Scottish Pictures Auction at the Gleneagles Hotel

LONDON – This August, Sotheby’s will once again return to the world renowned Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland, offering one of its most impressive – and in terms of value, one of its largest – sales of Scottish Pictures to date. The sale, to be staged on the evening of Tuesday, August 26, 2008, will provide a rich showcase of predominantly 20th century Scottish Art with superb examples from leading names such as William McTaggart, Sir John Lavery, George Henry, Joseph Farquharson, Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell, Joan Eardley, Peter Howson and Jack Vettriano. The 260 or so lots are expected to realise in excess of £6 million.

Andre Zlattinger, Senior Director and Head of Scottish Art at Sotheby’s, comments: “The forthcoming sale successfully traces the evolution of Scottish art over the last century or so and it will be staged at a time when appreciation of the Scottish market is flourishing, with interest increasingly coming not only from Scotland and the UK but also the rest of the world. Sotheby’s recent sale in Edinburgh saw strong prices across the board and this, along with the success of countless other works in our sales over the last few years, continues to encourage great quality works on to the market. During my time at Sotheby’s, I haven’t before had the pleasure of bringing such a high quality group of Scottish works – from so many eras and movements of Scottish art history – on to the market at once.”

Spearheading the sale will be an important group of works by artists commonly known to as the ‘Scottish Impressionists’ and this offering coincides with the recently opened – and much publicised – exhibition of Impressionism & Scotland at the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh. Scottish artists had close and progressive ties with France and the exhibition celebrates the Scottish taste for Impressionism and the impact of French painting on Scottish art. It explores a prosperous period in Scotland’s history, when Glasgow was second city of the British Empire and art became the domain of rich Scottish merchants and industrialists.

Sir John Lavery (1856-1941) adopted the French Impressionist techniques and two works by him will headline the Scottish Impressionist group and the sale as a whole. The first of these paintings is an exquisite composition of stunning colour entitled My Studio Door, Tangier. In the early months of 1920, the Laverys took an extended tour of North Africa and the Riviera and the centrepiece of the journey was a month long stay in Tangier. Despite the volatility of Morocco, Sir John was captivated by Tangier and had in fact purchased a house in the hills surrounding the city in the early years of the new century. My Studio Door, Tangier dates from the 1920s trip and it portrays a relaxed domestic setting in which Sir John’s wife, Hazel, basks on a reclining chair and a girl – most probably her daughter Alice – leans against the wall in the foreground, under the bougainvilleas on the terrace. The sunlit idyll is estimated at £400,000-600,000.

Mary Borden and her Family at Bisham Abbey is the second of the works by Lavery and dating from 1925, this painting is expected to fetch £300,000-500,000. It captures Mary Borden – the stylish US novelist – reading at an elegant writing desk in a sumptuous panelled interior with leaded windows and heraldic emblems. Other Glasgow Boys who were active members of the Scottish Impressionist movement were George Henry (1858-1943), Arthur Melville (1858-1904), Edward Atkinson Hornel (1864-1933), Joseph Crawhall (1861-1913) and Edward Arthur Walton (1860-1922) and all will be represented; furthermore all have been going from strength to strength at auction of late. Their work was easily distinguished from other British painting of the time by strong colour and vigorous handling, which adapted the systematic factura of naturalism to the new chromatic discoveries derived from Impressionism. Walton’s Alice is an exemplary example of this style and it is estimated at £100,000-150,000.

Another artist influenced by Impressionism – and arguably the founder of Scottish Impressionism – was William McTaggart (1835-1910) and he is represented in the sale by three monumental works, all of which were pivotal in his development, and which rank as the most significant works by him to appear on the auction market in at least a decade. A pre-cursor of the Glasgow Boys and arguably the most outstanding and innovative landscape painter that Scotland has ever produced, McTaggart was an important influence on successive generations of Scottish painters. In a career that spanned over half a century he displayed an exceptional pattern of consistent development and a technique quite unlike anyone else at that time. Like the Impressionists, he loved to paint outdoors and in the 1870s he developed an increasingly fluid, bright and painterly style and it was during this period that Scotland’s first impressionist was born. It has been suggested that this development may have been reinforced by his exposure to paintings by James Abbot McNeill Whistler. The McTaggart works include: an oil entitled The Past and the Present, estimated at £120,000-180,000; The Murmur of the Shell, also estimated at £120,000-180,000; and Port-an-Righ, Welcome to the Herring Boats, estimated at £200,000-300,000.

The most valuable of the offerings – and one that could set a new auction record for McTaggart even if it sells at its low estimate – is Port-an-Right, Welcome to the Herring Boats and this adapts all aspects of his favourite subjects (children and fishermen) with his new realist style at its best. The painting was executed at Carradale, where McTaggart spent the summers of 1883 and 1885; much of his work from Carradale dealt with the lives of the herring fishermen.

