Lot 9
  • 9

John Bratby, R.A.

30,000 - 50,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • John Bratby, R.A.
  • Still Life with Oranges
  • inscribed on the reverse
  • oil on board
  • 120 by 100cm.; 47 by 39½in.
  • Executed in 1954.


Beaux Arts Gallery, London
Julian Hartnoll, London, where acquired by the present owner


Cheltenham, Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum, Six Young Painters: Michael Andrews, John Bratby, Harold Cohen, Martin Froy, Derrick Greaves, Philip Sutton, 5th - 26th May 1956, cat. no.9, with Arts Council tour to Midland Group Gallery, Nottingham, Polytechnic Hall, Falmouth, Harrogate Art Gallery, Harrogate, Public Library, Museum & Art Gallery, Carlisle and Hatton Gallery, Newcastle.


Structurally sound. There are old, historic nail holes visible to the extreme edges of the board, and some old associated losses to these aforementioned holes. There is an old, historic crack to the centre of the upper edge of the board, which was possibly in place before the artist began the composition. There is a further area of old loss to the upper left hand edge of the board, and some minor surface cracking in this area, visible upon closer inspection, and all appearing stable. There is cracquelure to the thick white impasto of the top of the milk jug in the lower right of the composition, and further minor instances visible elsewhere upon closer inspection. There is a horizontal incision to the lower left quadrant, visible upon close inspection. There are traces of surface dirt and discolouration to the old varnish visible in places, together with some slight flattening to one or two of the raised areas of thicker impasto. This excepting the work appears in good overall condition. Ultraviolet light reveals some scattered areas of fluorescence and probable retouchings to the edges of the composition, most noticeable to the left hand edge. Housed behind glass in a thick dark wooden frame. Unexamined out of frame. Please telephone the department on +44 207 293 6424 if you have any questions or queries 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

In the December 1954 issue of the popular journal Encounter the art critic David Sylvester grouped together the four young artists John Bratby, Edward Middleditch, Derick Greaves and Jack Smith, singling them out based on their subject matter, having moved out of the studio and into the kitchen to paint the everyday detritus of working-class life.

The name 'Kitchen Sink' painters stuck and was a label that rocketed the four young artists to national and international acclaim. Yet they were more than just artists riding on a recent ‘fad’ title, for their work was an important response not just to the artistic attitudes of the day, but also to the broader social climate – one which a few years later gave rise to John Osborne’s seminal play Look Back In Anger.

Bratby and his fellow artists, like Osborne, looked to working class subjects for their influence, no longer constrained by the traditional and outmoded model for a landscape, portrait or still life subject. Refusing to paint the dainty and decorative, Bratby instead painted his life, the cluttered kitchen table tops with basic crockery, used mugs and glasses all spread across the grubby work top, cereal boxes precariously balanced and fruit bowls full of real fruit that real people would eat. Yet their work was also a response to the prevailing art styles of the period, as a critique of both the formalised realism of the Euston Road School and the growing trends of Abstraction which were beginning to creep in. Instead these four artists attended the Royal College of Art, the school that only a few years later saw pop pioneers such as David Hockney pass through their halls, and together championed a new style of painting in Britain.

Bratby found instant success both in the pages of the daily newspapers who seemed to love and loathe him in equal measure, but also in the London galleries, becoming a regular feature at Helen Lessore’s Beaux Arts Gallery, which first sold the present work. Bratby, more so than the other three artists, painted with ferocious force, visible in the very make up of his thickly impastoed compositions. His paintings of this period capture the attitudes of a generation that following the end of the Second World War wanted and needed to be heard; artists desperate to make their mark on the new landscape of the contemporary art scene.