Sussex River, Evening Sky by Ivon Hitchens, £72,000 at Canterbury Auction Galleries. It was the top lot of the Peter Barkworth collection.

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Peter Barkworth’s (1929-2006) numerous appearances on stage and his prominent TV and film career meant he had a very public persona.

Born in Margate, Kent, he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art as a young man and, after a long and successful acting career, would later teach there and became a member of its council.

Appearing in a string of shows from The Avengers to Doctor Who, he later played Stanley Baldwin in Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years (1981) and won the BAFTA TV Award for Best Actor twice: for Crown Matrimonial in 1975 and for Professional Foul and The Country Party in 1978. Among his leading roles, he played Mark Telford in the 1979 BBC TV series Telford’s Change which was watched by 7m viewers every week.

Impressive array

Barkworth’s personal life – which included the formation of an impressive art collection – was largely kept from public view, however.

His collecting was a longstanding pursuit. For over 40 years he made purchases of Modern British pictures from dealers such as Abbott & Holder, Duncan R Miller Fine Arts and Redfern Gallery as well as occasionally buying at auction. But few people knew of his passion for paintings; one reason being his fear of burglars (according to an article on his life in a local newspaper).

When he died eight years ago aged 77, he left 55 works to the National Trust to be hung at Fenton House in London, a few minutes’ walk from his Hampstead home in the historic Flask Walk. The group included paintings by Camden Town Group artists such as Charles Ginner, Spencer Gore and Walter Sickert, as well as a small John Constable cloud study.

The remainder of the collection, including some of his favourite pieces, were left to his partner David Wyn Jones. The couple kept a home in Folkestone (where Barkworth had been president of the town’s Metropole Arts Centre) and, following the latter’s death last year, a selection 95 pictures were subsequently removed and offered at Canterbury Auction Galleries (25% buyer’s premium) on April 12-15.

Many had inscriptions on the back in Barkworth’s hand detailing where he had bought them and included notes such as It’s always been a favourite (a reference to one of two Lowry drawings that he owned).

Hitchens top lot

Overall, 81 lots sold for a hammer total of £237,820.

Bidding came primarily from UK dealers and private buyers with a mix of interest on the phone, online and also on commission. This was certainly the case with the top lot of the consignment: Sussex River, Evening Sky by Ivon Hitchens (1893-1979) for which the auction house reported six phonelines booked.

Signed and dated 1969, it was one of the artist’s trademark views of his local area featuring striking bright swathes of colour.

Such subjects feature commonly in the artist’s oeuvre. After his Hampstead studio was bombed in 1940, Hitchens settled near Petworth, first in a red travellers’ caravan and later building a studio and then a house on the site known as Greenleaves.

The series of semi-abstract Sussex landscapes and views of the South Downs that he painted over the following decades come to auction fairly regularly. Buyers tend to favour the ‘panoramas’ in a wide format such as this and also look for bright hues and dynamic brushwork. Good provenance and market freshness is crucial too, of course.

The 16in x 2ft 5in (41 x 74cm) oil on canvas had a lot going for it, even if it was not as large as some that Hitchens painted – such as Sussex Canal Series No 2 from 1972 which was over a metre wide and sold for Sussex River, Evening Sky had been off the market for at least 50 years – a label on the back indicated Barkworth lent it to a show at London’s New Grafton Gallery in 1975 – and it had been kept behind glass with no obvious signs of damage, loss or restoration

With a lid kept on the estimate, it drew strong competition against a £30,000-40,000 pitch before it was knocked down at £72,000. This was a good sum for a work of this size and stands among the highest prices for a Hitchens sold at an auction outside London – the highest remains the £185,000 for Wittenham Clumps from Day’s Lock, a 1950s landscape that sold at Dreweatts in 2021.

Riley prepares


Short Sequence, Study for Painting by Bridget Riley, £35,000 at Canterbury Auction Galleries.

Elsewhere among the Barkworth lots, a work on paper by Bridget Riley (b.1931) brought four phone bidders. Short Sequence, Study for Painting was seemingly a preparatory sketch for a larger painting and had many recognisable features of Riley’s 1980s output.

Measuring 9¾ x 10¼in (25 x 26cm), the signed gouache study was dated ’83 in the margin and had a series of simple stripes with colours reflecting the influence of Egyptian tomb paintings on her work (she had visited Luxor in 1979 and subsequently adopted what is known as her ‘Egyptian palette’).

Barkworth had bought the study from Austin/Desmond Fine Art in c.2000. Here it was estimated at £20,000-30,000 and sold at £35,000, again a solid sum for a work of this size and medium, even though it was below the £58,000 fetched by a similar work also on squared paper titled Colour sharpened and clarified that sold at Phillips in December.


LS Lowry pen and ink drawing titled Study of people and animals, £34,000 at Canterbury Auction Galleries.

Among Barkworth’s auction buys was a late LS Lowry (1887-1976) pen and ink drawing titled Study of people and animals. Purchased from Sotheby’s in 1979 for £1000, the substantial growth in the artist’s market meant here it merited an estimate of £25,000-30,000 and it sold at £34,000, a substantial return even accounting for inflation.


Composition, Ceruleum and Black by William Scott, £9200 at Canterbury Auction Galleries.

Another auction purchase was a small William Scott (1913-89) gouache which came with a label on the back inscribed by Barkworth: I bought this at Sotheby’s, my memory tells me for £10.

Measuring 9 x 11¼in (23 x 29cm), the signed work from 1960 had provenance to Esther Robles Galleries in Los Angeles (where Scott held an exhibited the following year). Here it was pitched at £7000-9000 and sold at £9200 to a bid via


Sleeper by Fionnuala Boyd and Les Evans, £2000 at Canterbury Auction Galleries.

Something of an auction sleeper (in a literal sense) was a picture by Fionnuala Boyd and Les Evans (b.1944/45), a still active husband-and-wife painterly duo who have collaborated artistically since in 1968.

The 12¼in (31cm) square acrylic on canvas, which was signed and dated ’75, was one of a series of works on the theme ‘What do we miss when we sleep?’ – in this case, an upside-down rainbow.

Barkworth bought it from dealer Angela Flowers’ gallery in London’s d’Arblay Street. Here it was pitched at just £100-150 and it sold at £2000 to an online buyer – a sum that stands within the top 10 auction prices for a Boyd-Evans collaborative work according to Again, it most probably fetched a sum well beyond what Barkworth had paid for it.

Separate to the pictures, Barkworth’s BAFTA trophies were offered as a single lot but failed to get away against a £800-1200 estimate.

The auction, therefore, represented something of a reversal to Barkworth’s public standing during his lifetime with his art collecting, rather than his acting, gaining most recognition.