'Damier et Cubes' by Claude Venard – £12,000 at Sworders.

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The Modern and Contemporary art sale on October 5 was the Essex saleroom’s first under this banner, following a rebranding of its previously titled Modern British art auctions.

Bringing strong competition against a modest £2000-3000 estimate was an intriguing composition by the ‘post-Cubist’ Claude Venard (French, 1913-99).

It came to auction as part of the contents from Folly Mill in Thaxted, a Grade II-listed manor house in Essex that provided Sworders with a large selection of furniture and antiques sold separately. The property itself was sold in April.

Damier et Cubes, a 18 x 15in (46 x 38cm) signed oil on canvas was characteristic of Venard’s distinctive angular style and, while it was not his largest or most colourful work, examples of which can make over £20,000, it certainly drew admirers.

This work was eventually knocked down at £12,000 to a US dealer, a mid-range price but one that may well have been more were it not for the long thin scratch to the right of the canvas.

A US dealer also secured a small oil painting by Françoise Gilot (b.1921). Procession, a brightly coloured Abstract from 1963, overshot a £6000-8000 pitch to take £12,000. It came with a handwritten letter from the artist dated October 1966 certifying that it was painted by her three years earlier.

Australian eye-catcher


'The Musician' by Loudon Sainthill – £8500 at Sworders.

While an untitled watercolour and gouache by Alexander Calder (1898-1976) sold below predictions to the London trade at £18,000, one of the pictures going to a private buyer was an eye-catching work on paper by Australian artist Loudon Sainthill (1919-69).

The Musician, a 2ft 6in x 22in (77 x 57cm) pen and ink, watercolour and gouache from 1958, came to auction from a vendor who had been bequeathed it by the well-known Chelsea framemaker Alfred Hecht. Hecht worked for many leading artists such as Graham Sutherland and Francis Bacon and crossed over into dealing later in his career. He also put together a significant personal collection.

Born in Tasmania, Sainthill worked in theatre design in Melbourne and it was his paintings of dancers that led to him being invited to London to exhibit at the Redfern Gallery.

While continuing to design sets and costumes for major productions at the Royal Opera House as well as elsewhere, he also produced a large number of paintings and this example in Essex was part of a series depicting figures with architectural as well as musical elements. Another work from the series is in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia and a smaller one had appeared at Canterbury Auction Galleries in October 2017, making £6000.

Here the estimate was set at £6000-8000. After a decent competition, it was knocked down at £8500, the highest price the artist has fetched at a UK auction (source: Artprice by Artmarket).