Intriguing to the somewhat macabre ~ £10,000 microscope slides

A selection of the slides that sold for £10,000
A selection of the slides that sold for £10,000

A collection of Victorian microscope slides made one of the more unusual lots passing under the hammer at Toovey’s Fine Art & Antique Auctioneers & Valuers Spring Gardens rooms in July. The lot was included in the specialist auction of Clocks, Watches and Scientific Instruments that Toovey’s hold every two months. The exceptional group of over a thousand biological and botanical slides was contained in a twenty-nine-drawer, tabletop cabinet. Subjects captured between glass ranged from the intriguing to the somewhat macabre, with specimens such as blow fly ovary, frog’s lung, flea’s gizzard and various human tissue samples, all neatly labelled and many in colourful, decorative mounts. Collections like this are sometimes referred to as ‘cabinets of curiosities’, a term first applied to the great curio rooms of Renaissance Europe. As interest in science and nature grew during Victoria’s reign and microscopes became increasingly sophisticated, viewing specimens like these became highly popular, not only with professionals but also with middle class families as a source of education and entertainment. A number of companies specialised in sourcing, preparing and mounting interesting samples from around the world to meet the demand. It is now unusual to find such a good collection of slides in near original condition like this, a specialist collector from Bristol travelled to the Sussex Auctioneers’ saleroom to secure the lot for £10,000 against six telephone bidders.

The Freedom of Creativity: Eve Shepherd

'Emotional Predator' cast bronze by Eve Shepherd

Eve Shepherd is a Hove-based sculptor who feels a responsibility to create work with a message, she admits her work portrays sadness as well as joy, but hopes either way, that this will strike a chord with the onlooker. Nicholas Toovey tells us more.

'Broken', cast bronze by Eve Shepherd
Detail of Henry Allingham maquette by Eve Shepherd
'Stephen Hawking' maquette by Eve Shepherd

Eve started her career in art with an informal voluntary apprenticeship with the Sheffield-based sculptor Anthony Bennett. This training led to a position with a commercial sculpting firm in York where she produced realistic life-size figures, working to short deadlines with a team of fellow sculptors. After several years Eve came to a crossroads in her career, she felt the commercial work had become a purely money-making occupation with her love of sculpting and her creativity sacrificed and stifled in the process. A two-year break from sculpting followed and with it relocation to Brighton with her partner, a decision she calls a ‘leap of faith’. The rejection of the commercial world meant Eve had to start her career from the beginning, looking to create work that was truly her own. One of the first sculptures after drawing this line in the sand was ‘Broken’, a cast bronze of a kneeling shackled minotaur with head bowed, perhaps a commentary on her emotions towards her former work.

Today she enjoys being by the sea in a city that is tolerant, fun and less restrictive than the other cities she has lived in. Eve also loves the contrast of liberal Brighton with the neighbouring ‘very British’ countryside. Does Sussex inspire her? Yes, mainly in the people with their ‘can do’ attitude and the ability to ‘think outside the box’. As part of her relocation Eve obtained space at the Red Herring Studios in Hove which remains the base for her output. This industrial building is softened by the community atmosphere created by all the different artists working within. The atrium of her studio has floor to ceiling shelves storing models, moulds and materials reminiscent of a film prop studio. A room off this is the artist’s work area, with creations in progress and numerous points of reference, books and music arranged around the room. On one surface is a maquette (a small-scale preliminary model) of Henry Allingham seated in a wheelchair holding a poppy wreath on his lap before an arrangement of four flags. Allingham was the last surviving British Serviceman, to have volunteered for active duty in the First World War. Eve felt he was a fitting symbol for those who fought in the war and survived, she wanted to create a memorial to the brave servicemen and servicewomen who continued to live with the torment of the Great War in their hearts and memories rather than for those who had fallen. Eve has actively sought a commission to make this maquette into its intended large-scale version, but interested parties always fall short when it comes to planning permission or funding. Eve jokes ‘I will probably be sculpting it when I’m his age’, although her original intention was for it to be a completed work and unveiled on 14th June 2014, the centenary of the outbreak of the war. Another on-going project that is permanently in the background is the commission for a one and a half times life-size sculpture of Stephen Hawking for the grounds of Cambridge University. For her commission work she has to have an underlying personal interest to accept it, these sculptures are portrayed with accuracy in anatomy and scale and described by Eve as her technical and academic pieces. It is not surprising therefore that Eve is an Associate Member of the Royal British Society of Sculptors and a Member of the Society of Portrait Sculptors.

Two years ago Eve obtained a kiln and has been exploring the capabilities of a new medium for her work by creating fired clay sculptures. This facet of her oeuvre is spontaneous and experimental. Often with Eve’s fingerprints still evident, these sculptures show a fluid, unshackled approach and highlight her influence from the Italian Renaissance, a period that the artist admires. Eve loves the psychology and story behind each sculpture, often giving the human form zoomorphic attributes or animals anthropomorphic characteristics. A recent series of work was specifically based around Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, however the majority of her works could easily illustrate the books of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis or Hans Christian Andersen.

'Condemned', from the 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner' series by Eve Shepherd
'The Old Loon', from the 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner' series by Eve Shepherd

Eve’s work always offers a subtext with deeper connotations and emotive honesty. She unusually embraces two different styles of production and finish and, by allowing both styles to inform one another, creates sincere and soulful works of art. Her refined academic work is often a commentary on social status and perception, running in unison with the more immediate fired clay sculptures. This work in fired clay arguably portrays the artist’s voice with greater impact, often with darker undertones that are challenging for the onlooker, but always showing incredible mastery. If you would like to meet the sculptor and see more of her work, Eve will be exhibiting at the Brighton Art Fair between the 22nd and 25th September. For more visit www.eveshepherd.com

Nicholas’ article was originally published in Sussex Life magazine in July 2011.

