Artist Plantsman Morris Paves the Future of Modern British Art

A rediscovered painting by the artist-plantsman Cedric Morris (1889-1982) will be sold at auction on October 22 - its sale helping to preserve the 16th century home that gave rise to the influential East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing. 

A rediscovered painting by the artist-plantsman Cedric Morris (1889-1982) will be sold at auction on October 22 - its sale helping to preserve the 16th century home that gave rise to the influential East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing. 

‘Foxgloves’, the quintessential Morris still life depicting blooms of pink and purple foxgloves and other English garden flowers, comes for sale at Sworders auction of Modern British and 20th Century Art on October 22 with an estimate of £30,000-50,000. The seller plans to give part of the proceeds to the Benton End House and Garden Trust - a new charity that intends  to set up the former home of Sir Cedric Morris, a rambling £1.3m 'Suffolk pink' farmhouse with Tudor origins on the outskirts of Hadleigh, as a centre for artistic and horticultural education.

 Cedric Morris - Foxgloves

Sir Cedric Lockwood Morris (1889-1982), 9th Bart 'FOXGLOVE'

The 1932 oil, ‘Foxgloves’, was painted just three years after Morris and his lifelong partner, Arthur Lett-Haines, chose the country life over a London studio. The couple took the lease on their first Suffolk home (Pound Farm in Higham) in 1929, followed in 1937 by the founding of the avant-garde East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing, first in Dedham and then at Benton End House. The heyday of Benton End was the two decades from 1940, when the art school was at its most active and the three acres of garden at their spectacular best. Morris was unique as both a painter and horticulturalist of equal stature: while painting and teaching he cultivated more than 90 new named varieties of iris (many carrying the prefix Benton). 

Benton End, Hadleigh

Benton End, Hadleigh, Suffolk

The vendor of the painting says both her father and grandfather knew the artist, and both stayed at Benton End; her father in particular was encouraged by Morris to dig around in the cellars in pursuit of archaeological finds. The picture has been in the family since at least the early 1960s. “Growing up, it was just one unframed painting among many hung on various walls. The name Cedric Morris meant little to us” she recalls. “After my grandfather died in 1989, the painting came to me and my brother. Though it’s a small and beautiful part of our family history, we now feel it's time to pass it on to others who can also take pleasure in it.”

Sir Cedric Lockwood Morris (1889-1982), 9th Bart VIEW OF A TURKISH VILLAGE NEAR IZMIR

Sir Cedric Lockwood Morris (1889-1982), 9th Bart 'VIEW OF A TURKISH VILLAGE NEAR IZMIR'

Like most artists from the 20th century, British avant-garde, Cedric Morris  has had his fashionable ups and downs but he is currently riding the crest of a wave. Prices in the auction room have been strong. A 1934 oil ‘Easter Bouquet’ took £49,000 at Sworders in April 2016, an artist’s record that has subsequently been bettered on several occasions. 

Shortly after the success of two London exhibitions ‘Cedric Morris: Artist Plantsman’ at the Garden Museum and ‘Cedric Morris: Beyond the Garden Wall’ at the Philip Mould & Company gallery and a third in Suffolk at Gainsborough’s House in Sudbury, marking a bequest of 100 Morris works, the house, Benton End, was acquired by a trust with a mission to return the Grade II* property to a place of artistic and horticultural education. The project is headed by Bridget Pinchbeck who first became involved after attending a lecture about Morris at the Garden Museum, given by Philip Mould.  It was later in conversation with Mould (star of BBC’s Antiques Roadshow and Fake or Fortune, who has also joined the charity’s Board of Trustees) that she learned Benton End was up for sale.



Sworders have also been instructed to sell the contents of Hill House in Sudbury on behalf of Tony Venison, for many years the Gardens Editor of Country Life and himself a frequent visitor to Benton End. His collection includes three later oils by Cedric Morris. Signed and dated 1970, a still life of vases, flowers and a dish of painted eggs – inscribed to the reverse ‘Reserved for Tony Venison £500’ – is estimated at £20,000-30,000 while a 1971 depiction of a Turkish village near Izmir that formed part of the 'Cedric Morris : Beyond the Garden Wall' exhibition last year,  is pitched at £10,000-15,000. Tony Venison also owned two pencil portraits of Cedric Morris captured by two of his pupils at Benton End, Kathleen Hale (1898-2000), the author and illustrator of ‘Orlando the Marmalade Cat books and ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Joan Warburton (1920-1996). Hale’s portrait, inscribed and dated 1944 and purchased by the vendor at the Redfern Gallery in 2001 (estimate £400-600) is followed by ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Warburton’s sketch inscribed 'Cedric, Hadleigh 21.3.43’ (estimate £500-700).

Sketches Of Cedric Morris

Sketches of Morris By Kathleen Hale & Joan Warburton

From a West Country collection are two monumental carved stone sculptures by the well-known contemporary sculptor Emily Young (b. 1951). Her commercial star has risen sharply in recent years - a new artist record was set in London earlier this year - and the market is expected to react positively to the appearance of Contemplative Figure with Egg and Bowl (estimate £20,000-30,000) and The Formality of Couples (estimate £30,000-40,000).

Emily Yound Sculptures

Both are fresh to the market, the former purchased through The Fine Art Society, the latter directly from the artist. 

The Scottish artist Craigie Aitchison, RA (1926-2009) is best known for colour-saturated canvases on a wide range of subjects from still-lifes, landscapes and nudes to portraits and dogs. However, his series of idiosyncratic crucifixions are his most memorable works: examples hang in the chapter house of Liverpool Cathedral and at King College Chapel in Cambridge. The example at Sworders, a typical arrangement of flat, stylised forms and planes of pure colour, is inscribed and dated 1984. It comes for sale from a private collection with an estimate of £40,000-60,000

Craigie Aitchison, RA (1926-2009) CRUCIFIXION

Craigie Aitchison, RA (1926-2009) 'CRUCIFIXION' 

Sworders’ picture department has grown in recent years from one specialist and a consultant, to a team of four. Working closely with the Fry Art Gallery and other local institutions, we have developed a reputation as the place to sell East Anglian art and in particular the works of the Great Bardfield and Benton End groups.

Highlights from the sale will be on view at Sworders’ London Gallery in Cecil Court, Leicester Square, from October 3-14 with a special London preview evening on October 10th.


For more information about the sale please contact Jane Oakley | 01279 817778


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