Sir William Nicholson still-life

Sir William Nicholson (1872- 1949) still-life – £440,000 at Woolley & Wallis.

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It had been estimated at £50,000-70,000 at the Woolley & Wallis sale of Modern British and 20th century art on May 31.

As indicated by the title Flowers and Books (for Siegfried Sassoon), this 16 x 12in (40 x 29cm) oil on canvas board was painted in 1929 for the war poet. Sassoon’s diary records that in 1929 he spent ‘£60 for a picture by William Nicholson for Stephen’. However, it appears he decided against giving it to his partner Stephen Tennant and instead kept it himself. It had remained in the poet’s family ever since.

Nicholson and Sassoon had first met in 1918, through another famous war poet, Robert Graves, who had married Nicholson’s daughter Nancy. The following year Nicholson designed labels for The War Poems of Sieg fried Sassoon, and the two struck up a long-term friendship and working relationship.

Second-highest price

Flowers and Books (for Siegfried Sassoon) represents the second-highest price for the artist at auction, next to the £1.45m bid for Miss Simpson’s Boots (1919) at Christie’s King Street on March 22 this year.

Jonathan Green, chief executive of Richard Green, told ATG that the painting was bought for stock. He described it as a “major work” with “a jewel of a composition and gorgeous colouring which had a lot of impact on a small scale”.

He added that the link to Sassoon may not necessarily have been the key factor in the price fetched here but would probably help with the resale.