Standing 17in (41.5cm) high and carved from Caen stone while Gill was living in a remote hamlet in the Black Mountains of Wales, it was commissioned as a 21st birthday present for Desmond Flower, the son of Sir Newman Flower, whose publishing house Cassell & Co was in the process of publishing a volume of Gill’s essays.
Passed by descent through the family, it sold towards the lower guide at £210,000. A comparable work, double the size and titled Nude Girl with Hair (1925), sold at auction for the first time at Christie’s in 2017 for £332,750 (with fees).
Despite the controversy surrounding Gill’s sexual behaviour – he recorded the abuse of his children and sisters in his own diaries, which were first published in 1989 by his biographer Fiona MacCarthy – demand for his art has not diminished.
In 2015, Christie’s sold Gill’s large sculpture St Joan of Arc (1932) for £2.21m – an auction record for the English sculptor.
Solid bidding also emerged for one of Richard Lin’s (1933-2011) minimalist works from c.1970. It had been acquired directly from the artist in the 1970s and sold for £120,000 against a £100,000- 150,000 estimate.
As at Sotheby’s, the leading lot at Bonhams was a Lowry. Old Dwellings (1961), depicting a red brick archway between two working-class tenement blocks, sold on bottom estimate at £400,000.
The work was one of six oils and drawings by the artist from a private vendor who had acquired them from 1971-2013 on the advice of the Salford artist Harold Riley. Four found new homes.
Overall, Bonhams’ sale totalled just over £2m with a selling rate percentage in the mid-60s.