LONDON – Today we are used to the sight of delivery vans scooting round the busy London streets, calling at offices, shops and warehouses, but 75 years ago it was the sound of the bicycle bell that heralded the delivery of everything from newspapers to groceries.


WILLIAM ROBERTS, BICYCLE BOYS, 1939. ESTIMATE: £200,000–300,000. TO BE OFFERED IN SOTHEBY’S LONDON MODERN & POST-WAR
BRITISH ART SALE ON 17-18 NOVEMBER.

William Roberts captures an exciting energy in Bicycle Boys, to be included in the 17 November sale of Modern & Post-War British Art. Living in North London on the edge of Primrose Hill and Regent’s Park, Roberts was drawn to the depiction of group activities, but these cyclists are no pleasure-seekers or Sunday-riders, instead the painting shows them going about their daily rounds as delivery boys and repair men, donning aprons with pencils tucked behind one ear and front boxes laden with baked goods and fresh fish.


AN EXAMPLE OF A BRITISH DELIVERY BOY THAT INSPIRED ROBERTS’ PAINTING.

Bicycle Boys captures the essence of Roberts’ artistic approach . The scene is extremely animated, with the artist articulating the intricacies of social interaction through gestures and facial expressions. The figures are characteristically arranged across a series of diagonals that pull the viewer’s eye across, up and around the composition.