East Anglian artists flexed their growing commercial muscle in our auction of Modern & Contemporary Art this week. The April 5 sale included fine works by members of both the Benton End, Suffolk and Great Bardfield, Essex communities, with both generating prices to confirm the strength of this art market niche.
7 April 2022
The Benton End and Great Bardfield ‘schools’ were located roughly 50 miles apart but shared many like-minded artists and a similar timescale. Both came into fruition in the mid-1930s and survived as avant-garde artistic hubs until the 1970s.
Edward Bawden and his great friend, Eric Ravilious, discovered the village of Great Bardfield while cycling one summer. They craved its peace and serenity in comparison to London and soon after moved to The Brick House with their wives Charlotte Epton and Tirzah Garwood, who were also artists.
Our Modern & Contemporary Art auction offered two striking Bawden linocuts showing Ives Farm – that backed directly onto the property. Both in Bawden’s distinctive style Ives Farm, Great Bardfield, 1957, shows the farmer, cattle and birds, while The Road to Thaxted, printed in 1960 depicts the front of the farmhouse as a policeman cycles by.
They carried estimates of £1,500-2,500 and £3000-5000 respectively but sold at £4,100 and £10,400. Specialist Amy Scanlon explained their appeal: “Both were quintessential Bawden linocuts and made in relatively small editions – Ives Farm numbered 32 of 35 and The Road the Thaxted 33 of 55. However, the latter brought a particularly strong sum as it is a rare impression and, unlike the earlier editions, shows more vibrant colours.”
Edward Bawden RA (1903-1989)
'The Road to Thaxted'
linocut in colours, signed and dated 'Edward Bawden 1960', inscribed with title and numbered 33/55 artist's proof
sheet 57 x 79.5cm
The presence of such artistic heavyweights like Bawden in the village encouraged the arrival of other artists, such as John Aldridge. Sworders has a strong track record selling his works for increasingly high sums: his oil on board Roadside Cottage, Thaxted, 1968 guided at £1,000-1,500 sold for £3,900 while Bluegate Hall Farm, an oil on panel inscribed with title and dated January 1952 verso made £9,100.
John Aldridge RA (1905-1983)
'Bluegate Hall Farm'
signed 'John Aldridge' l.l., also signed, inscribed with title and dated January 1952 verso, oil on panel
26.5 x 35.5cm
The East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing in Suffolk was founded by the artist-plantsman Cedric Morris and Arthur Lett-Haines – first at Pound Farm in Dedham and then (after a catastrophic fire) at Benton End. The school offered students a less formal art education and one based in observation of the outside world. It was an immersive experience and students helped with cooking, cleaning, and gardening.
The gardens at Benton End were famed for their beauty - this week's sale included a watercolour by Lett-Haines depicting one of the borders, including an iris – the flower for which Morris is best known - titled Jardin d’Artiste, signed and dated 1969, which more than doubled expectations at £4,160. Other minor works by Lett-Haines included the 1966 watercolour Estuary (£340), a mixed media composition titled 'An Abstract of French Inspiration' from 1965 (£1,520) and the pencil drawing 'Vamos! Los Hombres, Let's get out of here boys'(£310).
Arthur Lett-Haines (1894-1978)
signed and dated 'Lett June 69' l.l., mixed media on paper
57 x 35.5cm
The increasing celebrity of Cedric Morris, in combination with rising auction prices (Sworders held the world auction record having sold his quintessential flower painting Foxgloves for £204,160 in 2019), has raised the profile of the East Anglian School and its students. On offer in this sale were more than 20 works by Benton End artists, including paintings by Lucy Harwood, Joan Warburton, Denise Broadley, Waverney Frederick and Paul Earee.
Lucy Harwood (1893-1972)
Still Life with Hellebores
oil on canvas
64 x 51cm
Harwood’s Still Life with Hellebores took £3,650 while her 'Industrial landscape through the trees sold for £2,080. A Provence oil by Warburton titled 'Vallons des Gardes and dated 1952 took £1,560
Amy Scanlon commented: “A decade ago when Sworders first began to champion these lesser-known artists their work could be bought for relatively modest sums. Now we are beginning to see them reach their fruition in the auction room.”
Campbell Archibald Mellon (1876-1955)
signed 'C A Mellon', inscribed as titled and dated 1926 verso, oil on board
22.8 x 30.2cm
A view of 'Gorleston Beach' by Campbell Archibald Mellon was evidence of an earlier artist’s enclave in the region. Although he grew up in Berkshire and later worked in Nottingham, Mellon relocated to Norfolk after the First World War living in a house by Gorleston Harbour with fellow painter John Arnesby Brown. As his studio overlooked the bustling activity on the beach, he painted it continuously, contrasting the rich blues of the sky against the stretch of white-yellow sand. A good example painted in oil on board in 1926 was eagerly contested to £5,450.
We now look ahead to our autumn sale of Modern & Contemporary Art, to be held live at the Stansted Mountfitchet Auction Rooms on Tuesday 4 October. For more information about the forthcoming sale, or to discuss the consignment of an individual work or an entire collection, please contact -
email@example.com | 01279 817778
Entries close Friday 19 August
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