A full sale room saw strong prices achieved across the board at Tennants Auctioneers’ Modern & Contemporary Art Sale on 17th June.
Works by L.S. Lowry led the sale and drew lively bidding; ‘Street Scene with Figures’, which sold for £110,000 (all figures plus buyer’s premium) is the earliest work so far to appear on the market from a unique, rare group of joyful and vibrant figurative pastel works by Lowry, of which he seems to have made one a year between 1947 (or earlier) and 1950. Only two other notable works from the series that have previously come to market.
Five further drawings and paintings, all from private collections, represented a diverse cross section of Lowry’s extensive and varied oeuvre. ‘Tug’ a fine example of a work inspired by Lowry’s love of the North Sea (£84,000) was probably painted on one of his extended holiday stays at the Seaburn Hotel, Sunderland. The focus of the painting is the small but mighty tug, the hardest worker in the port. Lowry captures its strength and determination, battling its way across the picture trailing black smoke against the flat, white, almost featureless background.
From another Private Collection from the North West, were two drawings, ‘Family Group at the Seaside’ (£40,000), and ‘Group of Figures, Young and Old’ (£45,000). Lowry was vehement about the importance of drawing, considering it an art form in its own right. At Manchester College of Art, he was taught to draw in the classical manner, and his life drawings from this period are technically excellent. However, during the 1920s he began to develop his own unique style, experimenting with subjects, different techniques of drawing, and establishing a visual language that he would utilise and hone throughout his career. Interestingly, he continued to dress his figures in the same depression-era clothes of the 1920s, when widespread poverty led workers to wear ill-fitting second-hand garments. Whilst this can be partially attributed to the 1920s being the time when he established his style, it was also the happiest period of his often-troubled life.
Elsewhere in the sale, "St. Marks Church", Hackney by Harold Steggles (1911-1971) sold for £12,000, double the top estimate to set a new world auction record for the artist.
The sale realised a total hammer price of £436,270 for 170 lots, with an 87% sold rate.