Christmas 1979, a charcoal sketch by Sheila Fell, £10,400 at Mitchells.

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Offered at Mitchells (25% buyer’s premium), the charcoal on paper titled Christmas 1979 depicted a farm in her native Cumberland and was previously owned by the Sharrow Bay Country House Hotel on Lake Ullswater.

The date was poignant as she died tragically aged 48 the same month. Although her death came 10 days before Christmas that year, this was seemingly one of her final works.

The sketch had a good exhibition history with labels on the back for the A Tribute to Sheila Fell show at Abbott Hall Art Gallery in Kendal in 1981, as well as the Through Women’s Eyes event at the same venue in 1989.

Measuring 11½ x 15¼in (29 x 39cm), the combination of artist, date and provenance had plenty of appeal and, at the auction on March 22, it flew over a £1000-2000 estimate, selling at £10,400 and posting an auction record for a work on paper by the artist.

Market-fresh Kelly


West Cumberland Hamlet, a watercolour illustrated letter by Percy Kelly, £3000.

Also on offer at the Cumbria auction was a large collection of 60 illustrated letters and envelopes by Percy Kelly (1918-93).

They had been part of the collection of Joan David, the artist’s close friend and correspondent during the last decade of his life. The sale’s viewing was the first time the works had been shown in public.

Offered individually, all of them sold for a total of £59,000.

The most valuable was an illustrated letter titled West Cumberland Hamlet.

The 10¼ x 14¼in (26 x 36cm) watercolour of the outskirts of a town with text overlaid surpassed a £1000-1500 estimate and was knocked down at £3000.