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,, 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 in his office at Toovey’s with Chanctonbury Ring in the distance
‘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.

Preview of Toovey’s June Select Fine Art Auction

Lot 71 William Russell Flint's 'The Model with the Fringe'
Lot 71 William Russell Flint's 'The Model with the Fringe'

On the 18th June, Toovey’s will host their second Select Painting Sale of 2014. Prior to the printed catalogue landing on doorsteps around the world and in advance of the online catalogue being uploaded to Toovey’s website, we thought a preview of five of the highlights might be in order.

Firstly we look at the £3000-5000 sanguine drawing above, it is by an artist who needs no introduction, William Russell Flint (1880-1969). While most people are familiar with his colour prints, his original works are not often seen for sale at auction. This sanguine comes with a letter from the artist dated 9.12.68 which states ‘the rubbing must be my own unless the drawing has been taken from its frame and smeared’, referring to the minor smudging to some lines. Having no sign of being taken out of its frame, this can no longer be seen as a condition flaw, instead it is part of the drawings character. The work on paper measuring 38cm x 56.5cm is titled ‘The Model with the Fringe’. Other works by Flint in the auction include three drypoint etchings and a scarce line block.

Lot 27 Henry Ryland's 'Calm of Evening'
Lot 27 Henry Ryland's 'Calm of Evening'
Annie French original watercolour and ink
Lot 123 Annie French's 'A Lady with a Bouquet'

Another painting included in the sale is an original watercolour by Henry Ryland (1856-1924), which in subject matter is certainly similar to that of Flint, albeit a little bit earlier. The soft quality and palette reflects the tradition of classical scenes of the late 19th Century, popularized by the likes of Lawrence Alma-Tadema and Albert Moore. ‘Calm of Evening’ by Ryland measures 38cm x 56cm and is offered with a pre-sale estimate of £1000-1500.

An original watercolour and ink by Annie French (1872-1965) is included in the June auction of Select Fine Art. Titled ‘A Lady with a Bouquet’ this beautiful work measures 25cm x 8cm. The labels on the back show that it has previously been retailed by Kaye Michie and the Maas Gallery prior to being offered in Toovey’s auction. It is presented in a bespoke mount with ink stylized flowerheads to reflect the artist’s hand. This work by a leading member of the Glasgow School and talented book illustrator carries a pre-sale estimate of £2000-3000.

‘It’s all in the name’ is a phrase often associated with the Fine Art market. Perhaps the inclusion of two works by Noël Coward (1899-1973) in the sale reflects this. The works by the English playright, composer, director and singer show an amateur charm. In his diary Coward wrote: “Compared with the pretentious muck in some London galleries… my amateur efforts appear brilliant.” Many of Coward’s paintings feature in a work by Sheridan Morley, who wrote:

“In his lifetime, Noël always reserved his own paintings as first-night or birthday gifts, allowing only one or two to go for the very occasional charity auction and fearing, as he once wrote, that a kind of ‘celebrity snobbism’ might otherwise make them valued more for their autograph than for their intrinsic worth.”

Lot 101 Noël Coward's View of a Villa
Lot 101 Noël Coward's View of a Villa, one of two works by Coward included in the June Auction
Alfred Oliver's depiction of children picking flowers
Lot 70 Alfred Oliver's depiction of children picking flowers

The view of a villa above, presumably depicts an unidentified home in Jamaica. It is estimated at £800-1200, but will the purchaser be associating the value to the picture or the autograph? Hopefully a bit of both!

The final work in our preview is a tondo view of two children picking flowers in a landscape. It is by Royal Academician Alfred Oliver who flourished between 1886 and 1921. From this period is the oil on canvas shown here. Measuring 38.5cm in diameter, this work had previously been retailed by the Macconnal-Mason gallery, today, it carries a pre-sale estimate of £500-800.

Toovey’s Select Sale of Fine Art starts at 10.00am on Wednesday 18th June and is the opening session of Toovey’s June specialist auctions. Viewing times for the select painting sale is as follows:
Saturday 14th June 9.30am to 12.00 noon
Monday 16th June 10.00am to 4.00pm
Tuesday 17th June 10.00am to 4.00pm
and on the day of the auction, Wednesday 18th June, 9.00am to 10.00am (the start of the auction).

An Attic Find: Undiscovered Eduardo Paolozzi Collection

From left: Cubist bust, Computer Head and Skyscraper, plaster maquettes by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi

People often remark how exciting it must be for me as a fine art auctioneer to discover wonderful things which have lain undiscovered – it is and it happens more frequently than you might expect. It was on a visit to Newhaven, Sussex, early in the New Year when the gales were blowing, that I discover a marvellous collection of sculptures and prints by the important Modern British artist, Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005) which are to be auctioned at Toovey’s on Wednesday 26th March 2014.

The sculptures and prints represented in the sale were given to the current owner over a period of years after he and his family had been befriended by Eduardo. They recount fond memories of visits to Eduardo’s home and studio, of outings and meals together.

