But there were other notable results at the October 15 sale in Leyburn including an auction record for Suffolk-born painter Maggi Hambling (b.1945).
Red Head with Cat, a 4ft 3in x 3ft 2in (1.3m x 97cm) oil on canvas of a female nude, was painted by Hambling in 1983.
Well known among collectors, it had appeared several times at auction, last fetching over £3000 a decade ago at Sotheby’s.
In the intervening years, prices for the British artist, best known for her whirling, energetic paintings and bold public sculptures, have surged on the secondary market. Seven of the top 10 prices for her work at auction have been achieved in the last five years.
Estimated at £2000-3000, the painting was knocked down for £28,000 to a private buyer in London. According to Artprice, this new high surpassed £26,000 paid for one of Hambling’s wave canvases that sold at Sotheby’s in 2019.
The picture came with a letter by the artist who noted the work was painted when she lived in Battersea. The sitter, she stated, was a girlfriend at the time and the cat was called Pavole.
Charlotte Conboy, head of pictures at Tennants, described the work as “a rare and important figurative insight into the artist’s intimate world and as such it captivated the imagination of collectors nationally and internationally”, adding that the letter “brought an additional depth of interest”.
Works by the Spennymoor mining artist Norman Cornish (1919-2014) are a common sight at Tennants. The pitman painter produced a large body of work and has maintained a relatively robust secondary market, provided estimates are realistic.
At the latest sale, five pictures – two oils that were purchased directly from the artist and three works on paper – found new homes.
The two paintings led the group with Edward Street Man with Dogs, a typical 11 x 14½in (28 x 37cm) oil on board depicting a flat-capped man with his back to the viewer walking two dogs, selling for £7000 (estimate £3000-5000) and Thompson’s Newsagent knocked down for £5500 (guide £2500-4000).
Depicting a bustling pavement outside the vendor’s shop on Clyde Terrace in Spennymoor, the latter 11 x 18in (28 x 45cm) oil on board typifies his work of capturing places (and industry) that no longer remain. Both buyers were private and came from the north of England.
Another northern artist in the sale was Sheffield painter Joe Scarborough (b.1938).
Scenes outside his native Yorkshire do not appear often, so the work offered at Tennants – a 1996 oil on canvas depicting the famous Palio horse race in Siena – was unusual in the artist’s oeuvre. Titled Contrada of the Goose, Siena, it sold online for £8000 to a private buyer from the north of England, doubling the bottom estimate and making it the second-highest price at auction for the painter.
Scarborough, a coal miner at the Thorpe Hesley colliery, was inspired to paint after observing the contrast of the darkness of the mines and the lightness of the world above. For many years he pushed a handcart of his paintings – vibrant cartoonish scenes of the life and people of South Yorkshire – round his local pubs to sell.
Also selling above estimate were Spring at Oriel by Ken Howard (1932-2022), who died just a few weeks before the sale, which took £9500, and Sailboats before an island by the Pointillist painter Paul Signac (1863-1935).
The latter had never been offered at auction before and had passed by descent from fellow artist Paul Maze, who had been a close friend. Measuring just 4 x 8in (11 x 20cm), the watercolour was initialled but undated and appears to belong to a series of rapidly worked vibrant, colourful watercolours that he sketched from nature.
Estimated at £2500-4000, it sold to a buyer from the UK trade for £9000.