth National Portrait Society Exhibition held at The Grosvenor Gallery in 1915, and the image was subsequently reproduced on the front cover of the magazine Colour in June of that year.

The sitter had a strong resemblance to the subject of both Ranken’s Trooper of Royal Horse Guards, in Walking-Out Dress, a painting now in the National Army Museum collection, and a watercolour in Warrington Museum and Art Gallery, both of which were gifted by the Ranken family.

The portrait was therefore believed to depict Harry Frankland, a young lance corporal in the Royal Horse Guards. He also seemingly appears in a group portrait by Ranken titled Life Guards also painted in 1915.

According to Ranken’s papers, The Redcoat was lost in the early 1920s following an unauthorised sale of some of his works.

On sale day the painting drew good interest and it came down to a battle between two bidders, one in the UK, the other the US.

It was knocked down to the latter at £3800. While the artist has fetched more at auction before (the record stands at £13,000 for a work on paper depicting Oliver Messel that sold at Christie’s in 2020), the sum matched the highest price recorded in the UK outside London – equalling that made by a still-life sold at Dreweatts in July last year.

Youngman picked up


Hop field at dusk by Nan Youngman, £900 at Young’s.

Elsewhere at the Farnham sale, a decent competition came for a view of a hop field at dusk by Nan Youngman (1906-95).

The painting was a charity shop find with the vendor having apparently acquired it for £250.

Youngman’s works only occasionally appear at auction. Having studied at Slade School of Fine Art from 1924-7, she continued to paint and exhibit her works at the same time as working as an art teacher and education administrator (she launched the Pictures for Schools Exhibitions in 1947).

While many of her works depict the mining valleys of south Wales or the Norfolk coast, the location of the current 19½ x 23½in (50 x 60cm) oil on canvas was unclear although it was very much in keeping with her atmospheric and vivid style.

Signed and dated 1956, it was estimated at £400-600 and eventually sold at £900 to a buyer from Oxford who, in something of a varsity auction contest, saw off an underbidder from Cambridge.