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Newly discovered Augustus John Drawing Sells for £16,000

22nd March 2021.

A newly discovered drawing by Augustus John of his mistress and muse Dorelia sold for £16,000 (plus buyer’s premium) in Tennants Auctioneers’ British, European and Sporting Art Sale on 20th March. Augustus John (1878-1961) was regarded as one of the finest artists and the pre-eminent society portraitist of his day. Poetic and impressionistic, John’s inciteful portraits capture the spirit of the age and the bohemian circles in which he mixed. John was introduced to Dorothy ‘Dorelia’ McNeill by his sister and fellow artist Gwen John in 1903, and she became first his model then his mistress. Dorelia became an icon of bohemian fashion and was the subject of many of John’s most inciteful and personal paintings. The present drawing, executed in broad strokes of charcoal on buff paper, dates from circa 1903-05 at the start of their long relationship.

Selling well above estimate was ‘The Old Garden’ by Dame Laura Knight, which sold for £11,000. The oil on canvas had previously been exhibited in the Royal Academy’s landmark retrospective of Knight’s work in 1965 – the first such exhibition at the gallery honouring a woman. Also creating a stir in the sale room were ‘Two women embracing a baby’ by Eugène Carrière, which sold for £8,000, and ‘Portrait of a haunting beauty’ by Polish artist Tadeusz Styka, which sold for £7,000.

Traditional and 19th century watercolours saw encouraging results across the board, lead by Archibald Thorburn’s 1908 watercolour ‘Sea Birds’, which sold for £25,000. ‘Voyageurs camping by a lake, historically known as Lake Superior’ by Canadian artist Frances Anne Hopkins sold well above the £500-800 estimate to sell for £4,200. Selling well, too, were Thomas Miles Richardson Jnr.’s ‘Ullswater from Gowbarrow Park, Cumbria’ (sold for £4,500), Thomas Shotter Boys’ ‘The Church of St. Wulfram, Abbeville’ (sold for £2,900), and Henry James Johnstone’s ‘The Sea Urchin’ (sold for £2,500).

Amongst the Sporting Art section of the sale, a group portrait thought to be depicting Lord Durham, Ralph Lambton and Billy Williamson riding to a meet by John Dalby of York sold well at £6,000. Selling confidently, too, were two works by Frank Moss Bennett; ‘Returning from the hunt’ and ‘After Cub Hunting’ both sold for £4,800. A good selection of prints by Charles Johnson Payne, known as ‘Snaffles’, generated good levels of interest. The top lot was ‘The Finest View in Europe’, which sold for £1,200, nearly ten times the bottom estimate.

The sale achieved a total hammer price of £246,810 with a 97% sold rate for 141 lots.

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