Just three paintings and two drawings are known to have survived from her days as a Vorticist during the First World War (she was one of only two women admitted into the British avant-garde group), while a dozen or more pictures are known from her time in France in 1911-13. Ill health and war account for this low number as most works became lost or destroyed.
So, when a pair of works dating from Dismorr’s time in France were consigned to Roseberys’ (23% buyer’s premium) sale in London on December 6-7, they inevitably drew interest.
Each had been purchased from the Fine Art Society’s joint exhibition of the artist’s work with that of her lifelong friend Catherine Giles in 2000.
The more expensive of the two was View of Les Baux, a signed 16 x 12½in (40 x 32cm) oil on panel of the historic hilltop town in the south of France.
Dating to 1911, when Dismorr was heavily influenced by the Fauves, the colourful work was bid to £9200 against a £4000-6000 estimate. A different Les Baux scene from the same year sold for a premium-inclusive record £13,750 at Sotheby’s in December, 2013.
The other picture, The Memorial Cross, was a sombre scene painted in Avignon a year later in 1912. Less commercial in subject matter, the 13 x 16in (33 x 41cm) oil on panel was bid to a top-estimate £4000.
An unexpected result in the sale was achieved for an undated, murky and diminutive watercolour by the great English landscape painter John Constable (1776-1837).
Showing the tip of a cottage roof against an expanse of cloudy sunset, this 3 x 4in (7 x 11cm) work was not deemed particularly special.
It did, however, have an early post-war label for a Constable exhibition held by The Arts Council of Great Britain, and another for dealers Thomas Agnew & Sons.
“There is a lot of Constable’s work floating around still but probably very few documented with good labels on it like that,” said Marcus Grey, head of Roseberys’ picture department.
With the vendor “keen to sell” it was guided at £800-1200 but went on to achieve £15,000, the top picture price in the auction.
“The name is everything in this case and perhaps with further research the watercolour may be placed into a group of similar works that will give it context,” Grey added.
A more muted reception greeted the 30-lot group of pictures from the property of Lucy Ewing, which was led by a clutch of small works by the Scottish Colourists.
A number of lots struggled to get away including a Samuel Peploe study of woman in a headscarf and a watercolour landscape by Francis Cadell.
“The results from this collection were reasonable but didn’t surpass our expectations,” said Grey, adding: “If anything it went a little bit under. Perhaps there was an economic aspect at play.”