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Rare Naive J. Digby Curtis Sells for £25,000 in the British, European and Sporting Art Sale

17th July 2023.

A fine group of paintings from the Estate of Martin & Felicity Mackintosh of Harrogate led Tennants Auctioneers’ British, European and Sporting Art Sale on 15th July, achieving notable results well above pre-sale estimates. Topping the collection was a rare naïve early 19th century depiction of a ‘Shepherd and his Flock’ by J Digby Curtis (sold for £25,000 plus buyer’s premium), and an incredibly sensitive and tranquil depiction of a young girl in ‘Reading Time’ attributed to Edward Thompson Davis (1833-1867), which sold for £12,000 after fierce bidding. Further notable results from the collection included ‘A Quiet Moment in High Summer’ by Arthur Wardle (1864-1949) (sold for £6,500), ‘A Plentiful Still Life with Game and Hunting Accoutrements’ by Hendrik Reekers (1815-1854) (sold for £6,500), “Wharfedale near Bolton Abbey” by William Frederick Witherington (1785-1865) (sold for £3,500), and ‘Carving his Name’ by William Davis (1812-1873) (sold for £1,700)

From the estate of the late Ian Stephenson of Laithes, Penrith, Cumbria came a group of Pre-Raphaelite works, which all sold well. “Study for the Spirit of Justice” by Ford Madox Brown (1821-1893) sold for £7,000. Exhibited in the City of Manchester Art Gallery’s Autumn exhibition in 1911, the study was a working watercolour sketch for a large-scale cartoon of the same subject submitted for a competition to award commissions for the decoration of the newly built Palace of Westminster. It depicts the personifications of Justice, Mercy, Erudition, Truth and Wisdom, an allegorical representation of the House of Lords. Whilst it was not selected, it achieved acclaim from fellow artists. A further watercolour sketch for the cartoon is held in the Manchester City Art Gallery.

Also of note from the collection was a ‘Portrait of George Waugh’ by William Holman Hunt (1827-1910), which sold for £8,500. The sitter was the brother of the artist’s first wife, Fanny. The lawyer lived with his parents in Bayswater, but sadly died at 34 having accidentally drowned in the sea off Devon. It seems that the portrait was executed after his death, with the likeness taken from a photograph prior to 1874, when the arts cut of contact with his family-in-law. The portrait was once owned by writer Evelyn Waugh.  A Pre-Raphaelite School pen and ink of ‘A Figure Laid Before a Tombstone Cross’ sold for £3,500, “The Beloved” after Dante Gabriel Rosetti (1821-1882) sold for £4,500, and “Autumn Leaves” by Thomas Matthew Rooke (1842-1942) after J.E. Millais sold for £1,700.

Further notable results in the sale included a hammer price of £20,000 achieved for ‘Travellers in an Arcadian Landscape’ in the Manner of Claude Lorraine, and £16,000 achieved for the monochromatic and highly graphic “HMS Amethyst running the Yangtse Gauntlet, 30th July 1949” by notable marine painter Montague Dawson (1890-1973). An interesting group of works by Lake District artist Claude Harrison (1922-2009) saw high levels of interest to sell well above estimate with a family portrait, “Andrew and Alison” selling for £1,600, and ‘Wrestling Match in a Lakeland Landscape’ selling for £850.

The market’s appetite for Modern British portraiture continues, with the sale of “Impromptu in a flat”, a portrait of Denise Barwick, wife of Richard Llewellyn Barwick of Thimbleby Hall, Yorkshire by Vincent Galloway (1894-1977) selling for £3,500, more than ten times the bottom estimate. An unusual fragment of “Mr Ernest, the tramp and his wife” by Dame Laura Knight (1877-1970) also sold well at £3,200.

The sale achieved a total hammer price of £197,570 with an 88% sold rate for 117 lots.


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