The artist’s monumental 6ft 8in x 8ft 10in (1.74 x 2.72m) A Dorset Landscape was on the market at Duke's in Dorchester (May 12-14) for the first time since it was bought in June 1928 at the Royal Academy.
Estimated at £60,000-100,000, it sold at £225,000 to London dealer Daniel Katz, one of several phone bidders, against private and institutional interest.
Newton, the grandson of one of the founders of art paints manufacturer Winsor & Newton, enjoyed only a modest career and went largely unrecognised during his lifetime. At a low ebb in the wake of the First World War he had once been reduced to selling his works on street corners, and did not merit an entry in The Macmillan Encyclopedia of Art after his death.
The small loan exhibition The Peculiarity of Algernon Newton (1880-1968) held by Katz in 2012 helped put back on the map a painter whose moody urban views are today much admired for their unsettling sense of menace or foreboding.
In 1928 A Dorset Landscape was described by The Times as ‘the picture of the year’. It is a capriccio, or fantasy, and represents a distillation of what Dorset is famous for: Corfe Castle predominates, with an expanse of water representing Poole Harbour and chalk downland; a rural idyll evocative of Thomas Hardy’s novels. It is thought the painting was done as a paean to the novelist, who had died in January 1928.
At the RA, priced at £420, it was bought for Wormington – a neoclassical mansion near Broadway built in the 1770s by local architect Antony Keck – by Maud Clegg (1872-1933), American heiress and wife to General Lord Hastings Ismay (1887-1965).
‘Pug’ Ismay was one of Churchill’s most trusted wartime advisers who later oversaw the partition of India as Mountbatten’s chief of staff and served as the first secretary general of Nato. When elevated to the peerage in 1947 he was offered a hereditary title but rejected it, saying “I see no point in inflating my grandson’s expenditure at the tailors”.
It was, indeed, his grandson John Evetts (a furniture consultant to the Landmark Trust) who last year chose to sell the family seat and move to a smaller property.
The price for A Dorset Landscape (£282,000 including 25% buyer’s premium with ARR also due) is thought to be the highest at auction for Newton, bettering the view of City of London from Hampstead sold by Bonhams in June 2015 for £105,000.
British canal ‘Canaletto’
Coincidentally, a second work by Newton had been offered for sale by Woolley & Wallis in Salisbury the previous day (May 11). Regent’s Canal, Paddington, signed and dated 40, was just the sort of oil that earned the artist the nickname ‘the Canaletto of Britain’s canals’. Measuring a more typical 20in x 3ft 4in (51 x 76cm), it had been sold by the Leicester Galleries, London, in 1941 and last appeared at auction at David Lay in Penzance in 2009.
Estimated at £25,000-35,000, it sold for £75,000 (plus 25% buyer’s premium). Another version of the same scene, also dated 1940, was offered last year by London dealership Abbott and Holder with the asking price set at £70,000.