In particular, two pictures by Roger Fry (1866-1934) which came from a private collection in Canada caught the eye.
A London Garden, signed and dated 1924, depicted two women in the artist’s garden at 7 Dalmeny Avenue, north London, where he lived from 1919-26. The same setting is depicted in a woodcut from c.1919 and also features in another painting, but without the figures, now in Islington Local History Centre and Museum.
The 20in x 2ft 3in (51 x 69) oil on canvas laid on panel here was a bright and pleasing composition and, estimated at £10,000-15,000 at the auction on June 30, it sold at £24,000 – a decent sum for the artist.
But with a Bloomsbury boost commanded by portraits of other members of the group, even greater competition came for an earlier Fry painting of Vanessa Bell lounging in a deckchair.
The 13¼ x 22in (33 x 56 cm) oil on board had a particularly attractive date of 1911. In the summer of that year Bell stayed at Fry’s house, Durbins, near Guildford as well as at a nearby rented house called Millmead Cottage. She was recovering after suffering a bout of illness while in Turkey with Fry, Clive Bell and Harry Norton earlier in the year.
It was at about this time that Fry and Bell began an affair and the several portraits that they painted of each other the next year or two are now rarely available and highly sought after.
Pitched at £15,000-25,000, this painting (which had another painting of Bell lying on the grass on the back) sold at £45,000 – the second-highest price for Fry at auction, only behind the extraordinary £260,000 at Bonhams in July 2020 for a portrait of the writer EM Forster which set a huge record both for the artist and any Bloomsbury Group picture.
A work by Vanessa Bell (1879- 1961) herself also underlined the significant growth in Bloomsbury pictures. Pond from a Window, a small signed oil on canvas from 1944 overshot a £12,000-18,000 guide and sold to a UK private buyer at £50,000. The vendor had purchased it at Duke’s of Dorchester in April 2007 where it was knocked down at £5000, meaning it fetched a major return over the 14 years even adjusted for inflation.
Overall, Bonhams’ sale raised a hammer total of £2.95m with 57 of the 71 lots sold (80%).
The auction was led by a trademark Lynn Chadwick (1914-2003) sculpture that exceeded a £300,000- 500,000 estimate and sold to a European private buyer at £680,000.
Maquette Jubilee II was conceived in 1983 and featured typical male and female figures, both approximately 2ft 10 (87cm) high and executed in bronze with a grey patina in an edition of nine.
Other than High Wind II from 1988 that sold at Christie’s £940,000 on the same day, it was the highest price for Chadwick at auction so far this year.