A painting of a Hawaiian volcano in full swing has just sold for a cool £5,000 at auction this week, (5th July).

The 30cm by 50cm oil painting by American artist Charles Furneaux (1835-1913) shows a lava stream near Hilo, Hawaii in 1881. To the foreground of this baron landscape is a group of figures in typical period dress observing the molten lava. One brave young man even appears to be toasting food on the red hot lava fire to the left.

Charles Furneaux

Furneaux is considered one of three old masters of Hawaiian painting known as the Volcano School. His work typically depicts Hawaiian volcanic eruptions in 1880-81 and 1887. He became a friend of and received patronage from King Kalakaua and ironically much of his work was destroyed by fire in 1893.

It is to this day a mystery as to how such a rare work of art form thousands of miles away manifested itself in a property near Lichfield in Staffordshire. Brought into a routine valuation day at Richard Winterton Auctioneers of Lichfield one Tuesday, art experts at the auctioneers recognised it as a highly unusual subject matter and began extensive research into the piece.

Offered as Lot 168 in their Fine & Decorative Arts Auction on 5th July, the picture received worldwide pre-sale interest/enquiries. It was hotly contested on the day with bidders in the room, on the phones and live on the internet. Fittingly it sold to the latter bidding live from Hawaii for £4,900.

Original and fine artwork featured prominently in the sale with a corporate artwork collection from a major UK company making a debut. Highlights included Lot 159, a pair of prize cattle portraits by William A. Clark at £2,100, two pastoral oils by Eugene Verboeckhoven at £3,400 and an atmospheric oil of The Serving Wench by Vida Gabor at £2,100.

Richard Winterton’s Fine Art Department hold free valuation days for all manner of artwork at locations throughout the midlands, (see website for full details or phone 01543 251081).