Eduardo Paolozzi claimed to have embraced “…the iconography of the New World. The American magazine represented a catalogue of an exotic society, bountiful and generous, where the event of selling tinned pears was transformed in multi-coloured dreams…” This fascination with American culture is clearly expressed in the plaster maquette of a Sky Scrapper included in the sale and illustrated here. In the late 1940s and early 1950s a cold-war generation of artists in Britain began to turn towards New York for inspiration rather than Paris. Paolozzi had a foot firmly in both camps. He emerges as an artistic bridge between post-war Europe, Britain and the US.

Eduardo Paolozzi Bronze Relief
‘Newton after Blake’, bronze bas relief by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi

One of Paolozzi’s most celebrated sculptures is ‘Newton after Blake’ made for the forecourt of the British Library. It was commissioned by its architect the late Colin St John Wilson, who was also responsible for the Pallant House Gallery extension in Chichester, which houses many works from the architect’s own collection. The collection on sale includes several bas reliefs depicting ‘Newton after Blake’. Eduardo Paolozzi was fascinated by the artist William Blake’s image of Sir Isaac Newton from 1795. In Blake’s depiction the scientist appears oblivious to all around him, consumed by the need to redact the universe to mathematical proportion. Paolozzi explained of his own sculpture that “…Newton sits on nature, using it as a base for his work. His back is bent in work, not submission, and his figure echoes the shape of rock and coral. He is part of nature.”

Alongside Paolozzi’s cultural icons and totems the resilience and fragility of the human person and the influence of humankind’s relationship with technology expressed through the culture of science fiction and robots also recur as themes in his work. The complicated array of influences are often collaged into a single work. Take for example the two heads illustrated which are defined by the geometric shapes from which they are formed. The smaller plaster bust ‘Computer Head’ references technology’s effect on our consciousness. The larger bust ‘Head’ is an example of the busts which Paolozzi described as an amalgam of African art, geometric art which speaks of the machine in our age, and the influence of boogie woogie. A rich collage which, for him, described modernism.

'Mozart Magic Flute' screen print by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi

Paolozzi’s prints give voice to the idea of relationship between collage and image making. The prints with their often vibrant colour allowed the artist to explore the theme of finding visual comparisons between music and drawing. They are also connected with Paolozzi’s sculptural reliefs.

This exciting collection provides a valuable insight into the work of Eduardo Paolozzi. There are iconic examples and more modest pieces describing his delight and humour in the world, often with a surrealist influence. Paolozzi’s work is layered, textural and thought provoking delighting the eye and the mind. The sale exhibition provides a wonderful opportunity to see this famous artist’s work and to acquire an example for your own collection. It is on view from Saturday 22nd March 2014 and will be auctioned on the morning of Wednesday 26th March 2014. Further details of opening times and images are available on Catalogues are available from Toovey’s offices or by telephoning 01903 891955.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 19th March 2014 in the West Sussex Gazette.

Eduardo Paolozzi Sculptures & Prints for sale at Toovey’s

Lot 54 Eduardo Paolozzi at Toovey's
Lot 54: Eduardo Paolozzi 'Newton after William Blake' plaster relief

Sir Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005) was a British sculptor, printmaker, filmaker and writer. He is regarded as one of the most inventive British artists to come to prominence after the Second World War with his legacy ranging from pop art to monumental public works.

0008 Eduardo Paolozzi at Toovey's
Lot 8: '72 Aeschylus & Socrates, see App 4 #123…' by Eduardo Paolozzi

He attended St Martin’s School of Art in 1944, continuing his studies in sculpture at the Slade School of Fine Art where, despite his teacher’s disapproval, he discovered the work of Pablo Picasso. This influence is plain to see in his sculptures and cubist-derived collages. On a trip to France he was exposed to surrealism, which gave him the foundations for all future work. It was also while in Paris, Paolozzi produced rudimentary collages from the adverts contained within American glossy magazines that echoed Dada photomontage. These early examples of pop art were the focus of a recent exhibition at Pallant House Gallery, featured by Rupert Toovey in his article ‘“Collaging Culture” at Pallant House Gallery‘.

His large public sculptures were numerous, in Britain they included the mosaic decoration in Tottenham Court Road underground station, a bronze figure of Isaac Newton for the entrance of the British Library, an abstract monument for Euston Square in London and a large sculpture for the Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters in Edinburgh. Eduardo Paolozzi was made a CBE in 1968, an RA in 1979 and a knight in 1989. The Tate Gallery had a retrospective exhibition of Paolozzi’s work in 1971.

Throughout Paolozzi’s career the human form, language and a fascination of industrial engineering remained as sources of inspiration. These influences can all be seen in a single owner collection of works by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi to be offered at Toovey’s on 26th March 2014. The collection of plaster and bronze sculptures and prints by Paolozzi was discovered by Rupert Toovey in an attic in Newhaven. In his recent article Rupert states:

“This exciting collection provides a valuable insight into the work of Sir Eduardo Paolozzi. There are iconic examples and more modest pieces expressing the joy and humour in his view of the world, often with a surrealist influence. Paolozzi’s work is layered, textural and thought-provoking, delighting the eye and the mind.”

The single owner collection will be offered for sale as part of the Selected Fine Art Auction (Lots 1-68) on Wednesday 26th March 2014. Viewing for the auction commences on Saturday 22nd March between 9.30am and 12 noon. Click here to view the collection online.