Lot 2
  • 2

EDWARD BURRA | Flamenco Band

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Edward Burra
  • Flamenco Band
  • pencil, ink, watercolour, gouache and wash on paper laid down on board
  • 56.5 by 77cm.; 22¼ by 30¼in.
  • Executed circa 1930.


Alex. Reid & Lefevre Ltd, London, where acquired by a Private Collection, U.K., July 1961
The Mayor Gallery Ltd, London, where acquired by the late owners, 20th February 1968


London, Whitford and Hughes, The Surrealist Spirit in Britain, May 1988, cat. no.13 (as Flamenco Orchestra); 
London, Crane Kalman Gallery Ltd, Edward Burra, 10th April - 10th May 2008;
London, Browse & Darby, A Critic’s Choice Selected by Andrew Lambirth – Part I (1900-1950), 19th October - 11th November 2011.


The sheet has been fully laid down onto board. The board appears sound. There is a possible Artist's pinhole to the extreme upper left corner. The edges may have been very slightly trimmed. There are a few instances of very minor nicks and rounding to the extreme edges of the sheet, mostly confined to the right of the upper edge and the right edge, not visible in the present frame. There are very fine lines of craquelure to the slightly thicker pigment to the dancer's face, only visible upon very close inspection, with one or two possible more minor instances elsewhere. There are tiny speckles of loss to the dancer's lips, to her right proper eye and in her hair around her right proper ear, with further speckles of loss to her dress and to a few isolated areas elsewhere. These are only visible upon close inspection. There is a small accretion to the dancer's dress, only visible upon close inspection, and a small number of instances of specks of detritus and surface matter. There may be a slight rub to the dancer's right proper foot, to the hand of the right-hand guitar player and to the cheek of the left-hand guitar player, with one or two possible more minor instances elsewhere. These are only visible upon close inspection. There is evidence of staining in line with a mount or frame towards the edges of the sheet, not visible in the present frame. There may be some possible fading to the pigments and light surface dirt. The work is held behind glass in a gilt painted wooden frame with a painted canvas slip. 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

From an early age Edward Burra had been fascinated by foreign travel, and throughout his life he visited as far afield as America and Mexico. But it was the Mediterranean cultures that were to provide the greatest draw for the artist, most notably his love affair with France and Spain. Having first visited Josephine Baker’s Paris at the age of 20 in 1925, Burra had dreamt of the South of France and on receiving proceeds from his first major sale (for three paintings sold to Hugh Baker) at the age of 22, Burra immediately declared ‘…I think of going to Toulon Nice Valencure Cassis Cannes and Marsailles [sic]…’ (Edward Burra, quoted in Jane Stevenson, Edward Burra: Twentieth Century Eye, Jonathan Cape, London, 2007, p.197). His desire was fulfilled in September 1927 when he first travelled to the South of France with his great friend Billy Chappell. He wrote with characteristic flair to Barbara Ker-Seymer from Cassis ‘our hotel is a dream of delight… everyone walks about with drawing books and canvasses the canvasses look a bit futurist you know you cant tell its’s the old manse at twilight or death at the festival… We are going to Marseilles on B’s birthday you know us men … the guide books says [it] is a veritable ghettos of houses of ilfame my dear I stares into every window hoping for a thrill…’ (Edward Burra, letter to Barbara Ker-Seymer, 24th September 1927, quoted in William Chappell (ed.), Well dearie! The Letters of Edward Burra, Gordon Fraser, London, 1985, pp.36-7). Lured into the intoxicating world of bars, theatres, musical halls and cafe cabarets, Burra’s experience in Paris and amongst the eclectic crowds in the South of France had a fundamental impact on the direction of his art in the late 1920s and early ‘30s. He spent hours sitting in the street-side cafes and bars soaking up the atmosphere and observing the acute idiosyncrasies of the passing crowds. Dated to around this time, the present work was painted at the height of his interest in the heady French bohemian underworld and clearly displays his fascination with all things theatrical, drawing on the dancers he would have encountered in the theatre halls in Paris, and his great imagination. Closely relating to similar works such as Flamenco Dancer (1931-2, Private Collection), the dancing figure also provides the genesis for his depiction of female heroines such as Mae West (1934-5, Private Collection) seen in later works.

Although it was not until 1933 that Burra finally visited Spain - with his close friend Conrad Aiken, Aiken’s wife Clarissa, and the young writer Malcolm Lowry – here he captures the Spanish flair with great gusto and theatricality, whilst showcasing the artist’s unrivalled understanding of the medium of watercolour. An exhilarating combination of actual and imagined realities, Flamenco Band fuses together the kitsch glamour embodied by the flamboyantly polka-dotted diamanté dress of the female dancer, with the everyday grittiness of the insalubrious guitarists seated behind.