While the artist might not be to everybody’s taste, prices seem to be steadily rising for examples that most appeal to her followers – although ‘Oldham’s Lowry’ still has some way to go to reach the kind of sums fetched by the Salford artist or American folk artist Grandma Moses (1860-1961) to whom she is also sometimes compared.
Back in March Wilson55 sold a work titled Early November at Blackpool for £21,000 (see ATG No 2536) – a notable sum for a small oil on board. At its latest Northern Art sale on June 30 the Nantwich auction house posted the joint second-highest price for a work on paper by the artist.
On the Evening of Christmas Day, a 14¼ x 20¼in (37 x 52cm) signed watercolour and gouache, was executed in 1972 and had the customary description of the scene handwritten on the back. All of her pictures are essentially a nostalgic reminiscence of events from the artist’s Edwardian childhood.
In this case, she wrote: On the Evening of Christmas Day the Bells rang out merrily as we all set out for Church… we were looking forward to singing the Carols and meeting Mr Taylor (the Bank Manager) who was coming back to Grandma’s with us… and the year was 1907.
It was highly typical of much of Bradley’s prolific output but what lifted this example commercially was the fact that it was illustrated on page 6 of Miss Carter Came With Us, a picture book from 1973 published by Jonathan Cape, the second part of Bradley’s trilogy.
It came to auction in good, original condition with strong colours and no obvious faults. The vendor was a private collector who had bought it directly from the Unicorn Gallery in Wilmslow as a gift for his wife.
Wilson55 was expecting it to generate good interest and set the estimate at £15,000-20,000. After a strong bidding battle, it sold at £44,000 to a private UK collector, again clearly a strong price.
The only higher sum for a Bradley watercolour at auction is the picture of Blackpool Waterloo Station that had been used as the front cover illustration for the same book. It sold for £45,000 at Christie’s back in 2011.
The price was also the second highest for a Bradley in any medium in the last two years, only behind The Wakes Came to Lees, an oil on board that was almost double the size of this watercolour and made £60,000 again at Christie’s last September (source: Artprice).
A work by another prolific artist at the Nantwich sale was a view of a moored boat at low tide by Donald McIntyre (1923-2009).
Coastal views, often with cottages and showing the surrounding landscape, were the stock-in-trade of the artist who was born in Leeds to Scottish parents but frequently painted views of Welsh scenes, exhibiting at the Howard Roberts Gallery in Cardiff in the mid-1960s and then later with Thackeray Gallery from 1969.
The work here, a 22in x 2ft 8in (56 x 82cm) signed acrylic on board titled The Green Boat, had many trademark features. Despite coming unframed and with some minor flecks of paint loss, it attracted bidding against a £5000-7000 estimate and was eventually knocked down at £7600, a good sum for the artist that stands within his top 10 prices at auction (source: Artprice).
Incidentally, the fact that another work by the artist, a rural street scene, failed to sell against the same estimate underlined how bidders can be selective due to the strong supply available on the secondary market. The lack of a seaside setting probably counted against the latter work.
Making a lesser sum but catching the eye was a more recent and brightly coloured acrylic painting by Chris Cyprus (b.1971).
The self-taught artist, who was born in Gorton in Manchester, gained some recognition when his paintings of local life on council allotments were featured on the BBC’s Gardeners World (he was later commissioned to paint the allotment garden of one of the show’s presenters, Joe Swift).
Few of his works have ever come to auction, however.
The work on offer in Nantwich was one of his stylised representations of northern towns. Titled The Northern Line, the 19¼ x 23¼in (49 x 59cm) acrylic on canvas was signed and dated ’14 and was pitched at £500-700. It sold at £1800, a sum that effectively established a benchmark for the artist on the secondary market.