Sworders’ sale of the collection of London art dealer Sir Jack Mervyn Frank Baer, continued in spectacular style in our recent Modern and Contemporary Art sale and Homes and Interiors auction.
12 October 2022
Modern British pictures from the walls of 9 Phillimore Terrace, the Kensington house where Jack and Diana Baer lived for more than 50 years, brought a succession of multi-estimate sums. Topping the Modern and Contemporary Art sale on 4 October was a haunting pencil and grey wash bust length portrait sketch by Gwen John (1876-1939). The sitter Chloë Boughton-Leigh was part of the artist’s intimate circle and she appears in numerous drawings and several finished oils including those in the Tate (dated c.1904-08) and the Leeds Art Gallery (c.1910–14). The Baers’ drawing had come from the estate of the artist and later formed part of a Gwen John Memorial Exhibition in 1946 and the Arts Council of Great Britain show 'Gwen John' in 1968. Selling to a private buyer from London, it took £58,500.
Gwen John (1876-1939), Portrait of Chloë Boughton-Leigh, bust-length, signed 'Gwen John' l.l., pencil and grey washes, 20 x 15cm, Sold for £58,500
Jack Baer was the man who built Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox into a world-class concern. And, befitting the home of one of the most successful and well-regarded picture dealers of his generation, hundreds of paintings, drawings and prints were hung throughout the house.
Purchased from the artist in late 1950s was a Mary Fedden (1915-2012) oil on canvas titled The Garden. The scene of two figures enjoying lunch viewed through an open window includes many of the artist’s signature motifs including abundant flowers, a lounging cat in the foreground and the small still life sitting on a table. It is likely the garden at Durham Wharf on the Thames where Fedden and her husband Julian Trevelyan lived after their marriage in 1951. Signed and dated 1955, its importance was recognised with a bid of £26,000 (£33,800 including buyer’s premium).
A Duncan Grant (1885-1978) watercolour and ink sketch of a vase of flowers was sold together with a copy of a letter from the artist to fellow painter George Bergen gifting him the work as a Christmas present in December 1963. It made £9,100 (including BP) while an oil by the French Fauvist school artist Louis Valtat (1869-1952) titled Fleurs brought £20,800.
A textbook tempera on board, measuring just 10.2 by 12.6cm, by the still life painter Eliot Hodgkin (1905-1987) sold to a private buyer at £16,900. The artist was one regularly sold by Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox, with this study of germinating tulip and iris bulbs, signed and dated December 3, 1953, part of the gallery’s 1999 exhibition, 'Eliot Hodgkin - Painter & Collector'.
Colourful works from the Modern British canon were a favourite at 9 Phillimore Terrace - Diana Baer herself enjoyed some success as a painter of still lives - but so too were the 19th century French drawings and oils for which Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox are perhaps best known.
Inside Sir Jack and Lady Baer's home at 9 Phillimore Terrace
The 22 lots from the Baer collection in Sworders’ inaugural auction of Old Masters, British and European Art sale of September 27 included, at £24,700, an oil sketch by Théodore Rousseau (1812-67). Painted on paper and then laid down on board this 11 x 33cm) scene titled simply Paysage had formed part of a 1956 Hazlitt gallery exhibition of Barbizon School art and was later included in Michael Schulman’s 1999 catalogue raisonné of Rousseau’s work.
Sold at £22,100 to the same London collector was Roof Tops, an equally atmospheric 12 x 31cm oil on board sketch of the French countryside as viewed from the roofline by Robert-Léopold Leprince (1800-47). It was indistinctly titled, signed and dated 1819 placing it early in the artist’s career. At the time he was being taught by his father, Anne-Pierre and his brother Auguste-Xavier. Leprince was part of the second wave of French artists who came to paint nature in the Forest of Fontainebleau, some 35 miles southeast of Paris. He settled in the artists’ colony at Chailly.
Sworders Head of Pictures Jane Oakley commented “We were delighted to have been instructed to sell Sir and Lady Baer’s collection. Sir Jack was a hugely respected figure in the art world which lent cachet to his property. The combination of his discerning eye, their freshness to the market and the impeccable provenance proved a winning formula at the auctions and inspired buyers to dig deep.”
The most highly-prized single lot from the Baer collection was the set of Florentine pietra dura panels offered in the Fine Interiors sale on September 13.
A set of nine pietra dura panels, mid-17th century, Florentine, Sold for £169,000
Following a battle between two phone bidders the mid 17th century hardstone pictures of wild animals - eight rectangular examples and a single demi-lune panel - sold for a mighty £169,000 (estimate £60,000-80,000).
The art of inlaying hardstones for decorative use was used throughout many courts of Europe from the mid-16th century, but it was at the Medici Court in Florence the following century that it reached its apogee. The particular panels, brilliantly worked in specimen marbles with scenes of camels, bears, lions, leopards and wild boar, are in the manner of Baccio del Bianco for the Grand Ducal workshops.
A pair of similar panels one depicting a wild boar, the other a dromedary sold to the same buyer, a London dealer, at £19,500.
Maxwell Ashby Armfield (1881-1972), 'Weeds', 1905, signed with initials and dated 'MA05' l.r., inscribed with title, watercolour, 8 x 11cm, Sold for £5,460
A collection of lots including Furniture, Works of Art, Gardenware and other items from the estate, were all up for sale in our 11 October Homes and Interiors auction. Amongst notable highlights, taking to the spotlight was a small, 8 x 11cm watercolour by Maxwell Ashby Armfield (1881-1972) which sold for £5,460. The Baer lots in the Homes and Interiors sale achieved £67,680, bringing the total sold value of the Baer collection to a staggering £566,490.
All prices shown include fees
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