British Art from the Collection of the late Mrs. Audrey Burton, O.B.E. for Christies Auction

An important group of 14 paintings and sculptures from the personal collection of the late Mrs. Audrey Burton, O.B.E., will be sold to benefit the Audrey and Stanley Burton Charitable Trust at Christie’s 20th Century British Art sale on Thursday, 21 May 2009. Stanley Burton (1914-1991) was the eldest son of Sir Montague Burton (1885-1952), whose Burton manufacturing and retailing business was, by the time of his death, the largest multiple tailor in the world. The Charitable Trust was created by Stanley and Audrey in 1960 for the benefit of education, science and the arts. During their lives together, and particularly throughout the 1950s and 1960s, they collected paintings and sculpture from major London galleries.

Amongst the highlights to be offered, many of which have not been seen in public for over forty years, are Madonna and Child, 1943 by Henry Moore, O.M., C.H. (1898-1986) (estimate: £180,000-250,000), Group of figures (violet and red on brown),1952 by Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975) (estimate: £30,000-50,000) and Blue Mugs, 1956 by William Scott, R.A. (1913-1989) (estimate: £80,000-120,000), as well as Avalanche, Switzerland, 1936 by Sir Stanley Spencer, R.A. (1881-1959) (estimate: £50,000-80,000) and King and Queen by F.E. McWilliam, A.R.A. (1909-1992) (estimate: £15,000-25,000).

The sale of these works is a continuation of Mrs. Burton’s charitable giving through offering art at auction; previously sold works from the Burton Collection include Sir Stanley Spencer’s The Mount, Cookham Dene, sold by Christies in June 2006 and Patrick Heron’s Camellia Garden: March 1956, which Christie’s sold in 2008 for £668,450, setting a world auction record for the artist.

The five sculptures from this collection are led by Moore’s Madonna and Child, 1943, offered at auction for the first time in over 35 years (estimate: £180,000-250,000). It is closely related to a life-size work of the same title commissioned that year for St. Matthew’s Church, Northampton, by Canon J. Rowden Hussey. Canon Hussey became Dean of Chichester Cathedral in 1955 and was a patron of Graham Sutherland and John Piper, amongst others. The second work by Moore, Standing Figure No.1, is a sensuous bronze with a green patina (estimate: £20,000-30,000). The amorous theme continues in McWilliam’s unique iron sculpture King and Queens, from the early 1960s (estimate: £15,000-25,000) and his Loving Cup, in bronze with a polished gold patina, 1966 (estimate: £5,000-8,000). Offered to the market for the first time in over 40 years, the final and most linear of the sculptures in the group is a cast of Boscawen by Denis Mitchell (1912-1993), 1962 (estimate: £7,000-10,000); which exudes a quiet elegance.

One of the leading British painters of his generation, Scott’s distinctive still lifes are exemplified by Blue Mugs, 1956 (estimate: £80,000-120,000), perhaps the most important painting from this group. Clearly pointing to the artist’s fascination with the works of Chardin, Cezanne and Braque, the thick impasto and arrangement of objects in this work may also reflect the influence of Nicholas de Staël, whose memorial exhibition was held in the same year this painting was executed. Another key highlight is Avalanche, Switzerland, painted in 1936, by Spencer (estimate: £50,000-80,000), who is considered to be one of the most original figures in 20th century British Art. This captivating work is part of a group by the artist, connected with his visits to the village Saas Fee, in the Swiss Alps, drawing on themes explored in his largest painting A Souvenir of Switzerland. Avalanche has been included in several exhibitions, including the Royal Academy’s retrospective show of the artist’s work in 1980.

The other three paintings offered range from the dynamic abstraction of Ivon Hitchens’s (1893-1979) landscape Warnford Water (Shadows and Weir), offered to the market for the first time in 49 years (estimate: £30,000-50,000); Hepworth’s widely exhibited Group of figures (violet and red on brown), 1952 (estimate: £30,000-50,000) and Breon O’Casey’s (b.1928) Hot Chocolate, 1977, purchased by Audrey and Stanley Burton directly from the artist for £120 in 1979 (estimate: £5,000-8,000).

Four works on paper from the collection are included in this sale, offering an accessible entry level for new collectors and enthusiasts. The power of geometric balance and muted tones are explored in Drawing 67/10, 1967, in pencil, crayon and watercolour by John Wells (1907-2000) (estimate: £1,000-1,500); wistful moments are captured in the more traditional style of Flint’s red chalk drawings The Cromwellian Maid (estimate: £1,500-2,500) and The New Song (estimate: £1,500-2,500); whilst Sir Jacob Epstein’s (1880-1959) watercolour depicts the lush freshness of nature in Epping Forest (estimate: £1,500-2,500).

Elsewhere in Christie’s sale of 20th Century British Art, there are many stellar works ranging from A Peculiar Gull by Lucian Freud, O.M., C.H. (b.1922) (estimate: £20,000-30,000), January 1959 by Patrick Heron (1920-1999) (estimate: £30,000-50,000) and a classic William Scott Black & White and Brown Still Life, 1970 (estimate: £80,000-120,000), through to Pink and red roses in a vase, circa 1906 by Samuel John Peploe, R.S.A. (1871-1935) (estimate: £120,000-180,000) and The Seashore, 1930s by Sir Winston Churchill, O.M., R.A. (1874-1965) which is being sold to benefit the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Trust (estimate: £200,000-300,000). Further examples include Head of Julia II, 2002 by Frank Auerbach (b.1931) (estimate: £70,000-100,000), The Torturers, circa 1935 by Edward Burra (1905-1976) (estimate: £70,000-100,000) and an imposing sculpture by Dame Elisabeth Frink, R.A. (1930-1993), Standard, 1965 (estimate: £50,000-80,000).

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