Works from the collection of Allen & Beryl Freer to be offered at auction
LONDON.-Chiswick Auctions in West London announced The Delighted Eye Part II sale on February 25, 2021. It follows a year after Christie’s part I auction, The Delighted Eye: Works from the Collection of Allen and Beryl Freer, which was a white glove sale, attracting widespread interest for these highly sought-after works. The part II sale is therefore set to draw interest from all corners of the globe on February 25, 2021.
The sale celebrates Allen and Beryl Freer’s love of art, their keen eye for twentieth century British paintings, drawings, prints, ceramics, furniture and books and the numerous friendships that sprung from the artists, makers, and publishers that they met, as they continually acquired new works for their extensive collection.
The Freer’s passion for art filled their detached sixties home in a suburb south of Manchester, with treasures. The sale, a celebration of their collecting, comprises more than 250 artworks, over 50 pieces of ceramic and furniture and more than 200 books. Estimates range from £100 to £2,000 and many of the works are to be offered without a reserve.
Commenting on the sale, specialist in charge of the sale, Krassi Kuneva, says: “The Delighted Eye Part II offers art lovers and collectors at all levels, the opportunity to acquire a work from an extraordinary collection, which so amply illustrates the quality and breadth of 20th century British art”.
ALLEN FREER: COLLECTOR, WRITER, ARTIST & CRAFTSMAN
Allen Freer’s aspiration to build a collection started early. He recalled:
‘I was eighteen before I went into a house with pictures…I was entranced not only with the books and pictures but with the total ambiance. Then and there I knew that when the war was over, I wanted a room like this one, with books and paintings and engravings and bits of old and new furniture keeping each other company.’
He succeeded, as his daughter Dr Catharine Davies reminisces: ‘There [were] no empty spaces — pictures [were] even hung on the sides of bookcases and beside windows. Having a mirror or a cupboard was much more of an issue growing up — that meant a challenge to much-needed wall space!’
While pursuing a degree in literary studies at Cambridge, Allen came to know Jim Ede of Kettle’s Yard, who had a strong influence on his future philosophy of art and poetry. A teacher throughout his life, and by turns a publisher, patron, curator, writer, editor and artist and craftsman, Allen Freer was a true pioneer of culture. His subject was English, and as an Inspector on the Manchester Education Committee he was committed to guaranteeing that art and poetry were part of the school curriculum. He purchased or commissioned art on behalf of Manchester City Council to be used as a teaching resource. He made friends with poets and writers and invited them to give readings and workshops in local schools.
He was an active force in publishing several volumes of text and image and organised exhibitions of the artists he admired, including Winifred Nicholson, John Nash and Edward Bawden. He published a monograph on one of his favourite artists, John Nash, The Delighted Eye (a quote from W.B. Yates) in 1993 and later curated an exhibition of Nash’s work for Manchester Cathedral. He continued his work on the artist and in 2007 he also published Love Letters from the Front: John Nash to Christine Kühlenthal, France 1916-1917 (The Cyder Press, University of Gloucestershire).
An accomplished watercolourist, Allen’s work was published to illustrate both poetry and prose, and has been part of mixed shows at Agnew’s, the New Grafton Gallery, Spink and Sons, Robin Garton and with Austin/Desmond Fine Art. He also had solo shows at the Tib Lane Gallery in Manchester between 1970 and 1982. More than ten of his own paintings are included in the auction, linking his artistry with his connoisseurship.
BERYL FREER AND COLLECTING
‘Don’t run two cars!’ Would be my mother’s tip for financing a collection which originally was one ‘made on a shoestring’. A lifelong non-driver, my mother turned her abilities to being excellent at navigation, which was essential to tracking down the secluded abodes of artists living in the more remote areas of the British countryside’ notes Catharine.
Beryl’s interest in art came from an early age. She explored the National Gallery collection first through a catalogue she won as a school prize. A history student at Bedford College, London, just after the war, she recalls the intensity of seeing the single pictures brought back from their refuges in the slate quarries of North Wales – the great works of European art rationed and intently contemplated. Beryl enjoyed travelling and in her teens she had cycled over Leicestershire on the trail of historic churches. He parents moving from Leicester to Lowestoft marked the beginning of a family tradition of Easter and summer holidays in Suffolk. This was a very significant reason why the Freers got to know John Nash, Josef Herman, Margaret Mellis, Mary and Tessa Newcombe, John O’Connor and Blair Hughes Stanton. In retirement, the family had more freedom and funds to travel. Culture tours through Europe, and to America and Russia followed and resulted in more friendships. Beryl befriended Olga Golatina, who guided the family in Yaroslavl in the 90s. This led the Freers to Olga’s father, Alexei Yegorov and his friend Antonov, whose works became part of their collection.
