01/03/2023 General News
With its big skies, picturesque countryside and pure light, it is little surprise that East Anglia acts as a magnet for artists – and it has always held that allure. The result is a rich heritage of East Anglian art, a heritage which is increasingly recognised around the world.
East Anglia has produced some fantastic artists across the centuries, and its reputation as a hub for painters in particular has always led to others being attracted to live and work here.
Our region has produced some of the greatest artists across the years, from the leading lights of the Norwich School such as Crome and Cotman, to turn-of-the-century giants like Constable, Munnings and Seago.
We should be really proud that our region has gained a reputation worldwide for producing top-quality visual art, and this is reflected in the prices being achieved in the auction room, as well as the increasingly wide geographical spread of buyers for such work.
Four times a year, the eyes of the art world (and I do mean world, because online bidding means it’s a truly international audience nowadays) turn on Norfolk, when the most important sale of works of art by East Anglian artists takes place in the county.
Keys’ East Anglian Art Sales have become the most important auctions of such works, and is acknowledged amongst both collectors and dealers as the main event for sourcing East Anglian art.
Of course, the star names of the past will always be in demand; bidders will always clamour for works by Campbell Mellon, Arnesby-Brown and Eloise Stannard.
But perhaps the most striking change in recent years has been the huge increase in interest in more contemporary East Anglian artists. Works by high profile present-day painters such as Colin Burns, Ian Houston, Jack Cox and Maggie Hambling are among the most sought-after lots in today’s East Anglian Art Sales.
We shouldn’t be surprised at this. The factors which have always attracted artists to East Anglia – the light, the big skies, the peaceful quality of life conducive to creativity – are all just as relevant as they were back in 1803 when the Norwich Society of Artists was established by John Crome and John Sell Cotman.
Although pictures by the ‘big names’ can sell for thousands and even tens of thousands, there are plenty of contemporary artists whose works can be picked up at more accessible prices, and these may indeed be the classics of the future.
Artists such as Paul Rowland (born 1960), Richard Bawden (born 1936) and Michael Sanders (born 1963) are the up-and-coming stars of the saleroom; their work can still be found at reasonable prices, and they have a real contemporary appeal.
It is all too easy to glory in our past; what is especially pleasing is that the tradition of east Anglian Art is still being created today, and our region is still a major powerhouse for British art.