We are privileged to have been entrusted to disperse a group of English naïve school paintings from the collection of the Cheshire-based dealer, the late Malcolm Frazer, who died earlier this year. Formerly the proprietor of Malcolm Frazer Antiques, he dedicated a lifetime to the world of antiques and interiors.
Naïve art is simple, unaffected and unsophisticated and usually refers to art made by artists who have had no formal training in an art school or academy. Naïve art is characterised by a childlike simplicity of execution and vision. As such it has been valued by modernists seeking to get away from what they see as the insincere sophistication of art created within the traditional system.
The exhibition catalogue by James Ayres Two Hundred Years of English Naïve Art, 1700-1900 showcases superb British examples. Here we see the context and diversity in forms, subjects and techniques, as well as its uniqueness compared to other forms of naïve art. The lots presented in our Old Master, British and European Art are highlights of this exhibition and fine representations of naïve art.
As stated James Ayres: Naïve art may thus be seen as a highly sophisticated aspect of the visual art, no matter how immediate one’s enjoyment of it may be.
English Naive School, early 19th century Portrait of three sisters, standing full-length, each in a white dress with pink ribbons and red shoes, one stroking a pet dog and holding a rose, the youngest holding cherries, and the other holding a basket of flowers in an ornamental garden oil on canvas 100 x 124cm (£10,000-15,000)
The three sisters are all dressed in high-waisted white dresses, which is the perennial favourite of Regency period, although it was more likely to be worn for best or in the afternoon. This memorable group portrait was found in Lancashire. The pavilion, fountain and neo-classical statue in the background implies a landed family, while the unusually pale palette is in keeping with the youth of the sisters.
Within the world of portraiture, those of children occupy a special place amongst the tangible treasures. Late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century parents commissioned likenesses of their offspring for the same reasons that prompt us to bedeck our youngsters in Sunday-best clothes and haul them off to the photographer's. Higher mortality rates made earlier parents keenly aware of the ephemeral nature of life, and perhaps sharpened the sense of urgency with which they sought to halt time through the illusion of portraiture.
English Naive School, early 19th century, Portrait of four children in a park, two in blue dresses, two in brown dresses, one holding a saw and hammer, the others holding a riding crop, a basket of flowers and a book, oil on canvas, laid on board, 28 x 35.5cm, £2,000-3,000
This portrait of four children was found in the north of England. The choices for what the children are holding for this portrait appear bizarre and amusing to the modern eye, adding to the charm of this naïve work.
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