Veronica Burleigh self portrait

Self portrait by Veronica Burleigh, a 2ft 6in x 2ft 1in (77 x 64cm) signed oil on canvas – £15,000 at Kings Russell.

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The works came from a vendor who was local to the Knightsbridge firm and had acquired them from an auction around 25 years ago, keeping them on the wall of their house ever since.

The same seller had also supplied three pictures by Burleigh to Kings Russell’s November sale, all of them going above estimate with the highest price being £2400.

Striking images

The portraits here were more striking in style with their bold approach and strong colouring.

Kings Russell director and auctioneer Charles Hoey said they were the best examples to have emerged at auction for at least a decade.

One was a self-portrait. The other, showing a woman gardening, was thought more likely to depict another member of her family, possibly her mother Averil Burleigh (1883-1949) who was also a notable artist.

The works attracted a good deal of interest from dealers after going on view at the Knightsbridge saleroom, including from a number of Mayfair galleries, but on the day the bidding came almost exclusively from private UK buyers.

With multiple phone lines booked and extra bidding coming online, the self-portrait depicting the artist sitting by a river overshot a £200-300 estimate and was knocked down at £15,000 to a buyer on

The sum easily surpassed the previous auction record for Burleigh: the £3000 (including premium) fetched by a wartime painting of a Wellington Bomber that sold at Christie’s back in 2008.

The following lot, the full-length portrait of a lady in her garden holding a basket and hoe, also drew a prolonged competition and was bid well over the £300-500 estimate. It was knocked down at £9000 to a different buyer.

Another lot by the artist from the same source at the current sale, a view of a logging truck in Charlton, West Sussex, made £1900 against a £300-500 estimate, selling to a separate UK private buyer.

Speaking with the vendor the morning after the sale, Hoey said they were “speechless” on seeing the results.

Portrait of a woman in the garden

A portrait of a lady gardening, a 3ft 4in x 2ft 6in (1.02m x 76cm) oil on canvas – £9000 at Kings Russell.

For the most part Veronica Burleigh’s works have had less presence in the market than both her mother’s and father’s, the artist Charles HH Burleigh (1869-1956), but the performance of these works which probably date from the 1930-40s suggested she is gaining more attention commercially. This is partially explained by the fact that her works tend to have an attractive period feel. The current demand for Modern British female artists is clearly also playing a part.

Her parents met at Brighton School of Art and married in 1905, later moving to Wilbury Crescent in Hove. Veronica won a scholarship to the Slade, studying under Henry Tonks, but later returned home to Sussex where the three artists worked closely together.

As well as portraits, she painted oils and watercolours of the local area (especially after moving to Henfield, Sussex in 1970) and over the years she exhibited at the Royal Academy, Society Watercolour Artists and the Sussex Women’s Art Club.

She also produced a body of work during the Second World War relating to her time serving in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, while for 20 years she travelled annually to Zimbabwe where she held no fewer than 23 solo shows.

Following these impressive results, it will now be interesting to see whether more works come to the market and whether such price levels are sustained.