Among the lots offered in the Modern & Contemporary art auction on November 4 in West Norwood, south London, was a trio of Lowry-like Manchester townscapes by Arthur Delaney (1927-87). The Lancashire-born artist, whose works are a popular substitute for collectors unable to afford paintings by LS Lowry, had no formal art training and worked in a textile mill his entire working life.
The market-fresh oils depicting Manchester landmarks came from a longstanding private UK collection and attracted multiple bids. Two went to a collector in Manchester while the third sold to a buyer in the south of France. The pick of them, a quintessential depiction of Northern industry titled Daisy Bank Mill and measuring 12 x 6½in (31 x 16.5cm), made its top estimate of £4000.
A more affordable alternative to Stanley Spencer came in the form of two works by Thomas Saunders Nash (1891-1963).
Nash met Spencer while studying at the Slade and proved to be a significant influence on him. The Miraculous Draught of Fishes (1949), a 2ft x 2ft 6in (61 x 76cm) oil on board, bore the hallmarks of both artists – particularly the focus on bold figuration and religious subject matter. From a longstanding private collection, it nearly tripled hopes to sell for £2400. This sum is towards the upper end of auction prices for the artist.
Cliffe has the edge
Also freshly presented to the market were close to a dozen lots from the estate of artist Henry Cliffe (1919-83), one of the more obscure names associated with the Bath Academy of Art group. Cliffe taught alongside William Scott, Terry Frost and Peter Lanyon at the academy in Corsham, Wiltshire, in the 1950s-60s.
The bronze sculptures, pencil studies and Abstract gouache works offered for sale came from this fruitful period in which he explored the relationship between the human figure and landscape.
All sold to a mix of UK private and trade buyers above expectations to generate just under £10,000. The most expensive lot, containing an appealing gouache and graphite work in orange titled No. 2 (1965) and three undated Abstract works on paper, tripled hopes to achieve £1700.
Concentrating on more traditional art, a large so-called ‘Conversation Piece’ sold in a sale of Old Masters and 18th and 19th century pictures at Roseberys on November 24.
From the 1730s onwards, this new type of portrait painting became fashionable in England. Without the swagger of grand portraiture, these intimate, informal and often domestic scenes depicted groups of family or friends engaged in conversation, music, tea or cards.
This fine Georgian example depicted Sir John Hopkins, a wholesale greengrocer and future Lord Mayor of London, with his family and brother-in-law, Dr Nathaniel Boutflower.
The unusually large 3ft x 4ft 2in (96cm x 1.27m) oil on canvas featured in English Conversation Pictures, a 1930 exhibition of loaned paintings organised by Sir Philip Sassoon and credited with bringing the genre back into the public eye. It was later bought by London dealer Frost & Reed in 1973 at Sotheby’s where it was attributed to German neoclassical painter Johan Zoffany.
Catalogued at Roseberys as ‘English School, circa 1760-1780’, it came with a large consignment of art and antiques from the collection of Victor Lownes, a former executive of Playboy.
Admired for its fine composition, subject matter, good condition and provenance, and offered in an attractive gilded Chippendale-style frame, it drew a flurry of bids against a £8000-12,000 estimate and was knocked down to the London trade at £17,000.