From the Rare to the Unique, 2017's Modern British Art Highlights

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Launch Slideshow

From Nevinson's moving A Dawn, 1914 to the iconic ceramics of Lucy Rie, we look back over the works of art sold throughout 2017 by the Modern & Post War British Art department at Sotheby's. Click ahead to view the slideshow.

We are now inviting consignments for our upcoming auctions.

From the Rare to the Unique, 2017's Modern British Art Highlights

  • © Chris Levine, 2008.
    Chris Levine, Lightness of Being, 2004.
    Sold for £187,500.
    This iconic photograph of the Queen broke the record for the sale of Levine’s work at auction. This uniquely personal image of the monarch has become one of the most enduring images of the Queen, as her closed eyes reveal a vulnerability and introspection previously unseen in portraits. The artist’s original commission was a commemorative portrait for Jersey’s 800th year of allegiance to the British monarchy. This photograph became the unlikely product of the photo shoot when, between eight-second long shots where a high-resolution camera took 200 images in 360 degrees, the Queen closed her eyes for rest. Levin captured this moment, the image becoming the happy accident which has thus far achieved the highest price for the sale of his work.

    Read more: Chris Levine on Photographing the Queen.

    We are now inviting consignments for our upcoming auctions.  

  • © Estate of John David Roberts. By permission of the Treasury Solicitor
    William Roberts, The Tea Party, 1928.
    Sold for £848,750.
    William Roberts often roamed London sketching on scraps of paper scenes he came across; no doubt the composition of The Tea Garden with its jovial sitters was dug out from his stash of urban life. The nuanced expression, bright colours and varied gestures makes this piece exceptional, reflected in the price it achieved, flying to £848,750 in the 12th June Modern & Post-War British Art sale against a pre-sale estimate of £250,000-350,000. Not only did the work well over double its high estimate, but it also made the work the second highest price for a work by the artist, with Sotheby’s achieving four of the five highest selling Roberts paintings.

    Read more: Time for Tea: A Very British Pastime.

    We are now inviting consignments for our upcoming auctions.

  • © Sheila Lanyon. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2017
    Peter Lanyon, Fly Away, 1961.
    Sold for £332,750.
    The Modern British Department's June single-owner sale: 'London to St Ives: A Journey Through British Art', featured the work of many of the 20th Century’s most important British artists who lived in the artistic hubs of London or St Ives. Peter Lanyon’s work Fly Away, was offered for auction amongst other works by British greats Frank Auerbach, Reg Butler, and Lucian Freud. Lanyon had a unique idea of landscape painting, specifically Cornish. He often saw the landscape from a glider which he began piloting in 1959, a pastime that ultimately caused his demise in an accident in 1964. He maintained an empathetic vision of landscape painting, writing: “I want to make the point that landscape painting is not a provincial activity… but a true ambition like the mountaineer who cannot see the clouds without feeling the lift inside them…” (Some Aspects in Modern British Painting: an Artist’s Point of View, lecture for the British Council in Czechoslovakia, 27th January 1964).

    Read more: London to St. Ives: A Journey Through British Art.

    We are now inviting consignments for our upcoming auctions.

  • © Angela Verren Taunt. All rights reserved, DACS 2017
    Ben Nicholson, Two Fishes, 1932.
    Sold for £560,750.
    Two Fishes is an exceptional example of Ben Nicholson’s early work, fetching more than double its low estimate. The painting, which features two fish and a newspaper, captures the moment before the artist moved into pure abstraction - his first white reliefs which were realised only a year later in 1933. Two Fishes shows the lessons Nicholson learnt in Europe when visiting the studios of European greats: the translation of three-dimensional objects into two-dimensional objects, characteristic to analytic and synthetic cubism and witnessed in the studios of Bracques and Picasso, are seen in this painting in Nicholson’s own visual language.

    Read more: Ben Nicholson: An Artist Abroad

    We are now inviting consignments for our upcoming auctions.

  • © The Estate of Barry Flanagan / Bridgeman Images.
    Barry Flanagan, Thinker on Rock, 1996.
    Sold for £848,750.
    Selling for a record price for the artist at the time, Thinker On the Rock is a masterpiece of Flanagan’s oeuvre. The hare is famously Flanagan’s primary subject matter, on which he wrote: “I find that the hare is a rich and expressive form that can carry the conventions of the cartoon and the attributes of the human into the animal world. So I use the hare as a vehicle to entertain” (quoted in Enrique Juncosa, Barry Flanagan Sculpture 1965-2005, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, 2006, p.65). In this work he replaces Rodin’s man from the original The Thinker with a hare, adding elements of humour and accessibility to an iconic image of the human condition. The sale of this work, which far exceeded its high estimate, soaring to £848,750, reflects the ever-increasing demand for works by Flanagan.

