Matisse makes top Shropshire sum

Etching of a seated lady by Henri Matisse – £4200 at Halls.

Characteristic etching is best-seller in appealing single-owner mix of works on paper.

Extracted from Antiques Trade Gazette | Gabriel Berner

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A single-owner selection containing an appealing mix of works on paper – ranging from 17th century Dutch ‘Golden Age’ drawings to English pastoral etchings and modern prints – posted decent sums at a Shropshire auction.

The group appeared at auction for the first time in half a century after it was consigned with modest estimates to Halls’ (20% buyer’s premium) country house sale on May 15.

Purchased mainly from the London auction rooms in the 1970s, the 42-lot group contributed £17,400 to the bottom line. “Bidding was strong from both private buyers in the room and online,” said James Forster, picture specialist at Halls.

The financial highlight was a characteristic Henri Matisse (1869- 1954) etching of a seated woman estimated at an attractive £400- 600. It drew multiple bids before it was knocked down at £4200.

The undated 6 x 5in (15 x 12cm) etching, numbered 13 of 25, probably dates to later in Matisse’s career when he experimented with the simplification of the female figure.

In style, it closely resembles the kind of works Matisse produced in the early 1940s, exemplified in the famous sequences of drawings published in Thèmes et Variations. This catalogue was chosen and organised by Matisse and contained sensitively drawn spare depictions of female figures and still-lifes.

Three pastoral etchings by Graham Sutherland (1903-80) all found buyers above their guides.

Lammas and Meadow Chapel sold for £1650 apiece against £300-500 estimates, while Warning Camp took £900, more than double its bottom guide.

A day before, the Bellmans saleroom in West Sussex sold two pastoral Sutherland etchings above estimates: Michaelmas at £900 and a woodland etching for £1200.

While Sutherland’s seven-figure post-war oils set the benchmark at auction, his distinctive Samuel Palmer-esque pastoral works of the 1920s often sell well if estimates are pitched sensibly – as these results proved.

In general, demand for 19th and early 20th century pastoral prints emerged from a small but active circle of domestic specialist dealers and collectors on the secondary market. The value for these prints has remained steady since the market was created some four decades ago, with the majority of auction prices in the low four figures for works in good condition by established names.

Pastoral tradition

Two further etchings by the father of the English pastoral tradition, Samuel Palmer (1805-81), performed similarly well in the group at Halls. Opening the Fold – Early Morning (1880) and The Herdsman’s Cottage (Sunset) were bid to £1550 and £900 respectively against identical £200-300 estimates.

Included among the Dutch Old Masters was a small 8 x 10½in (19.5 x 27cm) pen and ink drawing of an Italianate landscape attributed to Johannes Glauber (1646-1726). He produced such works for a growing mercantile class in Amsterdam who were keen to adorn their walls with classical subjects.

This example had been purchased for an unknown sum by the vendor at Christie’s in 1974. It found a buyer towards its lower guide at £550.

Florence view

Outside the works on paper, the picture section at Halls was led by a Giovanni Signorini (1808-64) river scene depicting the Arno from the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. Signed and dated 1846, the 22in x 2ft 11in (56 x 88cm) oil on canvas sold for a mid-estimate £6000.

The sale also included a large 5ft 1in x 4ft 2in (1.55 x 1.27m) continental view of figures on a rocky outcrop with a Dutch sailing ship and anglers beyond, catalogued as by Circle of Claude Joseph Vernet (1714-89). With provenance to Coton Hall – a country house built in Shropshire c.1800 – it found a buyer at £3400 towards the lower end of the £3000-5000 estimate.