The extraordinary collection of the late Michael Raw of Sedbergh, who filled his home with an exuberant array of art and design, went under the hammer at Tennants Auctioneers on 7th October in The Harlequin Sale. The ‘white glove’ sale, in which every lot offered sold, attracted numerous bidders both national and international and sold to a packed saleroom.
Michael Raw was an erudite, compelling, and much-loved history teacher at Sedbergh School, remembered for his charm, warmth, and wit as well as his old-fashioned eccentricities. Michael was educated at Haberdashers School and Queens College, Cambridge and went on to write for the Cambridge Footlights and Not the Nine O’Clock News as well as playing rugby for the Harlequins before dedicating his life to teaching. At Sedbergh, he tempered his erudite teachings with entertaining and gruesome detail creating an enviable level of engagement from his pupils, taught rugby with great enthusiasm, and involved himself in all aspects of school life including writing and performing in the school’s sketch show A Kick in the Stalls. After retiring from teaching, he took on the role of school historian, preparing a history of the school to coincide with its 500th anniversary.
Jane Tennant, Director of Tennants Auctioneers said, “This really was a unique sale. Michael Raw was a man with a keen eye for colour and design and put together a highly personal collection the likes of which we will never see again.”
Highlights of the collection, which sold well above estimate, included a large abstract by the well-regarded Canadian artist William Perehudoff (1918-2013), which sold for £7,500 plus buyer’s premium. Born in a remote farming community in Saskatchewan, Perehudoff is best known for his colour field paintings and his work is held in numerous private and public collections. Further notable pictures in the sale included “Men Find the Music with Whistles, Drum and Guitar” by America Martin (b.1980) (sold for £4,500), “Abstraction” by Nina Tryggvadottir (1913-1968) (sold for £2,500), and “The Beauty of Nature” by Rebecca Campbell (b.1955) (sold for £3,500).
Amongst a good selection of sculpture in the sale was Sailboat by Breon O’Casey (1928-2011) (sold for £5,000). O’Casey was an important figure in the St. Ives School of artists, working alongside the likes of Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson. A hugely versatile artist, he created jewellery, woven rugs, etchings, paintings, and sculpture from his studio in Cornwall. Absorbing the world around him, he created abstracted impressions of patterns and forms found in nature, and the sea remained a constant source of inspiration. “Dancing to Time” by Jon Buck (b.1951) also sold well at £2,800, as did “Gorilla Orange and Blue” by Iain Nutting (b.1961) that sold for £2,500, Blue Triple Twisted Loop by Merete Rasmussen (b.1974) that sold for £2,000, and Kingfisher by Anthony Theakston (b.1965) that sold for £3,200.
Central to the sale was 20th Century Design, with much of the furniture on offer inspired by the De Steijl movement, and with examples of designs by such 20th century greats as Le Corbusier and Josef Hoffmann reissued under license by leading modern manufacturers. Strong interest led to many pieces achieving results close to retail prices, such as three Cassina 280 Zig Zac Chairs designed by Gerrit Thomas Rietveld, the red example of which sold for £750. Also made by Cassina to Reitveld designs were a 635 Red and Blue Lounge Chair (sold for £1,400), and a Schroeder Table (sold for £2,000). Further notable results were achieved for three Vision Cabinet De Stijl made by Pastoe, the top example of which sold for £1,300, and three hand knotted and hand spun woollen rugs made by Christopher Farr, which included Giraffe III designed by Georgina Von Etzdorf that sold for £750. Also selling well, was a set of two Hexa Coffee Tables designed by Bernard Vuarnesson for Bellato, which sold for £2,500.
The sale achieved a total hammer price of £169,290 for the 193 lots offered, and a 100% sold rate.