Thomas and Friends at Toovey’s

Lot 93 original Timothy Marwood illustration

Thomas the Tank Engine and friends Percy, Harold and Annie are just a few of the friendly and nostalgic faces on offer in our December auctions. Add into the mix Noddy, Big Ears, Popeye, Winnie the Pooh and the Bunnykins rabbits and you have quite an eclectic children’s tea party! As a book specialist I see numerous collections of children’s literature, often collected on the merits of their illustrators alone. However, there are numerous avenues available at auction to explore and delight in children’s illustration beyond the medium of printed literature.

Lot 94 original Timothy Marwood illustration

Timothy Marwood, Barbara Vernon Bailey and Robert Tyndall are three quite different artists who open doors into alternative fields of collecting through their engagement with childhood imagination.

Timothy Marwood was an illustrator for the Thomas and Friends magazines from 1987-2007, published by Marvel Comics until issue #305 in 1999. Although not classically considered a Marvel comic, the legacy of Thomas and Friends was interestingly hinted at with a Thomas the Tank Engine cameo in the 2015 Marvel film Ant Man. The director Peyton Reed, when interviewed about the inclusion of the cartoon train, emphasised Thomas’ status as a locomotive icon, ‘you could do any kind of toy train, but the personality of that thing and the eyes moving back and forth give it a whole vibe and took it to another level.’ There were also strict stipulations put in place to ensure ‘nobody could be tied to the tracks and run over by Thomas. Thomas couldn’t be doing anything that could be perceived by children as evil Thomas’, highlighting the importance of his childlike innocence to the Thomas brand. Marwood’s pen and ink illustrations included in Toovey’s December auction of Fine Art encapsulate the heroism and kindness represented by Thomas and Friends without the need of accompanying text [lots 93-96]. Any child’s bedroom would be improved with an original Marwood drawing of a rescue from Harold the Helicopter. Timothy Marwood also illustrated issues of Rosie & Jim, Thunderbirds and Enid Blyton’s The Secret Seven and The Famous Five.

Lot 99 original Robert Tyndall illustration

If you marvel over Blyton’s literary creations, why not take an imaginary trip to Toytown with an original Robert Tyndall watercolour of Noddy and his buddy Big Ears (Lot 99) Tyndall lived in Hove and, like Marwood, was trained at the prestigious Harrow School of Art before illustrating Roberta Leigh’s The Adventures of Twizzle and the Larry the Lamb series. It was only after the death of Harmsen Van Der Beek, Noddy’s original illustrator, that Tyndall got his chance in 1953 to draw this charming Blyton character. For Noddy’s 60th birthday in 2009, Tyndall collaborated with Blyton’s granddaughter Sophie Smallwood to produce the first Noddy book since 1963, ‘Noddy and the Farmyard Muddle’.

Lot 97 original Barbara Vernon Bailey illustration

If a jolly jape to Toyland isn’t for you, perhaps the fluffy delights of Bunnykins are more up your street? Unlike Thomas and Noddy, the creation of Bunnykins stemmed from the imagination of one woman, Barbara Vernon Bailey. Some may find these rabbits whimsical; others might find merit in their depictions of nostalgic close-knit family life. What can be certain, however, is their great wit and character. Most familiar with ceramics will recognise the popular Royal Doulton Bunnykins figures [lot 1512], but more unusual are Vernon Bailey’s original watercolours, of which there are a choice of two available in our Fine Art December auction. Just try resisting the charms of leapfrogging rabbits (Lot 97) and an animal delivery service where a sparrow distributes the post to a rabbit in his top-floor treehouse apartment (Lot 98). What could be more magical than the thought of Sister Barbara, a nun-artist from Haywards Heath, drawing and painting by candlelight rabbits cooking, dancing and kissing under the mistletoe? It was these sentimental touches that make her illustrations so appealing and reproducible to the present day, not only for figures in three dimensions, but also for narrative decoration on children’s tableware.

If you enjoy indulging in a touch of nostalgia, you can also let your imagination run wild exploring over two hundred lots of collectors’ toys, dolls and games in our forthcoming December sale. While beautiful printed copies of childhood classics can be purchased in our specialist antiquarian book sales, it is worth considering the other objects of art and material culture they inspire to enrich any home or collection.

Franz Sedlacek Secessionist Painting for Sale at Toovey’s Auction

'Blüten und Insekten Nr. 3' by Franz Sedlacek ~ Secessionist Painting to be offered at Toovey's Auction

An oil on panel by Franz Sedlacek, one of Austria’s most prominent artists during the 1920s and ’30s, will be offered in Toovey’s sale of Fine Art on the morning of Wednesday 17th June 2015.

