Sotheby's Inc.

11/07/2018 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 11/07/2018 03:50

Modern & Post-War British Art at Sotheby’s London

Melica Khansari | [email protected] | +44 (0) 207 293 6000

Modern & Post-War British Art at Sotheby's London

Showcasing Rare, Rediscovered Works by Britain's

Most Pioneering Artists


Evening Auction: 20 November 2018 │ Day Auction: 21 November 2018

Sotheby's Autumn sale of Modern & Post-War British Art is led by an exciting array of paintings, works on paper and sculpture by the most celebrated and recognised names in the field, capturing the truly international scope of the British Arts scene over the course of the past century.


Henry Moore, Family Group, bronze, conceived in 1946 and cast by 1947 (est. £1,300,000-1,800,000)

'The arms of the mother and the father [intertwine] with the child forming a knot between them, tying the three into a family unit'

A seminal work by the most celebrated British sculptor of the past century, Henry Moore's Family Group represents the zenith of the sculptor's lifelong obsession with the universal motif of parenthood. To Moore, the family became a symbol of hope, of the intransience of human bonds of support, compassion and care, and of turning to the domestic life in the face of immense experiences of trauma.

The large-scale iteration of this piece was a fundamental spring-board to Moore's post-war career. Immediately after the war, architect Eugene Rosenberg commissioned the artist to create a sculpture for his project, the Barclay School in Stevenage - Moore's first large-scale commission in bronze. This was the first purpose-built comprehensive secondary school built in Britain after the war and Moore's monumental version of Family Group was installed in 1950.

International appreciation of Moore's work was burgeoning immediately after WWII - with his first ever major retrospective taking place at The Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1946. This maquette boasts exceptional provenance, having been acquired by MoMA just two years after its conception.

William Roberts, The Joke, oil on canvas, 1923 (est. £300,000-500,000)

Few works of the early twentieth century paint as vivid a picture of the heady Bohemian London nightlife as William Roberts' The Joke, which is appearing at auction for the first time, having been acquired by the grandfather of the present owner from the artist's very first solo exhibition in 1923.

The evocative painting depicts the artist's fellow Slade student and brother-in-law Jacob Kramer and the well-known Creole model Hélène Yelin at the Harlequin Tea Rooms. Situated on Beak Street, tucked away behind London's bustling Regent's Street, the Harlequin became a hub for artists, models and muses in the 1920s. The atmosphere and subject matter of the Harlequin led Roberts to produce some of the most striking and important paintings of his career. Shaking off the confines of tradition, they capture the growing influence of New York over British culture, and the birth of the Jazz age, with the great sense of excitement that abounded during this post-war period.

Sir Peter Blake, Strong Man, 1, oil on board with collaged elements, 1957 (est. £150,000-250,000)

'I paint about the life I knew. It isn't Victoriana, it's nostalgia, or rather a sentimentality, for my childhood, but it's also a feeling for what's going on now - an emotion'

Unseen in public for well over half a century, Peter Blake's Strong Man, 1 comes from a small group of proto-Pop works created by the artist whilst still in his early 20s, exploring his fascination with characters that populated the fringes of society, as well as his love of nostalgia. The witty works that Blake produced during this period, executed on found wooden boards, become objects - relic-like -scarred by the hand of the artist and the imagined passing of time. The paint surface is rubbed, taking on an antique appearance and referencing the fading memory of childhood experiences.

The popular English pastime of the circus, in all its faded glory, fascinated the artist. As a student at the Royal College, each Christmas for three years Blake was allowed backstage at Bertram Mill's circus at London's Olympia - once finding himself sketching alongside artist Dame Laura Knight. He was to be inspired not only by the performers he observed there, but also the broader visual style of the circus, with bright, bold lettering that was to appear in many of his works.

Included in one of the artist's first public exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in 1958, this painting was acquired by a young art student living in London at the time - purchased as the very best of the contemporary British art scene.

Gillian Ayres, Nimbus, oil and Ripolin on canvas, 1961 (est. £40,000-60,000)

Nimbus is one of the finest examples of Gillian Ayres' work from the late 1950s and early '60s, encapsulating the sheer quality, vitality and expressive power of her canvases. One of Britain's most significant abstract painters, Ayres, who passed away earlier this year at the age of 88, stands alongside her American contemporaries Joan Mitchell and Helen Frankenthaler. Like Mitchell and Frankenthaler, Ayres has until recently been overlooked in favour of her male counterparts in the narrative of British abstraction - an attitude that is changing as historians, museums and collectors look to redress the gender imbalance.

