The highest auction price for the artist since 2018 came at Bonhams (27.5/25/20/14.5% buyer’s premium) on September 22 when Blackgame, a 21in x 2ft 6in (53.5 x 75cm) watercolour from 1902, overshot a £60,000-80,000 estimate and was knocked down at £90,000.
The depiction of large grouse in the Scottish highlands had been acquired by the vendor’s father from The Tryon Gallery in London in 1966. With many of Thorburn’s works having been well traded over the years, the market freshness of this example clearly helped it commercially. Grouse paintings also stand at the top of the pecking order when it comes to Thorburn subjects.
Smaller and later
A couple of smaller and later Thorburn bird pictures offered at Cheffins (24.5% buyer’s premium) in Cambridge on September 29 also attracted interest. They came to auction as part of the collection from Landwade Hall in Suffolk having been purchased from London dealer Richard Green.
Offered first was A cock and a hen pheasant, a 7¼ x 10½ (19 x 27cm) watercolour on paper from 1917. Although not quite as commercial as grouse, pheasant come somewhere near the top of the tree and this example in good condition with strong colours looked like an attractive proposition against a £2000-3000 pitch. It was knocked down at £12,000.
The following lot was Grouse on a moor, a slightly larger 13½ x 18½in (34 x 47cm) watercolour on paper from 1922. Estimated at £7000-10,000, it was bid to £29,000. The price was the highest for a Thorburn sold in the English regions so far this year (although Ptarmigan in the snow from 1910 subsequently sold for £36,000 at Lyon & Turnbull in Edinburgh in October).
The top lot at the Cheffins sale was also a painting from Landwade Hall with earlier provenance to Richard Green. Huntsman and Hounds, November Morning by Alfred Munnings (1878-1959) was a 21½x 2ft 2in (55 x 67cm) oil on canvas which had an attractive subject for followers of country pursuits, with plenty of foxhounds and a redcoat blowing the bugle. It surpassed a £30,000-50,000 pitch and was knocked down at £70,000.