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Such was specialist-in-charge Harriet Drummond’s verdict on the response to Christie’s (10/17.5% buyer’s premium) November 21 British Art on Paper sale.

Overall the sale netted £779,800 from 182 lots, of which 65 (36 per cent) were left unsold. As Drummond intimated, the failure toll was much heavier for Victorian and earlier watercolours, while Modern British works on paper continued to command a thriving private following.
Undoubted star of the modern section was this work shown left.

This superb Eric Ravilious (1903-1943) pencil and watercolour drawing showed an interior at Bank House, Castle Hedingham, Essex, where Ravilious lived with his wife Tirzah from 1935-1938.

The composition is particularly notable for the presence of the plain vase which the artist was to decorate with his celebrated 1938 Boat Race Day design for the Wedgwood factory.

Helped by these associations, the drawing sold to a private bidder for £29,000 against an estimate of £10,000-15,000.

This proved to be the most expensive of the 20th century lots. Earlier in the sale, and by a couple of centuries or so, a Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830) pencil drawing of Elizabeth, Duchess of Devonshire (1758-1824) and a Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) chalk drawing of figures on a lake had topped the sale when they both achieved £42,000.