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Art market

A PAINTING by the Irish artist Gerard Dillon (1916-71) ignited fierce bidding at a recent sale held at The Canterbury Auction Galleries (20% buyer’s premium).

Couple from Inishmaan, a 14 x 10½in (35.5 x 27cm) oil on canvas of a young man and woman standing on a quay, had been discovered when the auctioneers removed some 70 paintings from a small bedroom in Wadhurst, East Sussex.

The majority formed the studio collection of Margaret Barnard, a landscape artist and poster designer for London Transport, and her husband, Robert Mackechnie.

They were consigned to the sale by Barnard’s great nephew. “Most of the paintings were by Margaret Barnard or her husband, and a few by other artists, but a work by Gerard Dillon was the last thing I expected to find,” said auctioneer Cliona Kilroy.

From early in his career, the Belfast artist found inspiration in the life and landscape of Connemara and the Aran Islands (which Inishmaan is part of) on the west coast of Ireland. The canvases Dillon created here, executed in his personal and idiosyncratic style, garner a strong following at auction.

Couple from Inishmaan had last appeared on the market in 1946 when it was purchased by the vendor’s mother from an exhibition of living Irish artists at the Leicester Galleries in London.

Offered on February 7, it was pursued by 11 phone bidders and others online before it was hammered down to a London buyer at £13,000 against a £3000-4000 guide.

The same buyer paid a multiestimate £4000 for a dynamic 13 x 10in (33 x 25cm) linocut of men rowing a boat by Barnard (1900-92).

The Crew clearly shows the influence of linocut pioneer Claude Flight, Barnard’s teacher at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art.

Another keenly contested work was a 19½in x 2ft 5in (50 x 74cm) watercolour by Rowland Hilder (1905-93). The talented Americanborn artist was a distinctive painter of the English landscape but was almost a victim of his own success and dismissed by art critics because of his popular style.

The watercolour, showing a view of the centre of nearby Faversham, was bought to a valuation day by the vendors. On account of its good Kent subject, it was purchased by a local private buyer for an aboveaverage price of £5200 against a £2000-3000 estimate.

A healthy return emerged for the vendor of a handsome 2ft 1in x 3ft (63 x 91cm) hunting scene in an 18th century giltwood frame by equine artist Francis Sartorius (1734-1804).

It was purchased in June last year but its new owner found he was unable to accommodate it, prompting a quick re-sale and a profit.

After decent competition, it sold to a local private buyer for £8000 against a £2000-3000 guide.