Six Feathers by Eliot Hodgkin, a record £60,000 at Gorringe’s.

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Showing once again how the Modern British picture market extends well beyond London, a number of regional rooms experienced lively demand for top works in this category at this year’s spring sales.

Among those bringing the strongest demand was a small but elegant depiction of feathers that set a record price for Eliot Hodgkin (1905-87).

Measuring 4¼ x 6in (11 x 15cm), Six Feathers came to Gorringe’s (25% buyer’s premium) in Lewes, East Sussex, and was offered on March 12 from a local private seller.

Works in this smaller format are not unusual in the artist’s canon and Hodgkin’s trademark highly detailed still-lifes of natural objects, such as turnips, lemons and eggs, were often carefully painted in tempera, as was the case here.

Dating from 1971, it was a relatively late work but it was certainly deemed to demonstrate the artist’s fine craftsmanship in tempera painting which he worked on assiduously since the mid-1930s. Feathers were a favourite subject.

The online catalogue raisonné run by the artist’s family (for more see lists 15 works with feathers featuring either prominently or as the main subject entirely. The Hodgkin website notes that the artist and his wife Mimi kept very accurate records of his work as he recorded all relevant information about his paintings in a series of notebooks.

Mark Hodgkin, the grandson of Eliot Hodgkin, told ATG: “Eliot was very successful in painting feathers. In this case, the fact that the feathers are from different species made it particularly appealing.

“But I wouldn’t say that this is the only factor that makes this painting attractive. I think Eliot’s skill and eye for composition is what really makes these works so special. One can find other examples of paintings by my grandfather of feathers from the same species but with equal beauty, in my opinion.”

The highest price at auction for a feather picture before this sale was the £26,000 for Four Flamingo Feathers, a slightly larger tempera on board also from 1971 that sold at Christie’s in 2019. However, the Gorringe’s picture compared more closely with Eight Feathers from 1957, a similarly sized work that made £12,000 again at Christie’s back in 2005.


The back of the Eliot Hodgkin picture at Gorringe’s with the handwritten inscription.

The work in East Sussex was in good condition having been kept under glass, although it had some light scuffs near the top left and right corners. It also carried an intriguing inscription in the artist’s hand on the back: For Dear Miss Crush in gratitude for all her skill and patience, here is a small example of mine! Eliot Hodgkin.

Miss Crush was a long-serving secretary at the London stockbroker James Capel and the picture was given to her to mark her retirement in 1971 (Hodgkin had become friends with the company’s owners after being introduced by one of their clients). Her dedication to the firm and the fact that she “knew everything” may well explain the skill and the care that Hodgkin took in creating the picture.

The estimate of £2000-3000 clearly enticed the artist’s followers, both dealers and collectors. Gorringe’s reported numerous bidders before it was knocked down at £60,000 to a London buyer (thought to be a private collector).

The saleroom described it as a “remarkable price” which was certainly true. Not only did it surpass the £48,000 for Golden CrabApples, one of the artist’s depictions of vegetation that sold at Sotheby’s in 2017 which held the previous high for Hodgkin, it also underlined the commercial growth for Hodgkin by fetching five times the price for the similar work sold at Christie’s in 2005.


Cabbage Stumps in the Snow by Eliot Hodgkin, £14,000 at John Nicholson’s.

Another Hodgkin bringing demand recently came at Fernhurst saleroom John Nicholson’s (25% buyer’s premium) on March 26.

Estimated at £10,000-15,000, Cabbage Stumps in the Snow was an earlier tempera painting from 1940. Signed, dated and measuring 12½ x 15¼in (32 x 39cm), it was exhibited at The Arts Council of Great Britain in 1979 and came with four letters from the artist relating to this painting itself.

It sold at £14,000 to a UK private buyer.

Tarr record


Monday by James Tarr, a record £12,000 at Gorringe’s.

Back at Gorringe’s, a significant record was achieved for another tempera painting. Monday, an eyecatching work by Welsh artist James Cresser Tarr (1905-96), came from a private vendor and was pitched at £1500-2000.

Painted on board and measuring 21¾in x 2ft 5in (55 x 74cm), it depicted a woman hanging out washing behind a row of terraced houses. It retained a number of labels on the back which provided a ream of information about the history.