June Select Sale of Paintings

Lot 4: Henry Scott Tuke's 'Half Length Portrait of a Boy'
Lot 14: Frank Kelsey's View of Schooners at Anchor in a Cornish Estuary
Lot 76: Harald Pryn's 'Gandlose'

The June Sale of Selected Paintings and Prints will be held on 15th June 2011.  The sale starts with Lot 1, an important watercolour album compiled by the relatively little-known artist R.H. Manning as a present for his niece. The album hints towards Manning being a collector as well as an artist. He obviously asked a number of his contemporaries for a small watercolour for inclusion in the album and so it includes works by David Cox Junior, James Duffield Harding, Henry Gastineau, Henry Pilleau and William Leighton Leitch to name but a few. The works on paper have largely survived in excellent condition hidden from sunlight and dust in the pages of the album. The album carries a presale estimate of £3000-5000, click here to view the contents of the album and see a detailed collation of the contents.

The Select Sale continues with two watercolours and an oil on board by the highly collectable Cornish artist Henry Scott Tuke (1858-1929). ‘Half Length Study of a Boy’ is a small oil on board (12 x 19cm) by Tuke highlights his mastery of capturing light. It is beautifully presented in a gilt frame which carries a David Messum gallery label to the reverse adding important provenance to this unsigned work. Lot 4 is offered with a presale estimate of £6000-10000.

Continuing with the Cornish theme is Lot 14, a beautiful painting of Schooners in a Cornish Estuary by the artist Frank Kelsey (1864-1932). In contrast with the Tuke, this oil on canvas is very large, measuring 89cm x 135cm excluding the wide gilt wood section frame. Showing size does not always dictate value it is offered with a presale estimate of £2000-3000.

Measuring 100 x 135cm, another large oil on canvas within the auction is Lot 76. A work by Danish artist Harald Pryn (1891-1968) titled ‘Gandløse’. This painting of a lane near Copenhagen glistens under the artist’s handling of snow. This lot is estimated at £1500-2500.

The auction also includes four original oils on canvas by David Shepherd (click here for more information). To view all the paintings, drawings and prints within the June auction please click here.  The June sale continues with Silver, Jewellery, Medals & Militaria, Oriental Ceramics & Works of Art, British & Continental Ceramics & Glass, Furniture, Metalwork and Collectors’ Items, Textiles and Rugs. In addition, on the 14th June Toovey’s hold their Specialist Sale of Toys, Dolls and Games. To view the free online catalogue please click here.

Nicholas Toovey’s Latest Article for Sussex Life

The June issue of Sussex Life (pictured left) is currently in the shops and features an article by Nicholas Toovey on the East Sussex ceramicist Carolyn Genders, his fourth article in the magazine to date.

The articles allow Nicholas to further promote Sussex-based contemporary artists and reinforces Toovey’s annual Contemporary Art Auctions.

The magazine also has a fabulous diary section with things to do in the county this month, available now for £3.65.

David Shepherd Originals for Sale at Toovey’s Auction

Lot 58: David Shepherd's 'Rhinos in Namibia'
Lot 59: David Shepherd's Study of Three Hippos
Lot 60: David Shepherd's depiction of a Cougar

The Sale of Selected Oil Paintings, Watercolours, Drawings and Prints will be held on June 16th 2011. The sale includes four original works by David Shepherd (born 1931). Shepherd is a famous painter of animals and the offering in the auction includes depictions of a cougar, rhinoceros and hippopotami. Known for his limited edition colour prints, this is an opportunity to purchase an original work by the artist.

Lot 58 is titled ‘Rhinos in Namibia’ and has an adult rhinoceros and its calf in the African Landscape. The 33 x 51cm signed oil on canvas is dated 1999 to the reverse and is presented in a gilt frame. The pre-sale estimate is £6000-9000.

Lot 59 is an oil on canvas of three hippopotami in their natural habitat. This is the smallest of the four works included in the sale measuring 22 x 34cm excluding the swept gilt composition frame that surrounds the painting. This signed work is dated 2001 to the reverse and has a presale estimate of £3500-4500.

Lot 60 departs from the African theme with a snowy landscape and a beautifully executed cougar (or mountain lion) amongst trees.  Measuring 44 x 70cm, this signed oil on canvas is presented in a silvered frame echoing the tones in the painting. It is dated 1997 verso and is estimated at £8000-12000.

Lot 61: David Shepherd's 'Study for Oil "Muck" and Sunlight'

Completing the selection of original works by David Shepherd offered in the auction is Lot 61. It is a departure from his animal work and shows another facet of his output with a detail of a locomotive titled ‘Study for oil “muck” and Sunlight’.  In addition to being a vocal conservationist, David Shepherd is a steam locomotive enthusiast, owning many engines, most of which are displayed at museums around the world. It is therefore no surprise that in addition to painting animals locomotives often feature in his work. This sketch in oils on canvas measures 75 x 63cm and is sympathetically framed in a painted frame. This final work of the group is the largest and has a pre-sale estimate of £2000-3000.

All four works were consigned for sale by the same single-owner. They join a diverse selection of other works by fantastic names offered for sale at Toovey’s Auctioneers and Valuers this June.