He worked in a wide variety of styles – from Surrealist to Expressionist to Cubist to Impressionist – with broad influences ranging from the Flemish Masters to Vincent van Gogh.
Middleton used these styles indiscriminately and moved back and forth between them over the years and even decades, as the circumstances of his life or environment suggested them.
Three pictures by the eclectic painter drew keen bidding in a sale of Modern British and Irish art at Bonhams (25% buyer’s premium) in New Bond Street on June 12. The trio – two impasto Impressionist landscapes and one Cubist-style work – dated to the 1940s-50s and were sourced from private collections in Northern Ireland and North America. They sold within or above guides for a combined £42,500.
Selling on top estimate for £18,000 was November Evening, Bangor Pier set in County Down, the largest oil at 20in x 2ft (51 x 61cm), showing a quayside in winter with three huddled figures illuminated at dusk by a single streetlight (above).
The response was mixed to the rest of the Irish art – about a dozen pieces in all – with two high-flying failures in the form of JB Yeats’ Romeo and Juliet (The Last Act), which depicts the ghostly bodies of the lovers lying next to each other (£80,000-120,000), and John Lavery’s First World War work London Hospital (£60,000-80,000).
Instead, the highest price was paid for a Rowan Gillespie (b.1953) bronze titled Looking at the Moon (1999), one of the artist’s so-called ‘Looking’ sculptures, which tipped over top estimate to sell for £45,000.
It was one of several bronzes by him to find buyers in the recent Irish art sales, including Gillespie’s Portrait of a Dreamer – Homage to John Lennon – a unique 7ft 5in (2.2m) high piece from 1982, which sold for €67,500 (£60,000) at de Veres of Dublin the day before.