This work is in many ways the sister painting of the magnificent Break-Off, which was painted in the same year and now hangs in Tate

Britain. Conceived on an 'American' scale, it shares the same expansive framework, the same courage of gesture and the same beautiful balance of colour, between the bright, shiny surfaces of Pop and the more sombre palette of Abstract Expressionism.

Sir Winston Churchill, On the Rhine, oil on canvas, circa 1930 (est. £70,000-100,000)

Continuing Sotheby's unrivalled experience of offering works by Sir Winston Churchill, November's sale features three paintings by Britain's most famous Prime Minister, including On the Rhine, appearing at auction for the very first time. This view of the Rhine was most likely painted by Sir Winston Churchill when he visited Germany in 1932, whilst touring the battlefields to write the biography of his famous ancestor the First Duke of

Marlborough. The trip was a mere six months before Hitler took power and, famously, the two came the closest they ever would to meeting face-to-face. Given this timing, the importance of the Rhine in the Second World War, and the extraordinary role that Churchill was to play, this painting takes on an added significance as an important historical visual document, painted at a politically sensitive time in a hotly contended area.

Euan Uglow, Striding Figure, oil on canvas, 1975 (est. £200,000-300,000)

Being offered on the market for the first time since it was acquired directly from the artist, Striding Figure is the first of four near life-size works depicting the model Alex Morland and encapsulates Euan Uglow's principal concerns. Ambitious in scale and intent, the painting is a rigorous examination of anatomy, flesh, movement, geometry, form and the dynamic between painter and model.

The blue of Striding Figure, the colour that would become indelibly associated with Uglow's work, came from the commercial bleach powder, Reckitt's Blue. For the present work, it was rubbed directly into the wet plaster of the studio wall, fresco-like in colour and substance, and recreated on the canvas. Profoundly influenced by the Early Renaissance, Uglow compared this blue to that of Giotto's Arena Chapel fresco cycle.

Patrick Heron, Rumbold Vertical Two: Reds with Purple and Orange: March 1970, oil on canvas (est. £120,000-180,000)

'My main interest, in my painting, has always been in colour, space and light'

Following this summer's major retrospective of the work of Patrick Heron at Tate St Ives - currently touring to Turner Contemporary, Margate until 2019 - this auction features three masterworks by the artist, showcasing his brilliant and unrivalled understanding of the power of colour in paintings.


Ben Uri was founded in July 1915 in Jewish Whitechapel, East London at the height of the First World War. The founding idea behind the extraordinary initiative was to champion émigré artists and artisans, predominately Jewish, often arriving in London without language or support and consistently spurned by the establishment. As London became home to ever more diverse émigré communities, so the scope of the Ben Uri mission grew to explore and spotlight the contribution of immigrant artists to Britain since 1900 irrespective of origin or ethnicity. As a result of the museum's curatorial re-definition of the Collection and Collecting policies, a number of works will be offered for sale. Proceeds will be reinvested to further the three core areas of focus for Ben Uri going forward:

  • - The Ben Uri Research Unit, building on work started in 2003, will create an illustrated dictionary, freely available on-line, recording the lives and contributions made to the British Visual Arts by immigrants since 1900.

  • - The institution's Acquisition Fund will be significantly bolstered by the sales, enabling the museum to accelerate its Collection and Collecting plans

  • - The funds will establish the Ben Uri Arts and Dementia Institute, building on work started in 2008, is tasked to develop the UK's first accredited nationally available set of art interventions for those living with or at risk of dementia.

David Bomberg, At the Window, oil on canvas, 1919 (est. £500,000-800,000)

A powerful portrait of a place and time, painted in the bitter aftermath of the First World War, At the Window captures Bomberg's post-war disillusionment following the trauma of the trenches, the death of his brother, and his difficult war commission for the Canadian War Memorials' Fund. The female sitter, dressed in black and reworked from an earlier painting, was modelled by his sister Raie, who had also died in the interim from rheumatic fever. The bold palette and hard-edged modernist style link the painting emphatically to Bomberg's earlier pre-war avant-garde experiments and to those of his European contemporaries, while the overwhelming sense of confinement echoes that of his wartime studies of sappers.

For further details, please see the extensive dedicated press release here.