A small but superb pen and ink sketch by Samuel Palmer (1805-81) drew a dramatic competition against a $250,000-350,000 estimate and was the top lot among the 28 works on offer.
Dating from c.1831, A Church With A Boat And Sheep was one of the visionary landscapes Palmer produced during his fabled ‘Shoreham’ period when he lived in the rural Kent village and created some of his most famous pictures.
Other examples of his monochrome drawings from this time (which the artist referred to as his ‘Blacks’ and exhibited a number of them at the Royal Academy in 1832) are now in museums including the Ashmolean, Tate Britain, the British Museum and the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester. As such, they rarely appear on the market.
Before this sale, the auction record for Palmer stood at £680,000 for a slightly earlier pencil, ink and watercolour of an oak and beech tree in Lullingstone Park, sold at Christie’s in London in June 2000.
However, it was arguably not since 1995 that a comparable work had been offered at auction: A Cornfield, Shoreham, at Twilight that sold at Sotheby’s in London for £145,000 back in April 1995.
This 7¼ x 5½in (18.5 x 13.5cm) drawing had been purchased by the Barnets from London dealership Somerville and Simpson on one of their twice-yearly trips to Europe in 1979. At the auction on January 31, it commanded plenty of attention that carried it over five times the top estimate before it was finally knocked down to a private New York collector at $2m (£1.4m).
With drawings by Goya and Claude Lorraine also selling above estimate, the sale generated a hammer total of $9.54m (£6.71m) and 19 of the 28 lots sold.