The Cowgirl by Harold Harvey, £38,000 at Duke’s.

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With some lively action taking place in the market for Newlyn School painters so far this year, a couple of works sold in a recent auction in Dorchester continued the run of notable results.

Offered at Duke’s (25% buyer’s premium) latest Art & Design post 1880 sale was a Harold Harvey (1874-1941) farm scene and an Elizabeth Adela Forbes (1859-1912) townscape that both came from a deceased Dorset estate and sold well above estimate.

Harvey’s painting, The Cowgirl, was a trademark piece of social realism showing a young woman in a rural landscape.

Pictures of working-class life with solitary wistful female figures are a well-known part of the artist’s oeuvre.

Such works often show the influence of Stanhope Forbes (1857-1947), the ‘father’ of the Newlyn School, as well as Harvey’s earlier training at the Académie Julian in Paris where he became well acquainted with the plein air naturalism of artists such as Jules Bastien-Lepage (1848-84).

The picture in Dorchester, a 19¼ x 14¼in (49 x 36cm) oil on canvas, was an early example dating from 1904. Seemingly depicting the surrounding area above the Cornish fishing village of Newlyn, it had an attractive freshness and bright palette as well as a keenly observed subject for which the artist expertly conveyed her gestures and sense of movement.

Estimated at £5000-10,000 on April 25, it drew good interest and made an impressive £38,000.

Duke’s said details about the buyers of specific lots were unavailable but reported a mix of private and trade bidding generally.

The price looked strong, not only given its size (Harvey’s works are often a fair bit larger in scale) but it also appears to be the highest for a work sold at auction outside London other than one titled The Lilac Doll that made £42,000 at Penzance saleroom David Lay back in 2000.

It also outscored the £18,000 posted more recently by The Lane to Paul, another view of a young woman with a cow that featured at Lay’s sale of the Branfield collection in February this year - an auction that featured a prominent group of Newlyn pictures (see ATG No 2639).

Go to town


A town scene by Elizabeth Forbes, £11,000 at Duke’s.

Making a lesser price but also attracting a solid competition, the town scene by Elizabeth Forbes (née Armstrong) was an earlier work from c.1884.

The Canadian painter came to England in the 1870s to study art at the South Kensington schools and toured northern France and Holland in 1882-4 before coming to Cornwall where she met her future husband Stanhope Forbes (they married in 1889).

The 12¼ x 9¼in (31 x 23.5cm) oil on panel was most likely a Dutch view and the catalogue entry traced the provenance back to Stanhope Forbes’ estate, from where it was inherited by his second wife Maud before it was later sold by a descendant through London dealer The Belgrave Gallery.

Elizabeth Forbes produced a wide and varied body of work and, while this was an interesting early example, it was ultimately less commercial than some of her larger figurative pictures, especially her Royal Academy exhibits and those featuring children, that tend to command the most money.

The auction record stands at a hefty £170,000 for a depiction of two young girls titled A fairy story that sold at Christie’s during the boom years of the Victorian market in 1989.

Even still, the £1500-2500 pitch at Duke’s was clearly enticing to followers of the artist and, after a decent bidding battle, it was knocked down at £11,000.

Nash with Ravilious


Britannia in Winter Quarters by John Northcote Nash, £15,000 at Duke’s.

Elsewhere at the Dorchester auction, an close-up view of a steamboat by John Northcote Nash (1893-1977) attracted interest, despite having failed to sell against a £10,000- 20,000 estimate at Duke’s in October last year.

Signed and dated 1938, the 15 x 21½in (38 x 55cm) watercolour was among the works that Nash produced on a visit to Bristol with his friend and fellow artist Eric Ravilious (1903-42). The pair apparently sat side by side at the docks painting the paddle steamers laid up in winter berths.

One such vessel was P&A Campbell’s paddle steamer Britannia which was painted by both men and was the subject of the current work.

The watercolours they produced have similarities in terms of their overall style, understated colour and tonal range but also have differences in composition and choice of detail.

According to the Duke’s catalogue, they give a “fascinating insight into the methods of each artist”.

Britannia, which was stationed at Bristol Quay during the winter of 1938, was later requisitioned by the Royal Navy at the outbreak of the Second World War and renamed HMS Skiddaw.

A fast ship, she still holds the Bristol Channel speed record for a trip from Ilfracombe to Weston but was eventually sold for scrap in 1956 after 60 years’ service.

Ravilious’ watercolour emerged at Christie’s in 2006, making £85,000. Nash’s picture, which was exhibited at dealer Agnew & Sons in London in 1939 from where it was acquired by a member of the vendor’s family, was also attractive - albeit in a somewhat different category commercially.

Reappearing here with a reduced estimate of £5000-10,000, it did rather better at the second time of asking, selling at £15,000.

Overall, the Art & Design post 1880 sale raised a hammer total of £340,000 from 360 lots. With a mixture of ceramics, furniture, decorative art as well as pictures on offer, the auction house reported an almost equal split of phone and online buying (44% and 43% of the lots respectively), with room buyers swiping up the remaining 13%.

Friant portrait


Portrait of Dorothy Tennant by Emile Friant, £48,000 at Duke’s.

Meanwhile, the top picture by some distance at Duke’s The Spring Sale held on the previous day was a full-length portrait of Dorothy Tennant by Emile Friant (1863-1932).

The French artist became a highly successful portraitist in his day (he could count the wealthy American collector Henry Clay Frick among his patrons) and this 2ft 6in x 13¾in (75 x 35cm) work demonstrated his flair even at a relatively young age.

Signed and dated ’88, it showed the sitter - a noted artist herself - emerging through curtains in an interior. The work came via descent from Henry Morton Stanley (1841-1904), the explorer, author, soldier and politician who married Tennant two years after this portrait was painted.

Admired for its technical quality with an arresting composition and realist approach, not to mention the interesting sitter, connection to the Stanley family and market freshness, it always looked likely to significantly exceed the £4000-6000 pitch.

It did just that.

Friant, who was active in France, the UK and US, has an international following and it appears at least a few of their number turned out to bid for this lot.

Eventually knocked down at £48,000, the price was the highest of those fetched on the small number of occasions when a Friant portrait has emerged at a UK auction outside London.