On the market for the first time, it had been owned by Joan Manning Sanders (1913-2003), herself an artist from Newlyn who knew Procter, and it was bequeathed by her to the mother of the vendor. The frame was believed to have been made by the artist’s husband, Ernest Procter.
The 14½ x 11in (36 x 28cm) portrait of a young girl had featured in an article titled Dod Procter and Her Work in the November 1926 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine.
The article gives the title of the work as Lydia, although the Manning Sanders family believed the sitter was the artist and designer Eileen Mayo – the subject of another portrait by Procter now in the Penlee House Gallery in Penzance.
The article states the sitter was ‘especially chosen for her high bald brow and turnip like head’.
Good Housekeeping helped position the oil as a relatively early work. The year 1926 is also the date of arguably Procter’s greatest painting, Early Morning, Newlyn, which was met with international acclaim when it was exhibited at the Royal Academy the following year.
During that period, and also in the few preceding years, Procter was also producing a series of enigmatic studies of solitary female subjects. They were admired for their simple but refined style, portraying the sitters in contemplative, sculptural poses.
Such works have commanded high prices at auction, such as Girl with a Parrot from 1925 that made £140,500 including premium at Christie’s in June 2015.
This was a much smaller and simpler portrait which had a few condition issues. It appeared that Manning Sanders may have worked on several areas that concerned her.
Nonetheless, against a £5000-8000 estimate at the auction on June 11, it was clearly an attractive proposition. The auction house thought it would at least double this, particularly as more and more phone lines were booked in the run-up to the sale. It eventually came down to a battle between two bidders, a private client and a London dealer. It was knocked down to the latter at £26,500.
The same buyer purchased the following lot from the same source, a still-life by Procter that again overshot estimate to sell at £18,000.
A further report of the sale will appear in Art Market in a future issue.