In particular a watercolour of The Jolly Farmer pub in Farnham by Barbara Jones (1912-78) drew fervent competition against a £200-300 pitch.
The Croydon-born artist was a painter, mural designer and writer who had studied at Croydon Art School and the Royal College of Art, where she was taught by Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden.
She went on to gain a number of notable positions. In 1954 she became a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Designers (later serving as vice-president); she was chairman of the Society of Mural Painters from 1957-61; a fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute from 1960; and served as a governor of the Central School of Arts and Crafts from the mid-1950s.
While her painted works come up only from time to time at auction, arguably the most sought after are her series of early views of English landscapes and landmarks produced for the ‘Recording Britain’ project, a scheme initiated in 1940 by Kenneth Clark, director of the National Gallery.
The picture of The Jolly Farmer was a 14½ x 22in (37 x 55.5cm) signed watercolour dating from 1944 which appeared at the Bellmans (22% buyer’s premium) sale of Modern British and 20th Century Art in Wisborough Green on June 29. It came to auction from a private Sussex vendor.
It had a ‘War Economy’ label to the back referring to the ‘Londoners England Scheme’ which was thought to refer to a regional extension of the Recording Britain project.
The Farnham pub was the birthplace of the pamphleteer, journalist and radical MP William Cobbett (1763-1835). Cobbett’s father had been the landlord and his third son was born in one of the upstairs rooms. The pub in the Surrey town’s Bridge Square still stands today, although it was renamed the William Cobbett in the 1970s.
These local connections added to the interest that surrounds the ‘Recording Britain’ project and ensured it spiralled over its modest estimate. It was eventually knocked down at £5500 to a private buyer in the Channel Islands, a record sum for a work by Jones at auction.
Also in demand was a Max Beerbohm (1872-1956) caricature of the writer and founding member of the Bloomsbury Group, Lytton Strachey.
Dating from 1931, the 12½ x 7¼in (32 x 18.5cm) signed watercolour had been part of an exhibition dedicated to the artist at The Leicester Galleries in London in 1952 and was in good overall condition despite from minor foxing and general wear.
Beerbohm was fascinated by Strachey and delivered an entertaining lecture (or ‘critical remembrance’) about the author of Eminent Victorians in 1943 which was subsequently published.
The picture was in keeping with Beerbohm’s famous caricatures depicting the likes of Oscar Wilde and Winston Churchill, emphasising the aesthetic Strachey’s lean and wiry features.
Another Beerbohm head study of Strachey had sold for £3500 at Sotheby’s back in December 2001, but this one did slightly better.
Estimated at £800-1200, it drew bidding on the phone and internet and was eventually knocked down at £4200 to the trade.