Friday - 24 October 2014

Cardiff sale lifts Sir Kyffin into the premier league of prices

30 August 2013Written by Alex Capon

A number of oil paintings by Sir Kyffin Williams (1918-2006) gave a major fillip to Rogers Jones’ first sale in their new Cardiff saleroom. The results included the highest price ever seen for one of his works sold at auction.

The view of a coastal farm near Aberffraw on the Isle of Anglesey came from a vendor who had purchased it from the Albany Gallery in 1997. Although a trademark picture in terms of its style, there were a number of key elements which combined to help it reach these unprecedented levels.

Firstly, there were practical reasons - it was a signed work with a solid gallery provenance and, being a 23in x 2ft 11in (59 x 90cm) oil on canvas, it was a good 'manageable' size.

Secondly, there were painterly features - it was a simple composition with thickly applied impasto in an austere palette which, unlike with followers of many other artists, collectors prefer with Sir Kyffin's work.

Thirdly, there was the particular subject matter here. The cottage depicted was a known landmark not far from the artist's home on the island. Furthermore, the fact that there was snow on the ground, the sun setting over the Irish Sea and a standing pony in the foreground gave it special appeal beyond more standard works by the Welsh palette-knife wizard.

The estimate was set at £45,000-50,000 for the sale on July 6, which was pretty punchy in light of the fact that the previous saleroom high for Sir Kyffin was the £48,000 seen back in 2005 for Bryn y'r Hên Bobl sold at Christie's South Kensington.

However, the auctioneers reported additional interest from new clients at their inaugural Cardiff event and, with regular buyers from North Wales travelling down to bid, it was eventually knocked down on top estimate to a private collector who left a commission bid.

The £50,000 price was also a new house record for Rogers Jones.

Moelwyns Mountains

At the same sale, another oil painting by Sir Kyffin sold for £30,000. The unsigned picture showed two farmers leading their ponies through a landscape in the shadow of the Moelwyns mountains in Snowdonia.

A larger 2ft 6in x 5ft (75cm x 1.5m) oil on canvas, it came from the estate of the late Sir Michael Osmond Williams of Gwynedd, a neighbour and friend of the artist, who died last year aged 98. He had purchased it directly from Williams shortly after it was painted in the late 1950s.

Estimated at £30,000-40,000, it was knocked down on low estimate to a UK dealer.

Incidentally, other contents from Sir Osmond's home were sold by Rogers Jones in their June 29 sale.

Among them was a fine 17th century William and Mary oyster veneered kingwood cabinet-on-chest which sold for £15,000.

Overall, the sale in Cardiff raised £245,000 with 75% of the 303 lots sold.

The buyer's premium was 20%.

Antiques Trade Gazette is the weekly bible of the fine art and antiques industry. Read articles like this every week in the Antiques Trade Gazette or ATG app. Click here to subscribe today.

Back to top