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.

Click on a thumbnail below to see full image

Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race Comes to Sussex

Late 19th century oil on canvas by J.B. Allen depicting The Boat Race, London
Late 19th century oil on canvas by J.B. Allen depicting The Boat Race, London

This coming Sunday, 6th April 2014, the 160th annual Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Race will be held. The Boat Race was first held in 1829, making this one of the oldest surviving sporting events in the world. The second Boat Race took place in 1836 in London, where it has been held ever since.

The competition began as a challenge between two old school friends, Charles Merivale and Charles Wordsworth, the nephew of the famous poet William Wordsworth. Today it has become an important fixture in the English sporting calendar and one which underlines the international and outward-looking qualities of the English at their best. The crews fielded by Oxford and Cambridge often reflect the global standing of these universities, whose students and oarsmen come from across the world.

Over the years I have increasingly found myself in London, invited to value and sell important collections by their owners. It was during a recent day spent in Sheen, near Richmond, that I discovered this marvellous 19th century oil painting of the Boat Race by J.B. Allen. It struck me as rather wonderful that it was residing near the very shores of the Thames where Allen depicted the view, between Putney and Mortlake.

In this Victorian scene the crowds are so numerous that they have taken to boats in order to get a better view of the crews as they row by. Arms and hats are raised as the excited spectators cheer their chosen team onwards. There is a cold wind blowing, causing flags to flutter. The greys and blues in the artist’s palette remind us that Easter is approaching and spring is only just arriving. Though less finely painted, the panorama of the crowds is reminiscent of that great Victorian painter William Powell Frith, who painted ‘The Derby Day’ between 1856 and 1858. In a similar way to Powell, J.B. Allen depicts a series of very personal vignettes within the grand sweep of his Boat Race scene: boatmen steady ladies in their boats; gentlemen point towards the action and cheers go up amongst different parties of people. It is a painting which is alive and still creates excitement in us today. I am pleased to say that this oil on canvas subsequently came to Sussex to Toovey’s and was auctioned in our fine art sale on 26th March 2014 for £10,500.

Wedgwood earthenware bowl, designed by Eric Ravilious, circa 1938, the interior decorated with a scene of Piccadilly Circus at night
Wedgwood earthenware bowl, designed by Eric Ravilious, circa 1938, the exterior decorated with the Boat Race Day pattern

Around 1938 the Sussex artist Eric Ravilious provided an alternative view of the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race in his designs for Wedgwood. Known as the Boat Race Day pattern, the exterior of this bowl depicts three successive scenes from the race and a mermaid device. Again, the numerous crowds are depicted cheering in the foreground, their arms raised in excitement, but the stylized scene appears as a moment captured outside of time, as is often the case with Ravilious’ work. The interior of the bowl shows Piccadilly Circus at night. Today at auction, a Boat Race Day pattern bowl would realise between £800 and £1200.

This Sunday at 12.00 noon, between church and lunch, millions of us will be cheering on our team. We will be held in the moment as the drama unfolds on our televisions or before us from the banks of the Thames. We will be caught up in the atmosphere and mood of celebration of this most English of sporting events, celebrating the highest standards of amateur sportsmanship, captured with such life by J.B. Allen more than an hundred years ago.

Advice on your paintings is freely available from Toovey’s; contact us to make an appointment with our fine art specialists.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 2nd April 2014 in the West Sussex Gazette.