Modern & Post-War British Art at Sotheby's

On 13 and 14 June Sotheby’s is hosting a sale of Modern and Post-War British Art which will showcase fresh-to-market works. For many works, it has been decades since they have been on display to the public. To celebrate the sale Sotheby’s is also hosting a weekend of talks, tours and events on 11 and 12 June. Visitors will have the chance to chat to Sotheby’s specialists, have tours of the sale and attend talks with art historians, there will even be children’s activity packs for those visiting with their families.

All places are free and you can find out more by visiting: sothebys.com/modbrit

In anticipation, we’ve chosen a selection of our favourite pieces from the sale, we’ll be looking out for them next week!

Ivon Hitchens has been a longtime favourite of ours as we are drawn to his interplay of bright and muted colours. His subtle colours makes his work easy to place within an interior, they are guaranteed to add charm and character to a room, blending with and not overpowering an existing colour scheme. British painter Hitchens flourished in England during the 1920s, working as part of the London Group alongside painters like Roger Fry. The landscape in West Sussex where he had his home and studio served as his greatest inspiration, and he focused on the light, trees and water that surrounded him. This work ‘Holbrook’ below is a wonderful example of this landscape influence.

Estimate: £50,000-80,000

There are also some wonderful works by Patrick Heron in the auction including 'Complicated Reds' and 'Indigo Round Umber and Venetian and Into Ultramarine' below. These are typical of his 60s style, when he painted in the cleverly described 'wobbly hard edge' manner. He would often draw the shapes quickly, in a matter of seconds, before starting to paint. For Heron, this was a way of returning to the immediacy of drawing and maintaining a sense of energy.

Estimates: (left) £50,000-80,000 and (right) £12,000-18,000

John Piper is one of Britain’s most celebrated war artists and is famed for his paintings and prints of British landscapes. The British landscape is a setting he returns to time and again and this work entitled ‘Beach IIl’ is a classic example of this. His paintings and prints of British towns have in many ways become archives of these sites. We were particularly intrigued by this work for its mixture of both figurative and abstract styles. He also incorporates mixed-media; collage, pencil, felt tip, watercolour and gouache have all been used.

Estimate: £20,000-30,000

We were pleased to see the inclusion of Pauline Boty, who was an important figure in British Pop Art. She sadly died in 1966 at the young age of 28 and has been largely excluded from recognition. The Tate Britain now has one of her keys works ‘The Only Blonde in the World’ on display and she is now gaining some attention. The work in Sotheby’s sale is a small painted and mixed media collage entitled ‘Light my Fire’.

Estimate: £5,000-7,000

Hilma af Klint: Painting the Unseen at The Serpentine Gallery

This weekend we visited an extraordinary exhibition at The Serpentine Gallery of a Swedish artist called Hilma af Klint. Who’s Hilma af Klint I hear you ask? … If you have heard of Hilma af Klint I am guessing it was only recently. While this exhibition has attracted a huge amount of press, prior to this show she was virtually unknown in the UK.

Being a woman, producing pioneering and unconventional artwork such as this, is probably the greatest reason for af Klint's exception from history. In some sense she was lucky to have grown up in Sweden, a country that allowed women to train as artists well before the rest of Europe and as a result, she studied at The Royal Academy of Arts in Stockholm between 1882-1887. She began her career by painting landscapes and portraits and gained some recognition at that time. It was her protestant upbringing and studies of Theosophy however that was the pivotal inspiration for her abstract works - this was also the first religious group in Europe to accept women in senior positions which must have empowered af Klint herself. Between 1906-07 she created her most revolutionary paintings which derived from automatic drawings she produced during seances - some encompass swirling abstract patterns, others follow geometric structured diagrams.

She painted the work below in 1907, years before Kandinsky or Mondrian or Malevich had ventured into abstraction. Looking into her colourful swirls, bold splatters and geometric shapes painted in the early 1900s it is undeniable that af Klint is a true pioneer of abstraction. 

Hilma af Klint was certainly a complex and creative character, drawing on spiritual experiences and unconscious thoughts. While her work and history remain a little mysterious there is no denying that she was a truly remarkable woman, painting abstract works well before the likes of Kandinsky and Malevich. This is an unmissable exhibition and an important step in making sure that she gains recognition - open until May 15th 2016 - see it to believe it.