Pelican by Henry Stacy Marks – £18,500 at Tennants.

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The latest British, European and Sporting Art sale at Tennants (22% buyer’s premium) in Leyburn produced one of the highest prices for a painting sold in the English regions this year.

The previously missing painting In a Ligurian Garden by the British Impressionist Henry Herbert La Thangue (1859-1929) surpassed a £70,000-100,000 estimate and sold for £180,000. It was pictured and reported in the News section of ATG No 2553.

While that museum quality lot was by far the top lot of the auction on July 16, the sale was not without interesting material and significant sums elsewhere.

Avian aspect of Marks

An ornithological picture by Henry Stacy Marks (1829-98) attracted competition against a £12,000-18,000 estimate and sold at £18,500. A 2ft 10in x 23½in (85 x 60cm) signed oil on canvas depicting a pelican, it sold to a UK private buyer.

The artist produced a mixture of historical and literary scenes early on in his career and his auction record stands at £38,000 for an 1871 painting titled The Bookworm that sold at Christie’s back in 2000 (source: Artprice).

However, his striking depictions of birds were an important part of his oeuvre and between 1874-80 he produced 12 avian panels to decorate the drawing room of Eaton Hall, the residence of his principal patron Hugh Grosvenor, the first Duke of Westminster.

In 1888 Marks took the opportunity to study the subject in greater depth as he took part in an exhibition on birds at the Fine Art Society. Becoming a frequent visitor to London Zoo, he focused on exotic species - flamingos, storks, macaws and birds of prey - and his pictures became greatly admired for their colouring and anatomical accuracy.

This picture at the North Yorkshire sale was a vintage example. Curiously it had the date 1884 to the bottom right along with the artist’s signature but also had an old label on the verso dated 1889. Whether it was produced either before or after the Fine Art Society show, ultimately it was an impressive painting with an appealing subject.

It was consigned from a private UK source and, despite some dirt and discoloured varnish as well as some slight buckling to the upper righthand corner, it was in a stable state of preservation.

The price looked relatively strong, falling within the top five sums for Marks overall but also seemingly the highest for one of his bird paintings at auction.

Horse sense


The Flying Dutchman, a work catalogued as ‘attributed to John Frederick Herring Snr’ – £7000 at Tennants.

Elsewhere at the North Yorkshire sale, a couple of equine pictures brought attention.

Sporting pictures are not generally considered one of the stronger areas of the art market but a painting of a racehorse from 1849 outperformed its previous auction appearance six years earlier.

The Flying Dutchman, a 2ft 2in x 2ft 9in (65 x 83cm) oil on canvas laid onto panel, was attributed to John Frederick Herring Snr (1795-1865) and estimated at £2500-4000.

This pitch may have been based on the £2800 it fetched when sold at Tennants’ auction of the Lady Clarissa Colin collection in 2014.

Here it came to sale from a UK private vendor and had a few notable condition issues including, not least, a repaired horizontal split just below the centre which had been secured with three wooden staples.

While the unfavourable condition no doubt limited its potential value, the subject was highly attractive: The Flying Dutchman won the Derby and the St Leger in 1849 as well as the Emperor of Russia’s Cap at Ascot the following year.

After generating decent bidding it was knocked down at £7000 to an international private buyer, a decent return on the 2014 price especially for a sporting scene.

Fun of the fair


Horse Fair, possibly Appleby, a watercolour by John Atkinson – £5500 at Tennants.

A lively depiction of a horse fair by John Atkinson (1863-1924) also commanded interest at Tennants.

Horses were the Newcastle-born artist’s favoured subject and he produced numerous pictures of fairs, beaches and gypsy camps, all with a strong equine focus.

Alongside making a living from such compositions, he worked as a teacher and an inn sign painter, earning recognition from the Duke of York for those he designed for a number of Thames-side village pubs. He also produced advertising illustrations for the RSPCA, of which he was a keen supporter.

The 18¼in x 2ft (47 x 61cm) signed pencil and watercolour (heightened with white) here was thought to depict the Appleby fair in Cumbria - a popular subject for Atkinson which he depicted multiple times.

Although it suffered from some foxing and general fading, the £800-1200 estimate proved highly attractive to followers of the artist and it was bid to £5500, selling to a private European buyer.