IN the eyes of many of today’s collectors, it is the realist interiors, which range from old farm buildings to grand rooms, and the figure subjects of William Henry Hunt (1790-1864), which are most desirable, a fact highlighted by the artist’s sale results.
Good examples have often steamed ahead of expectations.
Typical examples, looking back over the last few years include
What shall I play? - Artist's daughter at piano (£9800 at
Sotheby's, July 1998), The woodcutter's breakfast (£13,000 at
Christie's, November 1999), Gardener in his potting shed (£10,000
in 1989 and £17,000 at Christies, June 2002), The Green Drawing
Room at Cassiobury (£22,000 at Christie's, November 1995) and Pet
lamb (£30,000, Sotheby's, June 2001) - being typical.
However, in the 1870s it was, in fact, Hunt's still life subjects
that became popular, with dealers such as Agnew's paying up to
around £500 for them.
Hunt embarked on fruit and flower painting in the late 1820s and
developed a technique of using a base of Chinese white on which he
used watercolour and bodycolour, giving his compositions an
Much admired by John Ruskin (1819-1900), the highly detailed
images of fruits on a mossy bank, often incorporating a bird's
nest, became a 'must have' for many a Victorian entrepreneur.
In real terms, these works have fallen significantly in value,
most now selling in the low thousands. This was certainly the case
with regard to eight specimens, which were offered at Sotheby's
(20/12% buyer's premium) British Sale on July 1.
'The property of a gentleman' these watercolours represent fine
examples and yet only three got away and all below the bottom
An oval still life with nectarines, plums, grapes and
forget-me-notes on a mossy bank could only muster a lower-estimate
£1500 and Still life with a jug, a cabbage in a basket and a
gherkin and Still life with sea shells on a mossy bank sold at
£2500 each, half the top expectations.
Fortune shone more favourably on another Hunt that appeared, also
on July 1, at Christie's South Kensington (19.5/12% buyer's
Despite being just 5 3/4in x 4 1/2in (14.6 x 11.4cm), the still
life of grapes, a tankard and a sprig of holly went ahead of a top
estimate of £1500 to bring in £3800.
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