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Bloomsbury Beauty in 1500 Lot Summer Sale...

12th July 2023

A beautiful still life painting caught bidders’ eyes at Lawrences Crewkerne on July 10th. It had been painted in 1929 by the celebrated Bloomsbury School artist Duncan Grant (1885-1978) and depicts a cluttered mantelpiece with a lidded urn, books and a clock (or jardiniere) alongside.


That brief description of its composition suggests a rather quotidian subject but, often, a picture can exceed the sum of its parts and – just as crucially – incidental details can enhance the price. This picture was appealingly early in date (Grant worked tirelessly for another half century after he had completed this work); it had been exhibited at the London Artists’ Association; it had been owned by the writer and keen Grant collector Sir Hugh Walpole (1884-1941); and it was sold by his executors at the prestigious Leicester Galleries in London during the period of almost reckless  joie de vivre after VE day in May 1945. In addition, it was in flawless condition, presented in a period frame and appearing on the market for the first time in over 75 years.


But admiring a picture for its provenance is similar to admiring a country house for its former inhabitants. What’s it like to live with? This picture had a technique that showed the swift accomplishment of a highly skilled artist; the varied palette balanced subtle shadows with bright daylight from the left; and the almost humble arrangement ennobled the simpler aesthetic appeal of the objects depicted within. The whole picture had an air of studied informality: it was casual but careful, exacting but informal, and the whole design was as well observed as a Spanish `bodegón` still life of the 17th Century.


Measuring 32 x 42cm (12.5 x 16.5”), its modest scale belied an irresistible allure. It caught browsers’ eyes from across a crowded saleroom and its numerous blends of brilliance helped it to a price of £11250 against hopes of £8000-10000. Lawrences welcomes enquiries for all forthcoming sales at (Tel: 01460 73041)

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