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‘Flowering Cactus’ by Dora Carrington that sold for £72,000 at Mallams in Oxford.

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It is the second highest price paid for the artist, next to Portrait of Frank Prewett sold by Sotheby’s in 2005 for £90,000.

The 2ft 6in x 18in (75 x 45cm) oil on canvas Flowering Cactus is pictured in Jane Hill’s biography The Art of Dora Carrington (1995).

The author notes: “Carrington took a different approach when she painted a red flowering cactus, perhaps one of the rare cactuses that Dorelia [McNeill, the common law wife of Augustus John] had given her in July 1931 for her hothouse.

“Such was her eagerness to paint it, she put the pot, still in its tissue paper, into a saucer of water and then placed it on the bare wooden floor against the corner of a blue wall.”

It came with a Bloomsbury provenance. It was one of several works in the sale that came from the family of James Strachey, the brother of the writer Lytton Strachey, with whom Carrington had a long and complex relationship.

Shortly after this picture was painted, in November 1931 Lytton Strachey became suddenly and violently ill and died of died of stomach cancer at Ham Spray House in January 1932. Carrington, convinced she had nothing to live for, committed suicide two months later.