Franz Sedlacek was born in Breslau in 1891 and moved with his family to Linz when he was six. He displayed a talent for art from an early age but went on to study architecture, then chemistry in Vienna. He continued to develop his drawing and painting skills, though, and in 1913 co-founded an artists’ association in Linz. His studies were interrupted by a period of service in the First World War, but he returned to complete them and started work at the Technical Museum of Vienna in 1921.

In the subsequent years, Sedlacek began to concentrate on oil painting and in 1927 joined the Vienna Secession, a group of painters, sculptors and architects who had broken away from the Association of Austrian Artists. Formed in 1897, the group’s first president was the notable symbolist painter Gustav Klimt. The Secessionists sought originality in the visual arts, unencumbered by the traditions of academia or influences from the past.

Sedlacek’s style does not fit easily into a category but it is most often classed as belonging to the post-expressionist movement of New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit). A dreamlike and sometimes nightmarish quality prevails in his paintings; strange figures and creatures inhabit unsettling interiors and exteriors. His scenes often suggest a hidden narrative and his compositions always convey a sense of drama.

Sedlacek went on to garner considerable critical acclaim and numerous awards. In 1939, however, he was recalled for military service with the Wehrmacht in the Second World War. After serving in Norway and Russia, he was listed as missing in Poland in 1945.

The work to be offered at Toovey’s is one of a number of works in which Franz Sedlacek explored the theme of fantastical flowers and insects and is titled Blüten und Insekten (Nr. 3) to a paper label on the reverse of the panel. The image area measures approximately 50.5cm high by 40cm wide and is signed with initials and dated 1935 at the bottom left corner. Sedlacek exhibited regularly with the Secessionists and the reverse also bears a label indicating that the painting was shown at the Vienna Secession’s autumn exhibition of the same year. The work will carry a pre-sale estimate of £50,000-80,000.

Provenance: local private ownership by inheritance.

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Outside In Christmas Charity Event at Toovey’s

This year, Toovey’s have chosen Pallant House Gallery’s pioneering project Outside In as the nominated charity for its Christmas Private View and Charity Auction. During our Christmas Private View on Monday 1st December 2014, Toovey’s, in collaboration with Pallant House Gallery, will be holding a charity auction of promises with a selection of exclusive lots to bid on, including a week’s break on the beautiful classic motor sailing yacht ‘Barracuda’, moored in Palma on the lovely island of Majorca.

The night will also host a Christmas Tree of Delights with gifts available for £20, £50 and £100 for those who would like to donate. As a backdrop to the evening and also in support of Outside In, a selling exhibition of works by acclaimed Sussex-based artists from Moncrieff-Bray Gallery will be on show and this will continue to run through the auction week at Toovey’s until Friday 5th December. Works available to purchase will include an oil on linen, titled ‘Clouds over Jura from Islay’, by Oona Campbell and two fine art photographs by Deborah Gourlay.

Oona Campbell's 'Clouds over Jura from Islay' available for £4200 in the selling exhibition to raise funds for Outside In

A selection of twelve works by award-winning Outside In artists will be on display on the evening too. These twelve works will be offered in Toovey’s Fine Art Auction on Wednesday 3rd December 2014 at 10am to raise further funds for Outside In. Danielle Hodson, David Jones, Jasna Nikolic, Kate Bradbury, Kwei Eden, Manuel Bonifacio, Matthew Sergison-Main, Michelle Roberts, Nigel Kingsbury, Peter Andrews and Phil Baird are the list of names all contributing to this auction.

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Outside In LogoOutside In was founded in 2006 by Pallant House Gallery to provide opportunities for artists with a desire to create who see themselves as facing a barrier to the art world for reasons including health, disability or social circumstance. The goal of the project is to create a fairer art world, which rejects traditional values and institutional judgements about whose work can and should be displayed. For more information visit the Outside In website by clicking here.

About Outside In, Toovey’s director Rupert Toovey commented: “It is really exciting to see traditional values and institutional judgements challenged, for people to be empowered and gifted with expression, rather than exclusion. I am delighted to be supporting this important work.”

If you would like a catalogue for the exhibition and auction, with more information about the works and artists, please contact Toovey’s or Pallant House Gallery.

Amazing Result at Toovey’s!

