A shot in the arm for traditional Scottish pictures

Art Daily
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Robert Brough R.A., A.R.S.A (Scottish 1872-1905), Breton Women by Street Light. Sold for £30,000.
Robert Brough R.A., A.R.S.A (Scottish 1872-1905), Breton Women by Street Light. Sold for £30,000.

EDINBURGH.- Huge confidence was shown in the market for Scottish paintings at a specialist sale offered by Lyon & Turnbull in Edinburgh on July 15. This remarkable sale, that attracted close to 500 international bidders competing via remote means, shot over its top estimate and generated a selling rate of 97%, with 100 of 103 lots offered sold.

Nick Curnow, Vice Chairman and Head of Paintings said the sale demonstrated great confidence – and a distinct uplift – in the market. “We were delighted to see an increased interest in traditional pictures, and continued competition on the big names of Scottish art.”

There are few bigger names in Scottish Victorian art than William McTaggart (1835-1910). He remained loyal to his heritage throughout his career, when asked to follow his contemporaries to London he answered simply: “No, I would rather be first in my own country than second in any other.” He painted the coastline of the Firth of Forth on many occasions, his 26 x 27in (66 x 70cm) oil The Fleet Leaving Port Seton Harbour typical in its broad, expressive handling of paint and en-plein air technique. It was guided at £10,000-15,000 but found many admirers before it sold at £45,000.

Joseph Farquharson (1846-1935), known particularly for his dramatic scenes of sheep in glittering, technicolour snow, showed another side of his art and lifestyle in a relatively small 18in x 12in (46cm x 31cm) oil titled The Garden at Finzean. Finzean was the family estate in Aberdeenshire Farquharson, a Scottish laird as well as a celebrated landscape painter, inherited in 1918 with this oil depicting the colourful patterns of border flowers on a summer’s day. It trebled hopes at £28,750.

Robert Brough’s (1872-1905) art is often overshadowed by the drama of his untimely death: he suffered horrific burns in a train collision outside of Sheffield. A protégé of John Singer Sargent, the older artist rushed to comfort him in his final days and curated a memorial exhibition in celebration of his talent. He wrote: “. . . the grace, the fluidity, the lightness of touch that are so delightful in Brough; that very rare quality of surface that seems to make the actual paint a precious substance.”

That Brough was a rising star can be glimpsed in the glorious brushstrokes of an atmospheric 101/2 x 18in (27 x 46cm) oil sketch titled Breton Women by Street Light, signed with initials. It was included in Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museum’s 1995 exhibition devoted to the artist. Estimated at £10,000-15,000, this rare work took £30,000.

Milk for the Kittens is a quintessential 11in x 12in (28 x 30cm) work by Robert Gemmell Hutchison (1860-1936) depicting a child feeding two kittens from a saucer sold for £18,750 (£3000-5000) while a typically elegant scene Glasgow Boy artist George Henry (1858-1943), doubled hopes at £11,250. Henry painted some of his most successful compositions in Galloway, having been encouraged to try painting there by his close-friend and artistic collaborator Edward Atkinson Hornel.

Bidding was particularly strong across four internet platforms – including Lyon & Turnbull’s bespoke service. “This was the first sale since ‘lockdown’ that we were able to offer viewing by appointment, which was greatly appreciated by our clients” said Nick Curnow. “Overall, the predominantly private audience for this sale adapted well to the live online format, with the majority of online bidders accessing the auction through our in-house platform, Lyon & Turnbull Live.”

Among the more modern works were those by William Gear (1915-97) and Alberto Morrocco (1917-99). Paysage Printanier, a 1950 abstract in black, red, white and green painted while Gear was living and working in Paris, sold for £11,250 while bidding flew past the £4000-6000 estimate to reach £30,000 for Morrocco’s vivid 19 x 11in (48 x 27cm) oil on panel The Kitchen Maid.

Signed and dated 1986, it was one of the many vigorous works Morrocco produced following his retirement from his professional life as head of the school of painting at the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art.

The next dedicated Scottish Paintings & Sculpture auction will be on December 3rd 2020 – entries invited until October 30th.

*All prices include Buyer’s Premium.