When dispersing the contents of an artist’s studio, there is always the question of whether to sell the works all in one go or drip them onto the market over a longer period of time.
While the former approach is often necessitated by the
practicalities of having to store the items otherwise, the staging
and promotion of a studio sale can also garner special attention in
the artist that might not otherwise emerge.
At best these events offer an important body of work and provide
an opportunity to survey the artist's entire range and career. They
may even contain some of the best pictures which the painter
deliberately held back or couldn't bear to part with.
In fact, if this is the case, it is not unknown for these sales
to set a major new benchmark in terms of an artist's market - think
back to the Robert Lenkiewicz
studio sale at Bearne's in 2003 for example.
Most recently, this occurred at Gloucestershire
Chorley's (18% buyer's premium) when they dispersed the studio
collection of the artist Gerald Ososki
Over 100 works were consigned by his grandson to the auction at
the Prinknash Abbey rooms on July 23-24. These pictures had
remained with the family although his estate had earlier provided
around 70 lots of predominantly Italian Old Master drawings to a
Bruton Knowles sale in May 1987.
There was a real mixture in terms of medium, subject and
quality, but all the works were attractively estimated and they
duly met with an impressive response. There were also a number of
pictures that clearly shone out.
Born in London's East End, the son of a struggling tailor,
Ososki left school aged 14 and worked as a draughtsman designing
war memorials and inscribing them with names of the dead. He then
managed to gain a place at the Royal College of Art in the early
1920s after the principal, Sir William Rothenstein, secured a grant
which allowed him to study full-time.
Living and working in Hampstead for most of his life, he found
employment as an interior decorator for cinemas and theatres in the
1930s and, during the Second World War, he became an accomplished
Furthermore, he was a leading figure in the conservation of
historic buildings after the war including St James's Palace,
Clarence House, Lancaster House and the Gold and White State
Ballroom at Buckingham Palace.
In terms of the pictures he produced over the course of his
career, there were landscape paintings, portraits and detailed pen
and watercolour studies - all of which were represented at the
Remaining friends with Rothenstein, he would visit his mentor's
Cotswolds home on numerous occasions and his son later moved to
Gloucestershire himself (hence the connection to the Chorley's
Incidentally, an oil of the Rothensteins' Oakridge farm made
While Ososki was associated with his contemporaries at the Royal
College such as Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Edward Burra, he
has never had anything like the recognition of these major names in
20th century British art. Commercially, he has also had little
exposure, with the auction record before the current sale being the
£550 paid at Christies in 1991 for a watercolour of the fair on
Here at Chorley's, the bar was raised almost six-fold as a
strong reaction in particular was generated by his 1930s pictures
of scenes from this North London location.
'Ready to Hang'
In displaying the works to potential clients, the auctioneers
decided to arrange the works like a 'gallery viewing' and this
appeared to generate some extra interest from people who were not
necessarily familiar with the artist's work but found these
pictures attractive and decorative. The fact that they were in good
clean condition and nicely framed lent them additional appeal as
being 'ready to hang'.
On the day, there was some trade interest but it was mostly
private bidding that saw 96 of the 107 Gerald Ososki lots get away
for £27,275. The artist's previous record was exceeded eight times
here, starting with the second lot of the sale - a watercolour,
Bathers at the Pool, Hampstead Heath, which realised
The most notable factor in the bidding was that the works that
drew the highest demand combined the Hampstead subject matter with
a strong sense of the period in which they were painted - the two
fairground scenes that sold to private buyers and set two of the
highest prices in the collection being a case in point.
Fair on Hampstead Heath, a 14¼x 22in (36 x 56cm) ink
and watercolour, was a colourful view overlooking the setting which
was signed and dated 1932.
As well as being a panorama over the heath with plenty of
figures, it also had an element of social history depicting the
Easter and Bank Holiday fun fairs which started back in the late
19th century and were celebrated in Albert Chevalier's
song Oh 'Ampstead and in Phil May's 'Appy
'Ampstead' cartoons. Estimated at £400-600, it sold for £2000.
The same was true of At the Fair, Hampstead
Heath which was from the same year and in the same medium
and similarly sized at 14 x 22in (36 x 56cm). However, it provided
a rather different sense of the same event, being an on-the-ground
view with scattered figures and fairground wagons under the shaded
Estimated at £300-400, it drew determined bidding and was
eventually knocked down at £3200, the highest picture price of the
sale and the new benchmark for Ososki.
With the new market levels established at this sale, even a
drawing went beyond the previous saleroom high when Clearing in
a Wood, a 12½ x 18in (32 x 47cm) sanguine chalk and brush
drawing which was signed and dated 1954, overshot a £150-200
estimate and was sold for £850.
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