    Read more: A Little Thinking Time.

    We are now inviting consignments for our upcoming auctions.

  • Lucie Rie, Yellow Footed Bowl with Bronzed Rim, circa 1980s.
    Sold for £125,000.
    The ceramics of Lucie Rie performed exceptionally well in the September 'Made in Britain' sale, with Yellow Footed Bowl making over ten times its high estimate. Celebrated during her lifetime - included in the 1951 Festival of Britain and permanent displays of the Victoria and Albert and the Metropolitan Museum of Art – Rie’s success in this sale demonstrates the continued growth of her reputation. Her sophisticated glazes, a result of much experimentation, imbue her work with a sense of gesture, which mirror the artistic trends around her in the 1960s and 1970s. Her work was instrumental in elevating the ceramics to the position of fine art.

    Read more: Sir David Attenborough Remembers Dame Lucie Rie.

    We are now inviting consignments for our upcoming auctions.

  • Sir Winston Churchill, Study of Roses, 1930s.
    Sold for £638,750.
    Offered as part of 'Vivien: The Vivien Leigh Collection', a rare ‘white-glove’ auction, this painting represents a friendship between two celebrated figures of the 20th century: Vivien Leigh and Winston Churchill. Spotted by Vivien when visiting Chartwell, Churchill promised the painting to the actress for Christmas; “two weeks later, a marvellous package arrived, and there it was with a letter, which of course I shall keep all my life, saying, “I couldn’t wait until Christmas.” (Vivien Leigh, 1960, quoted in Winston Churchill, The Valiant Years, Episode 26, directed by Anthony Bushell and John Schlesinger, ABC Productions, 1960). Soaring to five times its high estimate, Study of Roses was one of four Churchill paintings sold this year at Sotheby’s, all of which have far exceeded their high estimates with demand for works by Winston Churchill continuing unabated.

    Read more: Sir Winston Churchill's Final Painting .

    We are now inviting consignments for our upcoming auctions
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  • Image © The estate of Patrick Caulfield. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2017
    Patrick Caulfield, Sweet Bowl, 1966.
    Sold for £524,750.
    In October Sotheby’s offered for sale the collection of the late Howard Hodgkin, collector and eminent artist. Amongst the diverse lots offered for sale were three works by his close friend and artistic contemporary, Patrick Caulfield. This particular oil painting is an extraordinarily fine example of Caulfield’s work, selling for the second highest price ever for the artist, coming second only to a work sold in Sotheby’s Bowie Collection sale in November 2016. The smooth, still paint surface and the simple geometries of the painting transforms the ordinary sweet bowl into an otherworldly object.

    Read more: Howard Hodgkin, Portrait of the Artist.

    We are now inviting consignments for our upcoming auctions.

  • CRW Nevinson, A Dawn, 1914, 1916.
    Sold for £1,869,000.
    This painting is one of Nevinson’s best depictions of the First World War, fetching a world record price for the artist of £1,869,000, smashing the previous record by more than £1 million. It depicts French conscripts marching through the street: the repetition of shape and colour gives the viewer the impression of the rhythmic sound of marching. Men morph into a unified machine in the pattern of faces, caps and bayonets repeated until they became a geometric mass, cogs in the machine of warfare. The work maintains a sense of violence and common purpose of the war effort, without glorifying it, and as such is not only an excellent work by the artist, but one of the best war paintings of the First World War.

    Read more: The Greatest WWI Painting by Britain’s Leading War Artist .

    We are now inviting consignments for our upcoming auctions
    .


  • Image © The Estate of L.S. Lowry. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2017
    LS Lowry, The Rush Hour.
    Sold for £1,113,000.
    Offered as part of the November Modern & Post-War British Evening sale, Rush Hour by L.S. Lowry sold for the highest price for the artist this year. The work, which is characteristic of Lowry’s Northern cityscapes, is intricately worked and details the daily commute to work. Littered across this industrial landscape, no two figures are the same; each individual is rendered in just a few precise brushstrokes, hunched over against the prevailing wind.

    Read more: True Grit: The Paintings of L.S. Lowry & Joan Eardley.

    We are now inviting consignments for our upcoming auctions.

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