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Smith witnessed this trend emerging at the auction house’s two-day sale of Design, Modern British and Post-War Art in Oxford on December 7-8.

A financial highlight was a 19½in (49.5cm) high bronze bust by Jacob Epstein (1880-1959) of his daughter Kitty, pictured above, one of three known of the sitter. Kitty married artist Lucian Freud in 1948, a marriage which did not last long, but resulted in two daughters.

Estimated at £3000-5000, it was taken to £9500, where it was knocked down to a private buyer on the phone.

Elsewhere, a quartet of sculptures by Geoffrey Dashwood (b.1947) also drew decent bidding. Although Dashwood is best known for his sculptures of birds, it was a 2ft 9in (84cm) nude female torso in bronze that fetched the highest sum, bid to a top estimate £7000.

Tragic model

Among the picture highlights was a small 12 x 8in (30 x 21cm) oil portrait by William Strang (1859-1921), also pictured above, believed to depict Eileen ‘Dolly’ O’Henry, a professional artist’s model who was shot dead by her lover, the painter John Currie, in a fit of jealously in 1914. According to the catalogue note, she was known to have been sitting for Strang at this time.

Acquired from a London dealer in the early 1980s, it was described by Smith as “stylistically very modern and on the edge” while also encapsulating the vibrant Bohemian feel that existed among the artist community in London at the time.

Acquired from a London dealer in the early 1980s, it was pursued to £6500 against a £3000-5000 guide.

Elsewhere, a 10½ x 9in (26.5 x 21.5cm) pencil on paper drawing of an Arabic man by Augustus John (1878-1961) was knocked down to the trade at more than three times the top guide at £6200. It had passed by descent through the family of British artist Enaid Jones (1888-1978).