The much-loved Scottish Colourists were indebted to the French Impressionists. Heavily influenced by them, the likes of Samuel John Peploe (1871-1935), John Duncan Ferguson (1874-1961), George Leslie Hunter (1879-1931) and Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell (1883-1937) formed their own individual style often referred to as Scottish Post-Impressionism. The Colourists will of course be present in the sale and the stars of this group are two works by Cadell. The first of these is a simplistic, colourful, Matisse-like still life of tulips estimated at £200,000-300,000. The vibrant colours and expressive brushstrokes in this piece exemplify the bold style that Cadell developed after the First World War. His movement towards a stronger, brighter colour scheme demonstrates the influence of his good friend Peploe and their close ties are also implied by the fact that Cadell actually gifted Still Life, Tulips to Peploe, presumably because it was a work which Peploe had greatly admired for its quality and sheer Modernism. Still Life, Tulips is a rare example of Cadell’s supremely confident use of colour and composition; qualities which make it a highly important work of its kind.

The second Cadell is a Venetian interior scene – entitled Interior, Santa Maria della Salute – which was painted when Cadell travelled to Venice in 1910; a trip that freed his technique in the way that Paris had for Peploe and Royan had for Fergusson. Almost overnight Cadell’s work responded to the light and freedom of Italy and it was at this moment in his career that he woke up to colour and truly became a Colourist. Interior, Santa Maria della Salute is certainly the most important work from his first Venice trip and as a result it is a pivotal work in his oeuvre. One of his most ambitious paintings in terms of scale and its masterly composition, it truly captures the beauty of the Salute.

An interesting group of works by Anne Estelle Rice has exemplary provenance, coming direct through the artist’s estate and thence by descent. The group which comprises three major pictures of French themes is expected to fetch a combined total of £100,000-140,000. The Road, Cap D’Antibes leads the group and this work shows the great vitality of Rice’s drawing and the boldness of her Fauvist colouring. Traces of impressionistic brushwork in the rendering of the landscape and the use of the delicate language of Cubism are detected in the composition.

Following the recent Joan Eardley (1921-1963) exhibition at the National Galleries of Scotland at the end of last year – which was the first major exhibition of her work in nearly 20 years – and with the forthcoming exhibition at the Fleming Gallery in London later this year, Eardley’s profile on the international stage has never been more visible. At this exciting time, an impressive group of nine works by her will be offered for sale at Gleneagles, which together represent all facets of her career. The cornerstone of this group will be an oil entitled Beggars in Venice, which arguably ranks as her most important work ever to come to auction. Dating from 1948, a time when she was travelling in Italy, it is a seminal work in her development; it is her most poignant rendering of a theme that became one of her most important popular subjects in the 1950s, that of watching people and particularly beggars and disenfranchised figures in society. Italy opened her eyes to much of what is today considered her trademark subject matter. Beggars in Venice is estimated at £200,000-300,000.

Peter Howson’s (b.1958) auction success has been continually gathering momentum of late and Sotheby’s sale of Scottish Pictures in Edinburgh saw his triptych, The Three Faces of Eve, realise £300,500 – a new auction record for him by a considerable margin. Howson will once again be strongly represented in the forthcoming sale by a number of works which includes an oil entitled A Night that Never Ends, estimated at £40,000-60,000, and Hope and Sufferance with an estimate of £80,000-120,000. The latter of these dates from circa 1998, a time of particular depression and anxiety in Howson’s personal life when he was unsettled in London and desperately seeking an escape to his alcoholism. A key work within his highly biographical oeuvre, it is a highly charged and typically aggressive composition in which he portrays himself in the centre of the composition reflecting both his self-obsession and human vulnerability.

A wintry landscape by the ever-popular Joseph Farquharson (1846-1935) entitled When Snow the Pasture Sheets will be a further work of note and this is estimated at £150,000-200,000. Capturing deep drifts of snow, meandering flocks of sheep and the rosy hues of dawning – all signature elements of Farquharson’s work – the painting was extremely well received when it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1877. Farquharson knew his genre intimately and often painted out among the blizzards and snow drifts. Sotheby’s has a history of success at selling works by him; in recent years his Through the Calm and Frosty Air fetched £310,400 – still an auction record for the artist – and his When the West with Evening Glows for £232,000.

Further sale highlights include: an important oil by Joseph Severn (1793-1879) depicting the abdication of Mary Queen of Scots, estimated at £80,000-120,000; the finest nude by William Russell Flint (1880-1969) ever to come to the market, estimated at £250,000-350,000; and a group of golf-themed pictures by John Smart and John Charles Dolman (1851-1934) which are sure to capture the imagination of golf enthusiasts. Dolman’s painting, estimated at £100,000-150,000, portrays a scene in the 1840s in which Lord Rosebery, Admiral Fleming, the Duke of Buccleuch, Lord Charles Hope and their caddies are all engaged in a tense moment on the first green during a round at North Berwick.