Although it got away below £300,000-500,000 estimate, the sum fetched ranks in the top 20 auction prices for the artist according to the Art Sales Index.
The auctioneers reported two phone lines in contention and said it sold to a UK buyer. The price is the third highest for a picture at Roseberys after the £440,000 bid for Léon Bakst’s Bathers on the Lido, Venice that sold in May 2013, and the £305,000 made by unpublished sketch of the back of a Hampstead terrace by John Constable in March this year.
The auction record for Patrick Caulfield was set at Sotheby's in November 2016 when Foyer from 1973 sold for £665,000 including premium.
Simple but significant
The oil on board from 1964 was a large work that was deemed bold in its simplicity. Pony dated from an early period in Caulfield’s career when he was beginning to gain recognition, executed in the same year that the artist exhibited at the New Generation show at London's Whitechapel Gallery (which led to his association with Pop Art), and a year before his first solo show at the Robert Fraser Gallery.
On initial inspection, Pony, which is painted in household oil-based paint and measures 4 x 5ft (1.22 x 1.53m), may appear stylistically inkeeping with 1960s Pop Art. However, this was a label the artist rejected throughout his career.
Roseberys director Marcus Grey said: “Where Pop Art focused on the throwaway culture of consumerism, Caulfield was looking to challenge himself and the viewer by presenting often traditional, romanticised subject matter that many other modern artists of the time shied away from.
“It could be argued the stylised line, bold colours and flattened surface areas in his works are almost the only crossover between Pop Art and his work.”
The auction at the West Norwood saleroom represented the first time on the open market since its original purchase directly from the artist in the year of its conception.
It was on loan to the Tate gallery in 1981 for inclusion in the artist’s first major retrospective titled 48 Paintings from 1963-81, and was also in the artist’s third retrospective exhibition in 1999 comprising 55 paintings from the years 1961-97 at The Hayward Gallery.
Apart from these public appearances, Pony has remained in the same family’s possession since 1964, having been purchased by Mr and Mrs Tom Chetwynd; then by descent. The Chetwynds were friends of Caulfield and they purchased this work alongside Still Life with a Dagger (1963), now held by the Tate in London.
As part of their marketing, the auctioneers released the promotional video below before the sale.