NEW YORK—The centerpiece of the Bonhams Nov. 29 sale in London of 20th-century British Art was Henry Moore’s Mother and Child, 1931. The 83⁄4-inch-high marble carving fetched £1.1 million ($1.9 million) and was once described by the artist as “one of my best earlier pieces,” according to Bonhams. The unpublished estimate was £800,000/1 million.
The sculpture had not been seen in public since 1967 and, before that, had been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Matthew Bradbury, Bonhams’ head of modern British art, observed that “the enormous price reflects the quality of the work.”
Another Moore sculpture, Reclining Figure, conceived in 1945, realized £308,000 ($531,800). In total the sale made just above £3 million
($5.26 million) and was 70 percent sold by lot.
Among artists’ records established at the auction, Rye Harbour, 1938, by Eric Ravilious (1903-42), sold for £106,400, or $183,720 (estimate: £15,000/20,000). Boat Yard, by William McCance (1894-1970), brought £39,600 ($68,377), also an artist record (estimate: £25,000/35,000).
Ultramarine with Reds at the Right: July 1970, by Patrick Heron (1920-99), took £21,600 ($37,300), a record for a work on paper by the artist. The Potato Gatherers, 1888, by George Clausen (1852-1944), sold within estimate for £173,600 ($299,760).
Strong Start-Up in New York
On Nov. 29 Bonhams also held its inaugural New York auction of American and European paintings, realizing $1.6 million for 83 lots. By volume the auction was 52 percent sold. Several works brought strong six-figure prices despite modest presale estimates.
For instance, a set of five watercolors by Richard Williams (circa 1750-1776), featuring panoramic views of New York and Boston harbors and battlefields, soared past the $18,000/24,000 estimate to sell for $325,250.
Three other watercolors by Williams figured among the top lots, including: Troops on Parade (estimate: $7,000/10,000), which sold for $171,250; The Order of Battle of the British Forces, which brought $165,750 (estimate: $1,500/2,500); and The Burnt Ruins of Charlestown, which fetched $132,750 (estimate: $7,000/10,000).
An oil painting of a ship in New York harbor, Off Governor’s Island, by Joseph Smith (1798-1876), fell within estimate for $127,250 (estimate: $100,000/150,000).