The Light Fantastic | Modern Art & Design, 28 April 2021

Following on from the eclectic style of Sir Roy Strong, 20th Century Art & Design takes centre stage in the second part of Chorley’s April sale.

The auction includes several icons of Scandinavian design, including a set of four ‘Ant’ chairs designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1951, estimate £300-500 and two PH5 pendant lamps designed by Poul Henningsen in 1958, estimated at £150-250 each.  A group of furniture designed by Robin Day (1915-2010) was purchased at the Mayfair showrooms of Hille, a British company who employed cutting-edge designers including Day to produce modernist furniture and fittings.   From this collection, a recliner armchair with original upholstery exudes 1950s cool, estimate £600-800.  A ‘Hilleplan’ sideboard with sliding glass doors in black and white would make a retro statement in today’s living area, estimate £600-800, and a sofa bed designed by Day in 1957 is both functional and fabulous in its black and brown geometric upholstery, estimate £400-600.  Perhaps the ultimate in Scandi-chic is a Danish rosewood desk designed by Nanna Ditzel in 1958 for Soren Willadsen.  Over 60 years old, this is in immaculate condition and its minimal lines and feature handles are exactly on trend with the 2021 working from home look, estimate £2,000-3,000.

Abbey House in Malmesbury was originally part of the Benedictine Monastery founded around the end of the 7th Century.  Foundations dating back to the 13th Century can still be seen in the lower areas of the house today.  It is rumoured that Athelstan, the first king of all England was buried in the Abbot’s Garden, now part of Abbey House Gardens. In 1994, the house was acquired by the flamboyant property developer Ian Pollard and his wife, who added their distinctive artistic flair to the house, and transformed the grounds into the well re-known Abbey House Gardens, which have been open to the public since 1998.  A collection of furniture and lighting from the property is offered in this auction, including two lots of 1970s furniture by the Italian firm De Sede.  Most eye-catchingly, a pair of leather upholstered boxing glove shaped lounge chairs are expected to start a saleroom fight, estimate £6,000-8,000.  Each over 1.5 metres long, they are the most super-stylish way to relax.  Also from Abbey House, a near full size bronze figure of a girl appears to be just waking up from stretched slumber, estimate £4,000-6,000. Designed in 1981 by Ralph Brown (1928-2013), a tiny edition of just eight of these stunning sculptures was produced.  Brown was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts in 1968 and one of his greatest supporters was the artist and sculpture Henry Moore. 

Complementing the furniture, our walls are decked out with an array of paintings and prints by 20th Century and Contemporary artists.  After this past year of being cooped up at home, many will be dreaming of holidays, beaches and the sea and a painting by Bryan Pearce (1929-2007) will instantly transport Cornwall into your home.  Pearce lived in St Ives all his live and painted vivid views around the Penwith region of Cornwall.   It is easy to see why his work has been compared with stained glass, with its jewel-like highlights of colour surrounded by heavy outlines.   The view in this painting is the one seen by the artist every day, looking out of his studio, past the cemetery to the sea and coastline beyond.  It is a major work by this popular artist and carries an estimate of £6,000-8,000.

Other splashes of colour around the saleroom are provided by prints and watercolours by Terry Frost (1915-2003), another Cornish artist who had a very different style to Bryan Pearce.  He was inspired by the light and colour of Cornwall to create the geometric abstractions for which he became world-famous.  Two original watercolours offered in the sale should fetch £1,200-1,500 each.

Two other artists represented hail from much closer to our saleroom.  PJ Crook is a well-known figure in Gloucestershire, as much for her charitable work as for her spectacular art.  Often creating gargantuan crowd scenes, including Cheltenham races and crowded bars, we are thrilled to offer a tiny 3-D artwork of a theatre stage during a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Shakespeare.  Entitled ‘The Dream’, this appealing artwork asks £400-600.  From Chalford, near Stroud, we have four paintings by Rachel McDonnell, showing the two different sides of her talent.  Dissonance II and Dissonance XVII are eye-catching abstract canvases, painted with half-closed eyes.  These contrast with the gentle twilight view through an old window (literally!), with a distant tree silhouetted on a hillside, painted in pastel on velvet.  Carrying estimates between £150 and £300, this is a rare chance to purchase an original artwork by an artist whose talent is becoming more widely known and celebrated.

Several items in the sale by Elisabeth Frink (1930-1993) will be sought after by collectors of her work.  Particularly rare is a complete collection of prints, loose leaf in the original folio, illustrating Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.  Realised in 1972, this edition of just 175 copies is signed and numbered, estimate £1,500-2,500.

Our sale showcasts a century of talented artists in pottery and glass, perhaps the most well-known being Rene Lalique (1860-1945).  His ‘Monnaie du Pape’ vase was designed in 1914 and bears a pattern of honesty leaves in opalescent and blue tinted glass, estimate £1,200-1,800.  One hundred years after Lalique, the contemporary glass designer Ruth Shelley creates vivid fusions of coloured glass for which she has won awards.  An oval vase from her ‘Sisial’ collection, is estimated at £140-180.

Headline grabbing prices by Lucie Rie and Hans Coper sometimes mask the growing demand for ceramics thrown by less-famous potters.  Such pieces not only make a beautiful focal point in a room but have a good chance of providing an investment for the future.   The sad passing of John Maltby (1936-2020) just before Christmas is bound to result in increased demand for his work, already beloved for its quirky style and shapes. A colourful collection of eight pieces by Maltby consigned for the auction is expected to attract strong bidding, including a large stoneware slab vase, the front painted stylised moon and harbour, estimate £400-600.  Other ceramicists represented in the auction include Chris Carter, Alan Wallwork, Simon Carroll and Abdo Nagi.

Read more in our April Newsletter


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