The charcoal and chalk drawing auctioned at Toovey’s for £320,000

A genre scene picture of a woman standing in an interior reading a book created an electric atmosphere when it was auctioned at Toovey’s for £320,000 on Wednesday 8th October 2014.
“It’s an age-old saying in the auction world that you only need two people to create an extraordinary price. £320,000 for an 18th century French School charcoal and chalk drawing is extraordinary by any measure,” said company director Rupert Toovey.
This unsigned, unattributed drawing, with little family provenance, was entered by a long-standing Toovey’s client from London, who had inherited it as part of her late mother’s estate. It had lain out of sight in a remover’s store in Southsea for more than fifteen years. The client, who said the drawing was always regarded as an insignificant picture by her family, was amazed and delighted with the result.
The result surprised even the experts and vastly exceeded the modest pre-sale estimate. The quality of the picture, however, was not ignored. The picture was illustrated in the auction catalogue and online and actively marketed to collectors and specialist galleries across the globe. On the day, bids rose rapidly from the saleroom floor and live internet bidding. Two leading commercial fine art galleries, one in Paris, the other in London, then locked horns in a bidding battle which resulted in auctioneer Nicholas Toovey’s gavel finally falling at £320,000. “It’s results like this that make our profession so fascinating and exciting!” Mr Toovey exclaimed. “Every piece we auction is marketed on the major collectors’ websites. Our own website, www.tooveys.com, is key to our marketing strategy, bringing almost a quarter-of-a-million potential clients to our salerooms every year.” The fruits of Toovey’s investment in this industry-leading technology is apparent in their ability to reach worldwide collectors’ markets. Rupert Toovey concluded: “In our internet age it is remarkable that so much can still rest on the opinions of a few courageous bidders.”

The Call of the Sussex Downs

John Hitchens Downland View
‘March Colours, Downland View’, an oil on canvas by John Hitchens from 1970

The swiftly changing light on the Sussex Downs has always challenged artists seeking to capture the character of these ancient hills.

Rupert-Toovey
Rupert Toovey in his office at Toovey’s with Chanctonbury Ring in the distance
Edwin-Harris-watercolour-Chanctonbury-Ring
‘Chanctonbury Ring from Washington, Sussex’, a watercolour by Edwin Harris from 1945
Watercolour by Harry George Theaker
‘Summer on the Downs’, a watercolour by Harry George Theaker

As I sit writing, the rat-a-tat of the gavel falling and the rhythmic cry of the auctioneer rise from the saleroom up to my office at Toovey’s. The bustle and excitement of the fine art auction contrasts with the scene from my window. I can just see Chanctonbury Ring above a line of poplar trees. Along the ridge of the Downs, scudding clouds in a blue sky cause light and shadow to move across the landscape.

The scene before my eyes is reminiscent of the landscape shown here by Edwin Harris (1891-1961). Harris played first-class cricket for Sussex between 1922 and 1924, whilst working as an artist. In 1939, he married Mary Edwards and they lived in Washington until 1955. Titled ‘Chanctonbury from Washington, Sussex’, the watercolour drawing was painted in 1945, at the end of the Second World War. The Downs are depicted in those greyer hews that they acquire as autumn and winter approach. We sense the chill wind in the branches. But there is nothing chill about today; the Downs are a warm green hue, reflecting the start of an early summer’s day.

The illustrator Harry George Theaker (1873-1954) brings a graphic quality to his painting. His watercolour ‘Summer on the Downs’ uses these qualities to dramatic effect in displaying light, shade and movement. There is no doubt that this is a summer scene, reflected in the warmth displayed in the artist’s palette.

These two artists’ representational style grounds us in the familiar, reminding us of our Sussex landscape and the seasons of the year. However, the qualities in the oil by John Hitchens (b.1940), titled ‘March Colours, Downland View’, not only allow us to see the familiar dance of light and shade upon the Sussex Downs but also command our other senses. The painting captures the smell of the earth and crops, the sound of wind playing on cornfields and pasture, the deep blue of the ridge separating the landscape from the sky. John Hitchens, son of the famous Sussex artist Ivon Hitchens, invites us to engage all our senses, to inhabit the vitality of this scene in our imaginations. The picture is at once representational and abstract. It seeks to allow us to glimpse or give voice to what lies beyond our immediate perception, to enrich our experience of the scene. Today, John Hitchens’ works are abstract, though still inspired by landscape.

Although I travel to London and across the country valuing collections of fine art and antiques, my heart always races when I return and catch sight of the Downs. After thirty years, nothing delights me more than a day travelling down familiar Sussex lanes beneath the gentle folds of these ancient hills, visiting collectors across our beautiful county.

Scenes of the Sussex Downs like these remain accessible, with prices at auction ranging from hundreds of pounds to the low thousands.

Toovey’s next sale of fine paintings and prints will be held on Wednesday 10th September 2014. If you are considering the sale of your pictures, contact Toovey’s for free and confidential advice.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 25th June 2014 in the West Sussex Gazette.