From a source described as an ‘artistic family collection, Wiltshire’ came an attractive snowy landscape by Francis Picabia (1879-1953).
The 2ft 2in x 3ft (65 x 92cm) signed oil on canvas had a relatively early date of 1906 and was painted during the period after 1904 when he abandoned academic painting in favour of Impressionist scenes in the manner of Camille Pissarro and Alfred Sisley, both of whom were a major influence on the younger artist.
Picabia, who was born into a wealthy Franco-Cuban family, became known for his abrupt changes of styles throughout his career. He ceased painting Impressionist scenes in c.1911, when he started concentrating on his first abstract experiments which he began exhibiting the following year.
While his avant-garde, Cubist, Dadaist and abstract pictures tend to make significantly more at auction (at least 35 have made over £1m), his earlier Impressionist and Pointillist works are notably more affordable.
The example at Duke’s was titled Effets de neige, bords de l’Yonne and depicted a view of Villeneuve-sur-Yonne, about 40 miles south of Fontainebleu, with the river passing under the 18th century bridge that connects the town and the Church of Notre-Dame visible beyond.
Estimated at £40,000-60,000 in this auction held in Dorchester, Dorset, it sold at £80,000. Although the sum was not particularly high given the large number of works by Picabia that have sold in the six-figure range, it represented one of the highest sums for the artist ever recorded at a UK regional auction.
Two works by Belgian painter Jenny Montigny (1875-1937) also appeared at the Dorchester auction. They came via descent from the artist’s brother Louis and his wife Lillian, who lived in London and to whom she came to stay during the First World War, and their market freshness clearly appealed.
While Montigny suffered from a lack of exposure and struggled financially during her lifetime, in recent years her work has enjoyed greater attention (the city of Ghent even named a street after her in 2019). A founding member of the luminist group of Belgian artists, she was described as ‘a pioneering female Impressionist’ in the catalogue, although this was perhaps more of a moot point.
First up at Duke’s was Recreation en Automne, Deurle, a 2ft 1in x 2ft 5in (63 x 74cm) oil on canvas dated 1921. Showing children at play under the shade of autumnal trees in the Belgian village where she lived, it had plenty of trademark features in terms of the location, figures and shimmering light.
Against an £8000-15,000 estimate, it sold at £35,000 – a sum that stands in the top 10 auction prices for the artist according to Artprice.com.
The following lot was Été (au jardin), a slightly smaller signed oil on canvas that showed children with their mother enjoying a summer day in a garden of hollyhocks. Also estimated at £8000-15,000, it sold at £21,000, another notable sum for a work sold at an auction outside London.
Overall, the 324-lot sale raised a hammer total of £350,000 with 70% of the lots getting away.
The pick of the 45 works from the estate of the late Roger Peers, a former curator at the Dorset County Museum between 1959-92, was a charcoal and pencil drawing by Dame Elisabeth Frink (1930-93).
Titled Green Man I and dating from 1991, the signed and dated sketch measured 2ft 6in x 22in (76 x 56cm) and was estimated at £7000-10,000. It sold at £16,000.
Given that another head of a man in the same medium from the same year made £8500 at a Sotheby’s day sale in June 2022, the sum in Dorchester looked pretty solid.