Modern & Contemporary Art | Favourites Of The Four

Modern & Contemporary Art | Favourites Of The Four

Ahead of our 25 April Modern & Contemporary Art Sale, the four members of our Picture Department share their favourite lots.

20 April 2023

Amy Scanlon, Head of Modern & Contemporary Art

I love Modern British Art and so it is always great to handle oil paintings by big names from the movement. Our upcoming sale features the impressive ‘Birdcage’ by Alan Davie (lot 13) and the mysterious ‘Reflection’ by John Tunnard (lot 7), but my favourite work is by John Hoyland (lot 1).  
It appeals to me as it is bright, bold and fun. The artist has used thick acrylic paint to juxtapose the vivid colours with a clear purpose and design. It is evident that he was directly influenced by American Abstract Expressionism, but he channelled this in his own unique way. Interestingly, he didn’t like to be labelled as an ‘abstract’ artist despite the majority of his output being non-figurative.

Titled ‘Little Dancer’; this is a playful name for these geometric shapes on canvas. Hoyland had been listing his works purely by their dates in the 1960s, but by 1982 he was using descriptive titles which are open to interpretation by the viewer.

It is not just the image, but the story behind this painting which fascinates me. Our lucky vendor found this amongst a house clearance at a saleroom and purchased it for £12. Covered in dust, the artist’s name and title emerged from the back of the canvas after a light hoovering! The painting will now be included in the upcoming catalogue raisonné by the Hoyland estate who previously only had a sketch and listing in the artist’s notebook to go by. These fortuitous moments are rare, and it is great to have been involved in the rediscovery of this work.
John Hoyland RA (1934-2011) 'Little Dancer' (£3,000-£5,000)

John Hoyland RA (1934-2011) 'Little Dancer' (£3,000-£5,000)

Amelia Hone, Picture Department Assistant 

It has been such a joy to work on this sale. As someone who is fairly new to the auction world, it is fantastic to see the mix of modern and contemporary art, the many different styles and artists.
Whilst working on the hang, I particularly was interested in our large collection of works by Great Bardfield artists (lots 171-233). It is wonderful to see the selection of John Aldridge sketches and watercolours as these are rarely seen at auction. My take-home piece would be the John Aldridge watercolour ‘Olive Grove, Mallorca’ (lot 210). The use of warm earthy colours really evokes the feeling of holidaying in the Balearics, with the Aegean Sea and olive grove. The fluid wash of the sea and sky background and seeing Aldridge’s confident brushstrokes in the saleroom has been lovely.

John Aldridge RA (1905-1983) Olive Grove, Mallorca (£1,000-£1,500)

John Aldridge RA (1905-1983) Olive Grove, Mallorca (£1,000-£1,500)

Jane Oakley, Head of Picture Department

I have long been an admirer and also collector of Guy Taplin’s work. For the past 50 years Guy has been making unique sculptures of animals – mainly birds – in wood and bronze. His love of birds and wildlife began when he was employed as keeper of waterfowl in Regent’s Park in the 1960s. He began whittling small sculptures of the birds with wood he found, creating distinctive sculptures which he finished with gesso and paint. There is something absolutely charming about his bird sculptures and I love the fact they are made from driftwood. Lots of people have tried to imitate his style, however, the way he uses the wood and the effect he creates – partly rustic, yet effortlessly graceful is totally unique.


Guy Taplin (b.1939) 'The Wind Bird' (£2,000-£3,000)

Guy Taplin (b.1939) 'The Wind Bird' (£2,000-£3,000)

Marianne Richardson, Picture Department Cataloguer 

My own personal favourite from the sale is 'Le Disque Blanc', a lithograph by František Kupka.

Influenced by Cubism but favouring bright colours over a monochromatic palette, the art movement Orphism was an abstract style of painting developed by Robert and Sonia Delaunay in the early 20th century. An early pioneer of Orphism, Kupka went on to become one of the first artists to move towards total abstraction, embracing it as a way to explore colour and light.

In his work 'Le Disque Blanc' Kupka explores line, colour and form. What I particularly like about the print is Kupka’s use of negative space. The unprinted areas are not simply just ‘the background’ but an integral part of the composition itself, creating harmony and balance. Harmonious shades of blue contrast with bold hues of red, yellow and orange; the simple shapes overlapping and intersecting to create an interesting and dynamic composition. I especially like the subtle variations in tone where the semi-translucent colours are layered over one another, inviting the viewer to explore the separation and interaction of colour.

I am always drawn to more graphic works, and what I find striking about ‘Le Disque Blanc’ is how Kupka has successfully managed to juxtapose graphic with painterly, giving the print a sense of fluidity. In a digital age we are so used to seeing images rendered pixel perfect it is refreshing to see geometric forms depicted more freely.

The print may appear deceptively simple but the longer I study it, the more I appreciate the hidden complexities hidden within.

František Kupka (Czech, 1871-1957) 'Le Disque Blanc' (£2,000-£3,000)

František Kupka (Czech, 1871-1957) 'Le Disque Blanc' (£2,000-£3,000)

To view the full catalogue for our 25 April Modern & Contemporary Art Sale, click here.



For further information about our upcoming 25 April Modern & Contemporary Art Sale, please contact Amy Scanlon | 




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