LONDON – Throughout the course of his life art, and British art in particular, remained a lasting passion for the author and book seller Martyn Goff, whose collection is part of the forthcoming Made In Britain sale.
MARTYN GOFF AT HIS DESK.
After serving in the RAF during the Second World War Goff began his career in the book trade, briefly working at the London bookshop Zwemmers before setting up on his own. In 1970 he became the director of the National Book League (later the Booktrust), and administered many major literary prizes, most notably the Booker Prize. With Goff at its helm the Booker soared to international standing. Fondly remembered by the author Sebastian Faulks as “kind, loyal, michevious,” Goff brought emerging authors to the attention of the British public.
GOFF’S FIRST NOVEL, THE PLASTER FABRIC (1957), WITH A DUSTJACKET DESIGNED BY JOHN MINTON.
Goff was also an accomplished and acclaimed writer, both of fact and fiction, penning ten novels during his life and several non-fiction books, largely dedicated to his love of music. Goff’s first novel, The Plaster Fabric, was published in 1957 and dealt with the then illegal homosexual lifestyle of its main protagonist Laurie Kingston with unabashed honesty. This frank and forward discussion continued with his subsequent novels, including The Youngest Director (1961) and Indecent Assault (1967) both now considered ‘cult’ classics.
Together with his partner of over 35 years Rubio Lindroos, Goff built up a small but succinct collection of works by artists that he knew, admired and worked with. As he recalled “Julian MacLaren Ross, who was a Soho layabout, introduced me to John Minton, who introduced me to Graham Sutherland, who introduced me to John Piper, who introduced me to Henry Moore … and though I had almost no money at all, I bought something from each of them.” These art world associations littered his novels, with references to the East End street scenes of Sutherland and Piper; of painting by John Bratby and Ivon Hitchens; of Tristram Hilliers bought at Sotheby’s; of ‘real’ Bernard Leachs; the ruined landscapes of Cartier-Bresson and dreary Carel Weight cityscapes.
DAVID BOMBERG, GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE, CIRCA 1926, ESTIMATE £30,000–50,000.
Goff soaked in every aspect of the London art scene, and got to know many of its leading characters. He became a regular visitor to the house at Hamilton Terrace shared by Minton and Keith Vaughan, and, while not immediately warming to the latter, he was soon embraced into ‘Jonny’s Circus’, becoming close with the artist, regularly exchanging letters and offering advice on a property Minton was interested in buying. It was to Minton that Goff turned to with the task of illustrating The Plaster Fabric. The commission was to be his last completed dustjacket before the artist took his own life, and Goff dedicated the book to his close friend.
JOHN MINTON, BOATS AT VALENCIA, 1949. ESTIMATE £5,000–7,000.