Lot 97
  • 97

John Bratby, R.A.

20,000 - 30,000 GBP
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  • John Bratby, R.A.
  • Tonked Still Life
  • signed
  • oil on board
  • 53.5 by 71cm., 21 by 28in.


Galerie Michael Haas, Berlin


The back of the board is pierced by six old holes - these appear to have been present before the artist began work and have caused some slight uneveness to the painted surface at these particular points. However, they do not in any way mar the overall appearance of the painting which is distiguished by its worked, impastoed surface. The board otherwise appears to remain in excellent original condition providing a good sound support. There are some minor chips to the paint surface in the extreme upper right hand corner and at the top of the right edge four small horizontal cracks are visible (max 0.5cm.) with a further tiny loss at middle of this edge. The extreme top edge of the board is also very slightly scuffed. Another small loss (0.5cm. diameter) is visible upper left at the table edge in a position relative to one of the old holes mentioned above. Two or three further smaller losses are visible in the lower part of the picture, but overall the paint surface does appear to be in good, stable condition. Inspection under UV light reveals a scattering of very small retouchings. The largest of these (measuring 1 by 3cm.) centre left, with a small spot just below it and various smaller spots in the lower left hand corner. Three further spots of retouching (max 1cm. diameter) can be seen lower centre with further tiny touches in the lower right hand corner. There is another similar 1cm. diameter spot of retouching above the Shreddies and another a the tip of the tall white packet. Presented unglazed in a very simple wooden frame, the work would possibly benefit from re-presentation.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Painted in 1954.

In an article written for the magazine Encounter in 1954, the critic David Sylvester unwittingly gave the ‘Kitchen Sink’ tag to the four painters also often grouped together as the ‘Beaux Arts Quartet’; John Bratby, Derrick Greaves, Edward Middleditch and Jack Smith. However, recent art historical research has sought to look afresh at these painters, their relationship with each other and their position in the British art world of the 1950’s. Now, with over half a century of hindsight, it is becoming possible to see not only how these paintings are informed by the spirit and concerns of the time but also how they fit into both a tradition and context of European social realism.

Bratby’s table-top still life paintings in the 1950’s are perhaps the diametric opposite of those produced by the established artists of the decade like Ben Nicholson, and with their thickly applied paint and almost haphazard clutter of branded products littered across the image, almost assault the viewer. The appeal of packaging and brands appears in Bratby’s work well in advance of that which it was to engender amongst the later pop artist’s, but commentators have been divided over Bratby’s motive for using such subjects. Was he responding to the recent widening of choices available to the British consumer with the end of post-war rationing and revelling in the colour and vibrancy of the packaging, a modern ‘pronkstilleven’, or is this a more acid comment on consumerism?