Monday - 01 September 2014

Seminal Nevinson comes to market after 76 years

20 September 2010Written by ATG Reporter

WARTIME works by C.R.W. Nevinson (1889-1946) are iconic, sought after and scarce – a potent commercial combination.

Copies of his early prints alone now command £50,000 upwards (the auction record is £65,000 and others have been sold privately for over £80,000), so what price an original oil painting produced just at the point when he developed his trademark futurist style?

After keeping button-lipped over the last couple months while they researched the picture, Mallams of Oxford have finally announced that they will be selling such a work. It was found hanging in a house near Oxford for which the auctioneers were carrying out a probate valuation and they believe it is an early, seminal and previously untraced work.

"As soon as I saw it, I felt it was right," Philip Smith of Mallams told ATG. "The family were not fully aware of its importance but, after working on it over the last few months, we can now say that we have it consigned for sale.

"It dates from before the First World War but represents a crossover between his pre-war and wartime work."

Before the war began, Nevinson spent around a year travelling in France, Belgium and Holland and was based in Paris in late 1912, producing views of the French capital, including pictures of the city's fortifications.

The signed 17½ x 23¼in (44 x 59cm) oil on canvas dates from 1913 and is entitled Bravo!

It depicts French troops on the move with figures cheering in the background. It has features of the impressionist style that Nevinson pursued during his studies at the Slade (1909-12) - in particular the pointillist sky - but it also has clear signs of the mechanical momentum and geometric structures that he developed in his Great War works and which are now most associated with the artist.

Crucially, it was part of his inaugural exhibition at the Leicester Galleries in 1916 and it may well have been the earliest work in that ground-breaking show which made his name.

Indeed, contemporaneous press reviews of the exhibition focused on Bravo! as being a counterpoint to the darker and more disastrous views of war in the exhibition.

The work was therefore known to scholars but it has not been seen since the exhibition and its whereabouts was unknown until now.

It appears that the late owner was a friend of the artist Vera Waddington (1886-1954), who probably knew Nevinson either from the Slade, Paris or their mutual connections with the Bloomsbury Group. The collection also includes a number of works by Vera Waddington herself and some other less valuable Modern British pictures.

The Nevinson will be offered in untouched condition, although it has a small tear near the lamppost in the centre of the canvas, at Mallams' sale in Oxford on October 13 and it is estimated at a conservative £25,000-35,000.

"Nothing like this has been offered before," said Philip Smith. "It's therefore very difficult to predict what it will make."

By Alex Capon

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