It was bought at Hertfordshire County Council’s sell-off of works at Cheffins on March 21 for a hammer price of £13,000, against an estimate of £1000-2000.
According to the council, 60% of the collection sold was previously kept in storage and not available to the public.
The Jerwood Collection was set up 25 years ago with a focus on British art from the First World War to the 1960s.
Lara Wardle, director and curator at the Jerwood Collection said the picture “joins another small-scale oil by Ayrton of a similar date as well as three sculptures held in our collection”.
She added: “It feels very fitting to have bought a work with this particular provenance as the purpose of our privately-owned collection of modern and contemporary British art is to share it publicly and I hope that this painting will continue to inspire children and adults alike.”
Ayrton was an artist, writer, designer, critic and novelist. British art historian Frances Spalding, in a recent article in ATG (2387), said: “Ayrton was initially associated with the Neo-Romantics and a theatrical element remained always to the fore in his work”.
She added: “The small but beautifully intense oil painting, entitled Encounter No 1, from 1947, reflected the new formal rigour that entered British art after an exhibition of recent work by Matisse and Picasso went on show at the V&A in the winter of 1945-46.
“The catalogue entry for this work mentioned Ayrton’s visit to Italy in 1947 and the fresh impact made on him by Masaccio and Piero della Francesca. But awareness of John Minton’s dockland scenes may also have inspired the background to the intense meeting that binds together the foreground figures.”
The Jerwood Collection includes works by Sir Stanley Spencer, LS Lowry, Walter Sickert and Augustus John but it has also been buying contemporary artists including Rose Wylie, Maggi Hambling and Jeffery Camp.
The collection was set up by the Jerwood Foundation to give public access to its privately-owned collection of art and to “enhance the understanding and enjoyment of 20th and 21st century British art”. The foundation was established by Alan Grieve for businessman and philanthropist John Jerwood in 1977. Grieve has been running it as chairman since Jerwood's death in 1991.