Nicholson’s masterpiece tops Bonhams’ modern British and Irish art auction in London

London – Lilies of the valley by Sir William Nicholson (1872-1949) topped the Bonhams Modern British and Irish Art auction in London on Wednesday 24 November. The work was painted in 1927 and critics have noted its atypical “radiant softness” as well as the boldness of the brushstrokes and the layering of tones. It sold for £ 237,750 having been estimated between £ 60,000 and £ 80,000. The sale totaled £ 2,484,083, of which 82% sold by lot and 92% sold by value.

Bonhams director of modern British and Irish art Matthew Bradbury said: “It has been an exceptionally strong sale and the high prices across the board and competitive bidding for all key works demonstrate the continued health of the market for good quality modern UK and Irish art. “

Other highlights included:

Four pears by William Scott. Sold for £ 187,750.

Four pears by William Scott (1913-1989). Painted in 1976, the work was exhibited widely in South America in the late 1970s. It was inspired by a pear tree growing outside the artist’s studio in Coleford, Gloucestershire. The painting has not been seen in public since it was exhibited at Irish art in the 1970s: the international connection in 1980. Sold for £ 187,750 (estimate: £ 150,000 to £ 250,000).

  • In the park by William Roberts. Painted around 1925, the work is one of a group of images from the first half of the 1920s that can be said to have links to the artist’s own life. Upon his return in 1918 from war service in France both as a fighter and later as a war artist, Roberts settled down with his longtime girlfriend, Susan Kramar. A child was born in 1919, followed by a marriage in 1922 and families began to appear in his work – The poor family (1921-22, for example, and Happy family from 1924. Sold for £ 162,750 (estimate: £ 70,000 to £ 100,000).
  • Soft discs in red: September 1962 by Patrick Héron (1920-1999). The work was purchased in 1963 by a prominent modernist British architect and has remained in the same family collection ever since. The architect established relationships with many well-known artists (including Louis le Brocquy, Graham Sutherland, Augustus John, Sir Eduardo Paolozzi and Keith Vaughan) and Patrick Heron had become close acquaintance. Sold for £ 137,750 (estimate £ 100,000 to £ 150,000).

See also

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  • Countryside by Michael Andrews (1928-1995). Although the painting is undated and the precise location unknown, the topography suggests Digswell in Hertfordshire which appears in other Andrews works. In Countryside the artist used economical but varied markings to describe a road leading to a small cluster of rural buildings and telephone poles. Sold for £ 162,750 (estimate £ 50,000-80,000).
  • Purple hills by Paul Henry (1876-1958). Painted between 1932 and 1940, this work shows why Henry is considered the best modern Irish landscape painter. Renowned for his evocative post-Impressionist depictions of the West of Ireland, the artist cuts to the gist of his subject matter, viewing things in simple, straightforward terms and posing them harmoniously in tightly modulated tones. Sold for £ 106,500 (estimate: £ 50,000-80,000).
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