THE work of Edward Seago (1910-1974) has always been popular. Even during his own lifetime, Colnaghi’s annual exhibitions of his paintings between 1946 and 1966 on Old Bond Street drew such fierce competition that buyers, some of whom had queued overnight, were restricted to one picture each.
This February, three London galleries in Mayfair and St James - The Portland Gallery, The Taylor Gallery and Richard Green - will mount major retrospective shows of Seago's work to mark the centenary of his birth.
The perennially popular artist was born in Norwich on March 31, 1910, but was confined to bed by a heart problem for much of his childhood, during which time he taught himself to paint, encouraged by the East Anglian artists Sir Alfred Munnings and Bertram Priestman.
Seago's art was always rooted in East Anglia and these views are still some of his most desirable, but his considerable commercial success allowed him to travel widely, painting prolifically wherever he went, from Hong Kong and Thailand to Europe and North Africa. Although undoubtedly best known for his landscapes, he also painted animal and circus studies while working at a circus in his late teens and early twenties.
Seago is an art dealer's dream. Attractive, accomplished paintings infused with light, depicting an array of picturesque locations that are, fortunately, the homes or holiday destinations of a well-heeled group of collectors. As Emily Johnston of the Portland Gallery put it, Seago "perfectly spans the gap between the modern and the traditional, which makes him incredibly popular".
Gild this with the glamour of his friendships with the Royal Family, particularly the Queen Mother, Prince Charles and Prince Philip, whom he joined on a painting trip to Antartica in 1956, and you have an eminently commercial artist. His work appears regularly at auction and in 2004, at Christie's, Derby Day, a signed 1936 oil on panel, trounced a £20,000-30,000 estimate to sell for a premium-inclusive £318,850, a record for Seago.
The Taylor Gallery, Portland Gallery and Richard Green have all held numerous Seago exhibitions in the past, for which they report a consistently strong response, and all have spent several years gathering works for the shows. They report that while, predictably, the bulk of collectors tend to be British, thanks to his wide painting travels Seago collectors are found in America, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and increasingly in Europe.
By Anna Brady