20th Century Scottish Art Auction

. April 30, 2008

EDINBURGH – The first of Sotheby’s bi-annual sales of Scottish Pictures will take place on Thursday, May 1, 2008 at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh. With a strong focus on the 20th century, the sale will showcase important and quality works from all periods and movements of Scottish Art over the course of the last century. Highlights will come from the Scottish Colourists, the Glasgow Boys, the Edinburgh Group and the New Glasgow Boys as well as from a major group of works by Alexander Goudie. 2008 marks the second year running that the Sotheby’s exhibition and sale will be staged at the Assembly Rooms in the heart of Edinburgh.

A notable feature of the sale will be the inclusion of a vast array of works by female Scottish artists, a group which on the whole has received far less attention than their male counterparts but who nonetheless made a valuable contribution to Scottish Modernist painting. This rare group will be led by works from key names such as Anne Redpath, Joan Eardley, Margaret Morris, Anne Estelle Rice, Elizabeth Violet Blackadder as well as figures like Bessie MacNicol, Flora MacDonald Reid, Annie Rose Laing, Margaret and Frances MacDonald, Jessie Marion King, Olive Carleton Smyth, Annie French, Ann Macbeth and Isobel Hotchkis. Interestingly, one fifth of the forthcoming sale is comprised of works by women and this is an impressive proportion given that female artists had very limited access to art schools prior to the 19th century.

Anne Redpath (1895-1965), of the Edinburgh Group of artists, made a huge impact on the Scottish art scene, particularly during the 1940s, 50s and 60s. An article in the May 1950 issue of Vogue Magazine described her as a “social centre for Edinburgh’s art world” and the paintings that she produced around this time are arguably some of her most progressive and exciting. 13 works by her will be presented for sale and these will be led by Greys, an oil which is estimated at £70,000-90,000 and which has been in a private collection for some 60 years. The white, pastel-like tones – a prominent feature of the artist’s most accomplished early works – are wonderfully employed in Greys and Redpath once commented “as far back as I can remember I have loved painting white.” Other highlights in the Redpath group will be: Houses on the Hillside, Spain, estimated at £40,000-60,000; Dolce Aqua, estimated at £40,000-60,000; and Spring Flowers, estimated at £60,000-80,000.

The Post-War artist Joan Eardley’s (1921-1963) work was recently the subject of a major exhibition at the National Galleries of Scotland, an exhibition which certainly raised Eardley’s profile on the international stage. Eardley is best known for her seascapes of the north of Scotland and her portrayals of Glasgow’s street children and both of these themes will be well represented in the sale. Catterline Bay depicts a small isolated fishing village on the extreme north-east coast of Scotland – a favourite painting ground for the artist throughout the 1950s – and this striking work is estimated at £20,000-30,000. Eardley’s unconventional method of painting during raging storms, in which both she and her easel were exposed to lashings of rain, resulted from her fascination with wild seas and the visual grandeur of storms. Her seascapes possess an urgency which is extremely rare. A second work by Eardley will be A Glasgow Boy, a painting which captures her affinity with children. This pieece is estimated at £10,000-15,000.

Two female artists connected to the Scottish Colourists are Margaret Morris (1891-1980) and Anne Estelle Rice (1877- 1959), both of whom will be well represented. Margaret Morris – or Meg as she was affectionately known – was the lifelong partner of John Duncan Fergusson and her work Anita and Myself is estimated at £40,000-60,000. Dating from the outbreak of the Great War, the painting is thought to depict the artist’s landlady and it shows close comparisons to the work of Fergusson; it uses Fergusson’s conical lampshades, reflections in mirrors and strong sections of colour.

Five works by Elizabeth Violet Blackadder (b. 1931) will be spearheaded by a watercolour entitled Tulips, estimated at £5,000-7,000, and Bather, a pencil and gouache work estimated at £8,000-12,000. Further noteworthy examples by female artists will be: Glasgow-born Olive Carleton Smyth’s (1882- 1949) Pytheas Buys Amber, estimated at £15,000-20,000; Bessie MacNicol’s (1869-1904) Vanity, estimated at £40,000-60,000; Still Life with Dark Christmas Roses by Mary Nicol Neill Armour (1902-2000), estimated at £20,000-30,000; Flora MacDonald Reid’s (1879-1938) Washing Day, estimated at £10,000-15,000; and Dorothy Steel’s (1950-1980) Chalmers Street, Port Glasgow, which is expected to fetch £4,000-6,000.

The Colourists
The ever popular Colourist section of the sale will be led by Samuel John Peploe’s (1871-1935) Cassis Harbour and John Duncan Fergusson’s (1874-1961) Bathers with Mirror. Peploe’s French harbour scene, estimated at £80,000-120,000, shows how he was captivated by the south of France; he first visited the idyllic French village of Cassis in 1913 and here – along with Fergusson and Anne Estelle Rice – he consciously traced the steps of the French Fauves. Matisse, Derain, Marquet and Manguin regularly visited Cassis from 1905 onwards. John Duncan Fergusson’s
(1874-1961) Bathers with Mirror is estimated at £150,000-200,000. It contains many of his signature elements and it is a superb example of the latter period of his work, a phase dominated by his exuberant images of bathers and nudes.

The Glasgow Boys
The sale will also offer superb examples by the Glasgow Boys. In 1893, artists Edward Atkinson Hornel (1864-1933) and George Henry (1858-1943) visited Japan, arriving in late April with the last snow still on the ground and plum trees laden with blossom. It is thought that In Japan by Hornel was one of the earliest paintings undertaken on this trip and a snow-capped Mount Fuji is visible in the background of the composition. The painting is estimated at £25,000-35,000.

George Henry’s Playmates is one of the artist’s most accomplished and celebrated works and it displays all of the characteristics of the Glasgow Boys’ style. The composition is masterfully measured with the two young children engrossed in a game. When exhibited at The Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts in 1885, the painting was well received by critics and the other Glasgow Boys, so much so that it was purchased by William York Macgregor for £52 as an Art Union prize at the Institute. The painting has since been in private ownership and it is estimated at
£50,000-70,000.

Early 20th Century Scottish Art
The most important work by John McKirdy Duncan (1866-1945) to come to the market in recent years is entitled Mary, Queen of Scots. Estimated at £100,000-150,000, the painting captures Mary in a calm meditation during the last hours of her captivity attended by two loyal handmaids, one of whom has fallen and is covering her mouth to stifle her panicked screams. Duncan studied contemporary depictions of Mary, including a likeness after Clouet in the Royal Collection and a portrait by Rowland Lockley in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

Post-War Works
Still Life with a Red Coffee Pot is by Alberto Morrocco (1917-1998), an Aberdeen-born artist who for many years was Scotland’s best-known portrait painter. His sitters included HM Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Morrocco was awarded an OBE in recognition of his many achievements as an artist. His Still Life with a Red Coffee Pot shows the artist’s purity and clarity of subject matter and it is executed with boldness of colour and composition. Estimated at £20,000-30,000, it is one of eight works by the artist in the sale.

Category: Auction News

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