They appear at auction fairly often, but few come as fresh to the market as a recent example that emerged at Mellors & Kirk (24% buyer’s premium) of Nottingham on July 12.
The Evening of Life, a 3ft 3in x 2ft 6in (1m x 75cm) oil on canvas, which was signed and dated ‘06, was offered from a deceased estate having long been kept in the same family ownership.
As well as appearing in the artist’s catalogue raisonné, it was also featured in the 1997 biography by his grandson Roger Langley titled Walter Langley: Pioneer of the Newlyn Art Colony. The sitter, shown in deep contemplation in her chair with a blanket strewn over her knees, was probably the widow of a local fisherman.
As well as its wistful subject, painterly composition, market freshness and good size, another factor in its favour was its decent unlined condition with only a minor abrasion above the sitter’s left shoulder.
When it comes to Langley, who specialised in watercolours, oil paintings are not necessarily guaranteed to fetch more than a work on paper on an equivalent scale.
Nevertheless, the guide of £5000-8000 ensured it attracted interest and it took £17,000 – a sum that, although not at the top of the tree commercially, was comfortably above average for either an oil or watercolour by the artist at auction.
Meanwhile, a much smaller Langley watercolour showing an old woman at a window appeared at Martel Maides (20% buyer’s premium) in St Peter Port, Guernsey on July 5-8.
Measuring 9¾ x 5¾in (25 x 15cm), the picture was signed and had retained good colours although it suffered from a few issues to the paper – the sheet being slightly cockled and some glue residue noticeable at the edges. It also had a brown spot to the woman’s skirt probably from some old restoration.
Again the estimate here was relatively restrained and, pitched at £1200-1500, it drew bidding and sold at £2900.
A 19th century work bringing even greater competition at Martel Maides was a Charles Landseer (1799-1879) painting of an Eastern subject.
An Indian Snake Charmer, a 14¾ x 10¾in (38 x 27cm) oil on panel was an unusual picture by the artist who specialised in historical and literary scenes.
With a typed label on the back stating From the artist’s sale 1879, a number of bidders felt its quality shone through despite a dirty and discoloured varnish, some extensive wash repainting and further restoration visible under UV light.
Estimated at £300-400, it was taken to £7500.