John Blackburn abstract art
‘Black and White Split’ by John Blackburn, a work from the John Ady collection which is being sold on behalf of Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge. It is estimated at £700-1000 at the Cheffins auction.

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The 23 pictures have come from two sources, one of which is the collection of the late architect John Ady which has yielded seven Blackburn paintings as well as works by other artists.

Ady left his collection to Kettle’s Yard when he died in 2019. He had met Jim Ede, creator of the house museum and gallery in Cambridge, in 1958 and the pair enjoyed a lifelong friendship.

The auction house said that the bequest was made with the understanding that any works the gallery chose not to acquire would be sold. The 36 works are now offered at Cheffins solely on behalf of Kettle’s Yard and are estimated to raise a combined £35,000.

Director at Cheffins Brett Tryner said the funds raised will go towards “continuing to produce exhibitions and events at Kettle’s Yard, caring for the collection and supporting artists”.

Director of Kettle’s Yard Andrew Nairne said: “Kettle’s Yard relies on the generous support of donors. Legacies like these enable us to care for the Kettle’s Yard House and collection, make special exhibitions, commission artists and composers, engage with local communities and organise activities for children and young people.”

Abstract art collector

Having been a collector of abstract art throughout his life, Ady formed close friendships with many artists including Blackburn.

Among the works on offer at the auction is a large mixed media on board titled The Small Cream Square which Ady had acquired from Lemon Street Gallery in Cornwall. Dating from 2010 (reworked in 2012), it measures 4ft x 22in (1.22m x 56cm) and is estimated at £2000-3000.

Another Blackburn lot is Black and White Split from 2009 which Ady bought from London dealer Osborne Samuel. The 201/2 x 101/2in (52 x 27cm) mixed media on board is estimated at £700-1000.

The Ady lots also include a Paul Feiler (1918-2013) abstract oil on canvas, Horizontal Yellow from 1964, which is estimated at £12,000-18,000.

Simpson consignment

‘White L on Black’ by John Blackburn

‘White L on Black’ by John Blackburn, a work from the Peter Simpson collection which is estimated at £2000-3000 at Cheffins.

The other Blackburn pictures at the Cheffins sale have come from London-based collector Peter Simpson.

Among them is White L on Black, a 4ft (1.22m) square oil on board from the mid-1960s which Simpson acquired directly from the artist. It has an estimate of £2000-3000.

The Simpson collection also has a Kettle’s Yard connection in the form of a small posthumous bronze cast of a Henri Gaudier-Brzeska (1891-1915) sculpture. Duck, which was originally conceived in marble in 1914, was one of the artist’s ‘pocket sculptures’ carved shortly before he enlisted in the French army and was killed in the trenches the following year.

Henri Gaudier-Brzeska bronze 'Duck'

‘Duck’, a bronze cast of a Henri Gaudier-Brzeska sculpture – estimated at £12,000-18,000 at Cheffins.

The sculpture was later cast in bronze in 1964-68 in an edition of 12 (one in lead also exists). This example was owned by Kettle’s Yard founder Jim Ede from whom it is believed Simpson directly acquired it.

Measuring 4.75in (12cm) long, it is estimated at £12,000-18,000 at the Cheffins sale.