News & Insights

Confident bidding sees 20th century paintings come out on top at auction

19th March 2018.

Tennants Auctioneers’ Spring Fine Art Sale on 17th March got off to a flying start with a strong selection of 20th century paintings selling to a packed saleroom.  Popular northern artists such as Norman Cornish, Brian Shields ‘Braaq’ and Peter Brook sold confidently, as did a group of prints after Laurence Stephen Lowry.

However, the top lot of the sale was ‘Girl with a Poke of Chips’, a striking mixed media painting by one of Scotland’s most popular 20th century artists, Joan Kathleen Eardley (1921-1963), which sold for £87,000 (plus buyer’s premium) against an estimate of £20,000-30,000. The painting had generated much interest prior to sale, and was eagerly fought over with 13 telephone bidders competing. Eardley is known for her powerful, expressive paintings of the gritty, the elemental, and the dilapidated in post-war Scotland.  One of her most frequent subjects was the ragged children in Glasgow’s poverty stricken tenements, one of whom is the sitter in the present painting. ‘Girl with a Poke of Chips’ was included in the 1975 Scottish Arts Council Exhibition, before being exhibited with Roland, Browse & Delbanco, London, where it was purchased in 1963. The painting was exhibited in Tennants’ loan exhibition 350 Years of British Art, November 2017.

A selection of paintings by artists from the Staithes Group attracted interest too. For 15 years spanning the turn of the 20th century, a group of artists of international stature were drawn to the fishing village of Staithes on the rugged North Yorkshire coast, where they depicted contemporary life under the influence of Impressionism. An expansive coastal view by Mark Senior (1862-1927), probably depicting Runswick Bay to the south of Staithes, sold for £15,000 (plus buyer’s premium), and a charcoal ‘Portrait of Ethel Bartlett’ by Dame Laura Knight (1877-1970) sold for £3,500 (plus buyer’s premium). However, it was a portrait by Harold Knight (1874-1961) that really drew attention; ‘Portrait of the Artist’s Wife, Laura Knight, head and shoulders’ sold for £8,000 (plus buyer’s premium) against an estimate of £2,000-4,000.

Over the past two years, linocut prints from the Grosvenor School of Art hailing from the estate of artist Edith Lawrence (1890-1973) have been performing strongly at Tennants, and the tranche released in this sale show a continuing demand. Works by Australian artist Dorrit Black (1891-1951) are proving particularly sought after, with much of the interest coming from her native country; ‘Corner of the Garden’ sold for £13,000 (plus buyer’s premium) against an estimate of £3,000-5,000, and ‘The Quartet’ sold for £11,500 (plus buyer’s premium) against an estimate of £2,000-3,000. A print of Edith Lawrence’s ‘Cricket’ sold for £6,200.

Representing the Bloomsbury Group were two paintings by Vanessa Bell (1879-1961) and Duncan Grant 1885-1978); ‘Country Landscape’ by Bell sold for £2,600 (plus buyer’s premium) and ‘Classical Landscape’ by Grant sold for £2,000 (plus buyer’s premium). Elsewhere, a light-filled still life by Dorothea Sharp (1874-1955), ‘Still Life of Calla Lilies Before a View of the Sea’ sold for £13,000 (plus buyer’s premium).

The sale resulted in a total hammer price of £1,474,590 for the 918 lot sale. The picture section realised a total hammer price of £354,990 for 112 lots, with a 96% sold rate.

Tennants are currently accepting lots for the Summer Fine Art Sale on 21st July 2018, please contact the Salerooms on 01969 623780 or for details.

Dorrit Black ‘Corner of the Garden’ – Sold for £13,000 plus buyer’s premium
Joan Kathleen Eardley ‘Girl with a Poke of Chips’ – Sold for £87,000 plus buyer’s premium

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