Over the years the Freer collection became increasingly sociable and Beryl’s talents as a cook and hostess became a vital part of the invitation to ‘come and see the pictures’. Her attention to detail was instrumental in keeping index cards, her critical eye and response to colour helped her with the arrangement of all furnishings and artefacts in the home. ‘Her opposition was a great spur to Grandpa’ notes her grandson, but ‘her support and loyalty could never be doubted. The collection was after all her home, her milieu, for over sixty years’ records Catharine.
The couple began collecting following Allen’s early interest in all types of printmaking. Their first purchase was an original lithograph by Vanessa Bell in 1951 and gradually they acquired editions by artists such as David Jones, John Nash, Eileen Agar, Eric Ravilious, Edward Wadsworth, Sir Terry Frost and Eric Gill, among others and built a considerable collection by a large number of renowned British Printmakers.
For Allen and Beryl meeting artists and exploring their studios and practices was a favourite pastime. They would travel through the country, often with their daughters and spend hours exploring. ‘The artist and his/her world was just as important [as a purchase] and many became friends’, recalls Mary Freer, the couple’s youngest daughter.
The collection offers a wonderful insight into the practice of many artists and some truly wonderful museum-worthy pieces. Three of Eileen Agar’s works offered in the February sale have been promised as loans for the forthcoming major retrospective at the Whitechapel Gallery, London: Eileen Agar: Angel of Anarchy. (Italian Girl, The Dancer, The Guardians of the Shrine).
Other artists well represented in the collection include Ivon Hitchens (with more than ten drawings), John Nash (with approximately twenty drawings and prints), works by Sir Terry Frost, Prunella Clough, Edward Wadsworth, Keith Vaughan, Anna & Norman Adams, Kate Nicholson, Mary & Tessa Newcomb, Eric Gill, Lynton Lamb and Alexei Yegerov to name but a few. The pieces often bear dedications or insightful notes providing background stories. Cards exchanged for holidays and many examples of lovely intimate drawings show the true appreciation and connection with the art and its makers upon which the Freer collection was built.
A passion for private press books and the art of illustration led the Freers to build an equally impressive library. The core of the library are the Private Press Books illustrated by the Freers’ favourite artists. Highlights include: Rampant Lions Press.- Cleverdon (Douglas) The Engravings of David Jones: A Survey, 2 vol., copy number X of 105 copies on hand-made paper, Clover Hill Editions, 1981; Fleece Press. Nash (John) Twenty One Wood Engravings, introduction by Allen Freer, one of 12 copies from an edition limited to 112, 1981 and a number of books by the Gregynog Press including Aesop. The Fables of Esope, number 51 of 250 copies, Gregynog Press, 1931. There are also a number of books bound by prominent binders such as James Brockman. Allen Freer had a passion for bookbinding and there are few of his own examples with his own marbled papers.
The family was fortunate to obtain books from the library of H.J. Massingham, some of which are also offered in the sale: Marvell (Andrew) Miscellaneous Poems, first edition, pencil note stating this was the property of Penelope Massingham wife of H.J. Massingham, bookplate of Allan Freer to from paste-down, Robert Boulter, 1681, and [Holinshed (Raphael) The Chronicles of England, Scotlande and Irelande,], 2 vol. in 1,[Second edition, ‘Mr Colquhoun/ Bound by Payne/ Dr P Colquhoun’, ‘H.J.Massingham 22 May: 1916 at Barnes’ [1587[-86]. The collection also offers a number of art reference books and poetry which go hand in hand with the couple’s interests.
CERAMICS & FURNITURE:
Ceramics and furniture were another integral part of the Freer’s collecting journey. Lusterware and modern pottery ceramics were other favourites. Many were sold when funds were needed over the years, but fine examples such as pieces by Katherine Pleydell-Bouverie are part of the sale.
‘Chairs…. many chairs. Dad had a great appreciation of good chairs’, comments Mary Freer.
The Freers’ dining room boasted more than twelve chairs, each with its own story. The auction presents five bespoke ladder-back 1950s examples made for the Freer family by Edward Gardiner, who was trained by Ernest Gimson, a craftsman highly involved with the arts and crafts movement. Pieces by craftsmen such as Neville Neal, Jack Goodchild, Hugh Birkett were also added to the home. Mr Freer knew his woods, shared his passion with the family and after learning to turn wood was not afraid to test his talent and created beautiful pieces of furniture, examples of which can also be found in the sale.