Offered at Ayrshire saleroom Thomas R Callan (20% buyer’s premium) on June 12, The Black Hat was a 17¼ x 13¾in (44 x 35cm) signed oil on board which had been purchased by the vendor at Christie’s in December 1990. Back then the hammer price was £19,000.
It was an unusual work in that it combined a still-life of flowers to the background, brightly coloured fruit to the middle ground and a hatted figure moving from the edge into the foreground.
“Despite its small size, it has real presence,” said managing director of the auction house Michael Callan. “The picture has strong outlines, vibrant colours and a subject matter of three compositions all in one painting. This is Hunter at his best and illustrates why he is among the leaders of Post-war art.”
With the picture in good condition having been kept behind glass, it drew solid interest against a £50,000-70,000 estimate with three serious contenders bidding.
It came down to a head-to-head battle between a London dealer and a local collector, with the latter winning out at £76,000.