This is true when it comes to pictures by the four great Scottish Colourists – Peploe, Cadell, Hunter and Fergusson – where drawings and watercolours are regularly available and can be bought for a fraction of the cost of an oil painting.
At Lyon & Turnbull (25% buyer’s premium) on June 16, for example, a group of seven works by Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell (1883-1937) were on offer, including a trademark but fairly small oil painting of Iona that made £85,000 and led the sale – a decent increase on the £44,000 when it sold at Sotheby’s Gleneagles in 2001 where it was purchased by the vendor.
The five Cadell watercolours also depicted the tiny island off the south-west coast of Mull and fetched significantly less, although they performed well with all of them going over estimate and making a combined £51,000.
In terms of works appearing at auction, views of Iona are probably the most commonly seen of all Cadell watercolours. The artist visited the island regularly over three decades as, like the other Colourists, he was attracted to the expansive views, natural beauty and ever-changing light.
The highest price in the saleroom for a Cadell Iona watercolour is the £21,000 for The Sands of Iona from 1931 that sold at Sotheby’s Gleneagles in 2003 (the overall record for any Cadell watercolour is the £45,000 for a view of Cassis harbour in the south of France that sold at Sotheby’s auction of works from the Harrison Collection last year).
Leading the group at the latest L&T sale was On the Shore, Iona (The Sound), a 6¾ x 9½in (17 x 24cm) signed watercolour and pencil. It had provenance to London dealer Duncan R Miller, from whom the vendor acquired it in 2001.
An attractive composition with the viewer joining the seated figure in the foreground gazing out to boats on the strait between Iona and neighbouring Mull, it featured a steam vessel rather than a sailing boat, which made it slightly unusual compared to the majority of these Iona pictures.
The way the artist delicately captured the wafts of steam emerging from the funnel was deemed particularly well conveyed.
With these factors in its favour, it drew keen interest against an £8000-12,000 estimate and sold at £14,000, a strong price for a work of this size.
The highest price at auction for a Cadell watercolour of Iona for four years, this result will no doubt give encouragement to followers of the market for Colourist works on paper.
Patrick in detail
Elsewhere at L&T, a couple of watercolours by James Mcintosh Patrick (1907-98) also drew bidders thanks to their attractive compositions, condition and subjects.
Works by the Dundee-born painter, printmaker and art teacher featuring his hometown have a particular appeal and on offer here was a prime example.
The 2ft 6in x 22½in (76cm x 55cm) signed picture showed Dundee’s Magdalen Green with the Tay Bridge in the background – the famous railway bridge opened in 1887 after its predecessor had collapsed in high winds (killing 75 people and remaining one of the most tragic engineering disasters in the UK).
The artist painted other views of the bridge – he was able to view it from his studio window. These included a famous oil painting which was acquired by The McManus, Dundee’s Art Gallery and Museum, in 1962, while a watercolour showing the same view made £6000 at Christie’s in 2012.
The picture at L&T was taken from a different spot and was executed in an upright format with a tree dominating the foreground and the Tay estuary behind. Pitched at £2000-3000, it sold at £6200 – the third highest for a work on paper by the artist according to Artprice.
Also bringing demand but fetching a lesser sum was Coulston Road near Newtyle, a 21in x 2ft 6in (54 x 76cm) signed watercolour which was estimated at £1000-1500. One of the numerous studies Patrick made of Dundee’s surrounding areas after the Second World War (he served in the Camouflage Corps during the conflict), which he continued to produced until much later in his life, it demonstrated his trademark attention to detail.
This example benefited commercially from having been exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh in 1988 and was knocked down above predictions at £3600.