It depicts a scene in the Essex market town that was not far from the artist’s home in Great Bardfield. In fact, Bawden was born in Braintree and attended school there.
Measuring 23in x 2ft 8in (58 x 82cm), the print contrasts the bland blue figures of local breeders and farmhands with the repeated red patterns of the serried livestock waiting to be sold.
The first print of a series created with the Curwen Press and published by Contemporary Lithographs, the medium is a transferred linocut – a process Bawden had used to produce wallpaper and posters in the previous decade.
It was published in an edition of 400, although far fewer copies are believed to still exist following the bombing of the Contemporary Lithographs office during the Second World War.
One emerged at the latest Art & Design sale at Cheffins in Cambridge on February 23, estimated at £1500-2500. It sold at £3000 to a UK-based private buyer, well above the £1600 this very same impression had made at Bonhams in December 2019.
Another Bawden print at the Cambridge sale, this time a post-war linocut, also drew demand at the same sale. Ives Farm, Great Bardfield from 1957 depicts the farm directly backed onto Brick House, the artist’s home in the high street of the Essex village where he lived with his great friend, Eric Ravilious, in the 1930s and which remained his home for over 40 years.
The farmstead features in a number of Bawden’s watercolours as well as this print which was produced in a smaller edition of 35. Estimated at £2000-3000, it sold at £4000 to a different UK private buyer – the price setting a new auction high for the edition.
Close to home
Essex subjects remain highly popular with local collectors in particular.
Lindsell Church from 1960 was another of the artist’s largest linocuts, measuring 2ft 2in x 5ft 3in (66cm x 1.6m). The subject was the church in the neighbouring village to Great Bardfield and it featured in a number of Bawden’s works.
An example of the print emerged at Wotton Auction Rooms back in July 2022 as part of the collection of the late Bath architect Arnold Root. The signed linocut from an edition of 40 was estimated at £1500-2500 and sold for £3600 to a private buyer from Somerset.
While higher prices have been recorded for the edition, the result appeared to be the highest for an example at an auction outside London.
As well as Essex subjects, London also featured regularly in Bawden’s work from the early 1920s right through to the latter part of his career.
As well as his posters for London Transport and numerous other promotional images (including those for attractions such as Hyde Park and Regent Park), he produced a couple of well-known series of prints in the 1960s featuring London markets and monuments.
One notable group was the Nine London Monuments linocut series published by Editions Alecto in 1966, examples of which appear occasionally at auction.
Three that sold recently showed how different subjects fetch quite different sums.
First up was The Mansion House, one from the edition of 100, that appeared at Forum Auctions on February 24. It sold on low estimate at £500.
Then at Sworders on April 25, two were on offer, both from signed editions of 75: Westminster Abbey which made £1100 against a £800-1200 estimate; and The Guildhall that fetched £1200 against a £600-800 guide.
Other subjects in the series included St Paul’s Cathedral, The Tower of London and Horse Guards.