Consisting of more than 40 pictures, the group was consigned by Neuschul’s son to local Taunton auction house Greenslade Taylor Hunt (19.5% buyer’s premium) and offered in a dedicated auction on February 1.
It featured largely late figural works produced in London during an experimental phase in the artist’s career in 1950s and ‘60s. This was a time when Neuschul was struggling for recognition and drew inspiration from prevailing artists and movements such as Pablo Picasso and Pop Art.
Neuschul had made a name for himself in Berlin during the 1920s and ‘30s, producing socially critical art in a style influenced by the post-war New Objectivity movement.
Of Jewish descent and an outspoken critic of Fascism, he was targeted by the Nazis and forced to flee from Czechoslovakia in 1939.
Despite his early fame, Neuschul struggled to find success in England and his work slipped into obscurity.
In 2014, an exhibition of his Expressionist work at the New Walk Museum & Art Gallery in Leicester helped to raise the artist’s profile.
The following year, Berlin auction house Lehr Kunstauktionen set a new record for the artist at €18,000 (around £13,000) for Schleppkähne an der Elbe, a double-sided oil painting from 1926.
With Neuschul’s art gaining momentum on the secondary market, GTH’s offering was well-timed. Some 50 bidders registered to take part, and on the day, every lot got away to total £54,850 with an average lot value of £1300. Buyers bid from a raft of countries, including the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany and the US.
A number of the lots sold privately, while a Czech art gallery and museum were also interested and sent a representative to the saleroom.
The decorative appeal of the collection helped to generate competition, said GTH auctioneer Peter Rixon. “People were predominately drawn by the colour and subjects. The name was a draw as far as some of the trade buyers and those with a more academic interest were concerned, but we did have one or two people who had simply seen the sale online and been attracted by the raw look of the paintings.”
The top lot was a figurative group work titled The Artist and his Creation, featuring the only self-portrait of the sale. The 3ft 11in x 3ft 3in (1.2 x 1m) oil on canvas, dated 1958, shows the naked artist standing by a canvas of three female nudes. It sold online for £3200 to a Czech collector against a £3000-4000 estimate.
Among the most complete works of the group was 2ft 6in x 21½in (76 x 55cm) oil on canvas from 1954 titled Melancholische Halbakt (Melancholic Draped Nude). Well composed and painted in appealing shades of green, it sold above the guide to another Czech collector for £2600.
The influence of Picasso is evident in the abstract work Odalisken – Odalisques, a 1964, 3ft 3in x 2ft 5in (1m x 74cm) oil on re-used canvas.
The colourful work was secured by a phone bidder above a guide of £1000-1500 for £2100.