An artist’s label inscribed RA 1939 indicated its date and implied it was one of his RA exhibits. Swansea-born Tarr had studied at the Royal College of Art from 1924-28 and continued to exhibit his own work at RA Summer Exhibitions as well as at other London and provincial galleries, while at the same time becoming a senior art teacher.

The label gave his address in High Wycombe (where he had a spell as principal at High Wycombe School of Art before he later moving to Cardiff School of Art from 1946-70) and it stated the price as £26.5.0. It also had an Art Council Collection label as well as one for restorer Bourlet, plus a Christie’s stencil number.

While Tarr continued to paint, sculpt and make prints until his eyesight began to fail late in life, his works are not available often on the market compared to many of his contemporaries. Good examples with attractive subjects such as this are few and far between.

In the Gorringe’s catalogue, the picture was described as in good and untouched condition, although the glass frame was stained with nicotine marks and some of the black spots had found their way through to the picture surface.

This did not dampen interest, however. On the day, a bidding battle broke out as it attracted “masses of interest” according to the auction house and was knocked down £12,000 to a private buyer who saw off a keen online underbidder using

The price represented a major benchmark for Tarr, surpassing the £3800 for a view of a carpenter’s workshop titled Veneer cutting that sold at Sotheby’s in 2001 and was the previous auction record, according to

Three over £100,000

A day after Gorringe’s sale, Dreweatts (26/25% buyer’s premium) posted a ream of notable Mod Brit prices at its latest Modern and Contemporary Art sale.

Indeed, the sale on March 13 was one of the highest-grossing auctions the Newbury saleroom has ever staged in this category with the overall total coming in at £1.6m (including buyers premium) from 240 lots.

Dreweatts’ head of sale Francesca Whitham said the results showed “a buoyant market with competitive bidding from across the globe” and the saleroom reported a record number of registered bidders for one of these auctions.

Three pictures made over £100,000. These included a still-life by Henri Fantin-Latour (1836- 1904) which fetched £190,000 and will be reported in a future issue, and an original sketch for Sir John Lavery’s (1856-1941)The Hearing of the Appeal of Sir Roger Casement which made £124,000 (see News Digest in ATG No 2636).


Gaudier-Brzeska at Work by Alfred Wolmark, £140,000 at Dreweatts.

Arguably the most eye-catching price, however, was a major record for Alfred Wolmark (1877-1961). His painting of the artist and sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska (1891-1915) dramatically overshot a £4000-6000 estimate and was knocked down at £140,000.

The price surpassed the previous auction high of £55,000 for the artist’s larger 1907 canvas The Disputation sold at Sotheby’s in 2012.

Born in Poland, Wolmark emigrated to London and studied at the Royal Academy Schools in the 1890s. He became close friends with Gaudier-Brzeska and the two artists made portraits of one another. In fact, the 3ft 11in x 2ft 9in (1.19m x 84cm) oil on canvas showed the bare-chested Gaudier-Brzeska working on the well-known bust of Wolmark himself.

Gaudier-Brzeska died in the trenches during the First World War and his plaster portrait of Wolmark was later posthumously cast in an edition of six between 1954-60.

The portrait here dated from 1912 and was signed with Wolmark’s monogram. It was part of the private collection of May Platini, the artist’s niece, from whom it had been purchased by the vendor.

One of the artist’s brighter experiments with Post- Impressionism, the picture had featured in the Rediscovering Wolmark: A Pioneer of British Modernism exhibition at the Ben Uri Gallery in London in 2004-5.

An attractive commercial proposition thanks to its subject matter, it always looked likely to surpass its appealing estimate.

However, with strong bidding on the phone and online from both UK and overseas, it was still something of a surprise that a UK dealer had to go well into the six figures and over double the artist’s previous high to secure it.

Colourful sails


Boats, Concarneau by Alfred Wolmark, £21,000 at Dreweatts.

Another work from the same source that also featured in the Ben Uri exhibition was Wolmark’s Boats, Concarneau, an oil on canvas-board of boats with colourful sails from 1911. Another lot that overshot predictions, in this case a guide of £2000-3000, it was knocked down at £21,000.