Thursday - 30 October 2014

Augustus John cache with celebrity status

06 September 2010Written by ATG Reporter

A COLLECTION of Augustus John drawings, consigned by the family of Dame Elizabeth Taylor, will be sold by a West London auction house on September 28.

The Taylor family enjoyed a long association with Augustus John (1878-1961) and these portraits and figure studies have been in the family's possession for over 70 years.

In a recent letter to Chiswick Auctions, Dame Elizabeth wrote "In the late 1930s my father Francis Taylor based his business as an art dealer in London. During that time he acquired a great many works by Augustus John including these drawings that the artist had torn up in a fit of anger... and which my father subsequently persuaded him to allow to be pieced back together, a task that my father undertook himself."

Francis Taylor was an art dealer with a gallery located at 35 Old Bond Street. He relocated with his family to California during the War, and opened an art gallery in the Beverly Hills Hotel where his clients included Vincent Price, James Mason, Alan Ladd and Greta Garbo.

Taylor was considered something of a trendsetter and was largely responsible for the popularity of Augustus John in the United States. Dame Elizabeth's elder brother Francis was later the Pembrokeshire artist's American agent for many years.

Jan Leman, picture specialist at Chiswick Auctions, said he had been unaware of the celebrity source of the drawings until, 40 minutes into a telephone conversation, his client Christopher Wilding requested the advice of his mother - who just happened to be the famous actress.

Mr Wilding (son of actor Michael Wilding who was Taylor's second husband) is handling the sale for the Taylor family. He said: "There are 47 drawings, and almost all were torn up into four to six pieces by the artist and subsequently rescued."

Augustus John himself referred to the incident in a letter dated September 23, 1939. Discussing his desire to paint the Queen at Windsor for an informal portrait that he could include in "my show in America", he states: "Francis Taylor is stashing all my beloved drawings and things away (many of which I tore up by-the-by in a fit of madness, but he has pieced them together again."

The professionally conserved drawings carry estimates ranging from £200 to £800.

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ATG Reporter

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