Modern British & Irish Art

A Life in Art with The Hutchinson Collection

By Frances Christie

J eremy Hutchinson, later Lord Hutchinson of Lullington, Q.C. (1915-2017), was one of the most renowned criminal barristers of his generation. Sotheby’s will be offering a selection of his collection as part of its upcoming Made in Britain sale, led by Duncan Grant’s early, avant-garde Tents, purchased by Mary in 1917 on the recommendation of Clive Bell.

Hutchinson's long career at the Bar was abruptly postponed at its outset by the beginning of the Second World War, throughout which he served with distinction in the Royal Navy. In the decades that followed, Lord Hutchinson defended Christine Keeler and Howard Marks as well as the publication of D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley’s Lover in a long career of watershed legal cases and causes célèbres. Lord Hutchinson was also a passionate promoter of the arts, becoming a trustee and later Chairman of the Tate Gallery from 1980-84 as well as Vice-Chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain from 1974-79.

His parents, Mary (1889-1977) and St John Hutchinson (1884 – 1942), were closely associated with the Bloomsbury group. Born in India and raised in Florence, Mary became a celebrated hostess photographed by the likes of Cecil Beaton and was a first cousin once removed of Duncan Grant.

Mary Hutchinson photographed by Cecil Beaton © THE CECIL BEATON ARCHIVE AT SOTHEBY'S.

Around 1915, she became Clive Bell’s lover until the late 1920s and she was thus introduced into the heart of the bohemian Bloomsbury world where art and literature united effortlessly with law and economics.

Duncan Grant, Tents , 1917. Estimate £30,000–50,000.
Are you seriously on the look out for a Duncan?... there is what I consider a very good one going – tents and trees; I suppose it costs about twenty pounds.
Clive Bell, letter to Mary Hutchinson, 16 July 1914, Humanities Research Center, University of Texas.

The Hutchinsons were strong patrons of Roger Fry’s Omega Workshops and collectors of many of the avant-garde artists promoted by them including Duncan Grant (see lots 75, 76 and 80), André Derain and Henri Matisse. Indeed, in 1936, Mary became one of the few British sitters to have been painted by Matisse in his Paris studio (her portrait was sold at Sotheby’s on 19th June 2018 for £3,130,000). Mary commissioned the Omega Workshops to decorate their home at River House, Hammersmith for which Vanessa designed an iconic bedhead featuring Nude with Poppies (the preliminary oil on canvas is in the Collection of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery). Vanessa wrote to St John Hutchinson on 24th August 1916:

Please tell Mary I’ve been painting her bed – I hope she won’t be horrified to hear there’s a nude figure of the most romantic description with poppies and waves – asleep – and bouquets of flowers and white satin ribbon – I don’t think it’s at all what she wanted…
Vanessa Bell, letter to St John Hutchinson, quoted Richard Shone, The Art of Bloomsbury, exh. cat., Tate, London, 4 November 1999 – 30 April 2000, p.164

It is, of course, somewhat ironic that she should decorate Mary’s bed given that Mary was, at that time, mistress to her husband Clive. The River House project was featured in Vogue in 1919 and Vanessa subsequently completed the decoration of their next London house at 3 Albert Gate, Regent’s Park. Bell’s portrait of Mary is now in the Tate Collection (1915, Mrs St John Hutchinson) and she also sat for both Grant and Bell at Charleston in April 1917 (lot 75).

Duncan Grant, Portrait of Mary Hutchinson , circa 1917, Estimate £1,000–1,500.

The Hutchinsons were also close friends with the slightly older generation of artists that surrounded Professor Henry Tonks, esteemed Professor of the Slade School of Fine Art. The couple are brought together with his closest friends the Irish author George Moore and artist Philip Wilson Steer in his seminal painting Saturday Evening at the Vale (1928-29, Tate Collection). During the early years of the First World War, Tonks had used the Hutchinsons’ large boat-house as a studio at their house Eleanor in West Wittering and remained close and regular friends until his death in 1937.

Henry Tonks, Illustration for ‘The Lovers of Orelay’. Estimate: £400-600.

Indeed, Mary Hutchinson posed for Henry Tonks’s comic, Boucher-esque illustrations of ‘The Lovers of Orelay’, a somewhat scandalous episode in George Moore’s autobiography, Memoirs of My Dead Life, first published in 1906.

Philip Wilson Steer, Shoreham-by-Sea , Estimate £10,000-15,000.

Jeremy Hutchinson himself was great friends with another generation of artists and amongst the works being offered for sale in Made in Britain in September are a sketch by famed sculptor Sir Anthony Caro, dedicated to Lord Hutchinson, (lot 83).

Sir Anthony Caro, Waves by a Cliff . Estimate £500–700.

Also featured is an acrylic and pastel work by renowned art historian and abstract artist John Golding (lot 84). Lord Hutchinson, like his parents before, was at the heart of the artistic spirit of London.

John Golding, Untitled . Estimate £1,000–1,500.

Sotheby’s are delighted to present this group of works from the Hutchinson collection, a collection formed through friendship, patronage and true dedication to independent and creative thought.

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