Lot 17
  • 17

David Bomberg

150,000 - 250,000 GBP
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  • David Bomberg
  • Sunrise in the Mountains, Picos de Asturias
  • signed and dated 35
  • oil on canvas
  • 59 by 67cm.; 23¼ by 26½in.


The Artist, from whom acquired by the previous owner
Their sale, Christie's London, 23rd March 1995, lot 141, where acquired by David Bowie


London, Tate, David Bomberg, 17th February - 8th May 1988, cat. no.131, illustrated pl.40 & p.160;
Manchester, Manchester City Art Gallery, The Pursuit of the Real: British Figurative Painting from Sickert to Bacon, 10th March - 22nd April 1990, cat. no.15, with tour to Barbican Art Gallery, London, and Glasgow City Art Gallery, Glasgow.


Original canvas. The right vertical canvas stretcher seems slightly bowed, but otherwise the canvas appears sound. There is a very small horizontal scratch apparent towards the right side of the lower horizontal edge. There are several spots of loss at the extreme upper edge of the work, and there is a small speck of loss at the top of the left vertical edge. There may be a small loss to the dark purple-green pigment towards the left side of the lower horizontal edge. At the right vertical edge, it is possible to see some extremely minor craquelure and one or two tiny specks of loss where the canvas is pulled over the stretcher. There is some very slight rubbing to one or two of the tips of impasto. There is some light surface dirt in places. Subject to the above, the work appears to be in excellent overall condition. Ultraviolet light reveals an area of retouching beneath the signature, which is visible to the naked eye. There are also some areas of fluorescence, which are though to be in keeping with the artist's materials. The work is presented in a painted wooden frame. Please telephone the department on +44 (0) 207 293 6424 if you have any questions regarding the present work.
"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

After spending several months in Ronda where his passion for painting was reawakened, Bomberg moved to the small settlement of Linares high above the valley of La Hermida in the Asturian Mountains, northern Spain, in the summer of 1935. The surrounding mountain-scape was equally breathtaking and ignited another spectacular response in the artist. Bomberg fused a close study of nature with his subjective reaction to the scenery, often spending hours absorbing the magnificent landscape before beginning to paint with a discernible sense of personal urgency.

Redolent of the dynamism of his pre-war work, these paintings found a new intensity, rich with impasto capturing the ever-changing environment, red hot in the sunlight. In Sunrise in the Mountains, Picos de Asturias the blue and purple gloom of the rugged cliff-face is drawn back by the striking clarity of the sliver of bright sky. Though the composition is freely formed by spontaneous brushstrokes, the present work captures the grandeur and monumentality of the mountains and is imbued with a tactile quality and a sense of transience. Bomberg had a famously ardent and independent temperament, and his paintings of this period are characterised by a thrilling sense of energy and freedom that he must have experienced in the dramatic mountainous setting. 

Cut short by the looming onset of Civil War, Bomberg’s Spanish period undoubtedly laid the foundations for arguably the most important role of his career: a respected and influential teacher. Bomberg urged his students to capture the ‘spirit in the mass’, and his passionate and visceral approach, no doubt brought on by the emotional experience of Spain, inspired the young Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff who attended his evening classes at Borough Polytechnic in the 1950s. Kossoff later recalled: ‘The life room at St Martin’s at that time was very rigid and inhibiting and I remember a feeling of relief and excitement when I first entered Bomberg’s class. People were working in a way I’d only previously dared to work on my own. The atmosphere was intense and everyone was involved in an energetic manner’ (Kossoff, 1995, quoted in Paul Moorhouse, Leon Kossoff, (exh. cat.), Tate, London, 1996, p.12). The brooding intensity and expressive handling of the younger artists’ work is a direct influence of Bomberg’s artistic approach and manipulation of paint: raw, unflinching and instinctive to the core.