Great Bardfield Takes Centre Stage

Sworders’ New Year prediction that 2016 would see the arrival centre stage of the Great Bardfield artists came true at their April 12 inaugural Modern British art sale.


Sworders’ New Year prediction that 2016 would see the arrival centre stage of the Great Bardfield artists came true at their April 12 inaugural Modern British art sale.

Managing director Guy Schooling brought the hammer down at £85,000 on a major work by Eric Ravilious and set a new auction record for Cedric Morris at £49,000.

Eric Ravilious
Eric Ravilious - The James and The Foremost Prince - £85,000

Meanwhile, the largely unsung talents of John Aldridge were finally rewarded with multiple-estimate bids.

Prices across the sale left their estimates behind as major names and emerging East Anglian artists added to the excitement as Sworders realised their dream of championing Great Bardfield.

Mr Schooling set out eight predictions for the year in the January 16 edition of Antiques Trade Gazette and top of his list was his view of what would happen to the rising stars of Modern British art: “Prices for some of the biggest names have gone stratospheric, so collectors are turning their attention to the next phase. Keep an eye out for the likes of John Nash, Sandra Blow, Ceri Richards Eric Ravilious, Cedric Morris and Kenneth Rowntree.”

Nowhere was he more right than with Ravilious (1903-42) and Morris (1889-1982). The former’s The James and the Foremost Prince, a signed and dated 1934 watercolour exhibited at the Imperial War Musuem as part of the Ravilious centenary exhibition in 2003-4, shot past a £40,000-60,000 guide to take £85,000 from a private collector in Sussex. It is one of the highest prices paid for Ravilious in recent years.

Cedric Morris’s Easter Bouquet, also from 1934, had carried hopes of £20,000-30,000 but went way above that at £49,000, setting a new auction record for the artist.

Cedric MorrisCedric Morris - Easter Bouquet, £49,000
Although not yet commanding the prices levels of Ravilious and Morris, John Aldridge (1905-83) is a particular favourite of Mr Schooling’s among the Great Bardfield group and Sworders have been promoting his potential heavily this year.

Word has clearly got around as the three works offered here showed. Still life of a vase of flowers, a watercolour and bodycolour, went more than six times over top estimate at £1900, the 1972 oil on board, Deya, Majorca, showing olive trees in a landscape, sold at almost treble the top estimate for £2100, while Souvenir of Tuscana, the fallen tower 4 Sept 1962, another oil on board, again almost trebled the top estimate at £3400.

That other Great Bardfield stalwart, Edward Bawden (1903-89) had a number of work on offer here, the signed watercolour Heligan Jungle pre-eminent at £6000.

Works by Lowry, Hockney, Sir George Clausen and the sculptor Robert Adams (1917-84) all individually added five-figure sums to the total.

“We at Sworders have had a particularly close relationship with Great Bardfield, which is less than 15 miles away, for a number of years,” said Mr Schooling, who numbers the Ravilious and Bawden families among his long-term friends.

“As keen supporters of the Fry Art Gallery in Saffron Walden, where the Great Bardfield artists now find their spiritual home, we have been keeping a close eye on their progress for a long time now.

“Recent major retrospectives for Ravilious and Kenneth Rowntree at Dulwich Picture Gallery and Pallant House Gallery in Chichester have played their part in raising new interest in this fascinating and talented group of artists, so it was with some confidence that we planned this sale as we saw all the signs of 2016 being their year.”

What has made the success even more pleasing is the performance of other East Anglian artists in the sale, such as Saffron Walden’s John Bellany RA (1942-2013), whose paintings all went way above hopes, along with a range of pieces from the estate of Tom and Elizabeth Wright, which sold solidly and, in one or two cases, astoundingly well.

“This is very much our local art movement and we have strong ties with it, as we do with other notable East Anglian names like Cedric Morris and John Nash, so it is an exciting time for us,” said Mr Schooling.





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