08/07/2023 General News
Keys’ three day Fine Sales, which occur three times a year, are where the best quality and most sought-after lots go under the hammer, whether it is Meissen porcelain, in-demand Chinese ceramics, stunning period furniture or top-end jewellery, writes Marc Knighton, head of pictures at Keys.
For me as a fine art expert, the pictures section of the sale, which always takes place on the final day, is of particular excitement. This is where works by nationally and internationally famous artists are sold, attracting the attention of serious collectors and dealers from all over the globe.
Being an East Anglian auction house, it is always especially pleasing to see works by artists from our region in this kind of company. From the Norwich School painters such as John Sell Cotman and John Crome right through to contemporary painters such as Coin Burns and Maggie Hambling, the artistic heritage of East Anglia is truly world-class.
Two very big names stand out in the roster of East Anglian Artists, and they are Edward Seago and Sir Alfred Munnings. And in our next Fine Sale, which takes place at the end of this month, we have works from both these masters going under the hammer.
Born in Norwich in 1910, the son of a coal merchant, Edward Seago attended Norwich School, and was a self-taught artist (albeit with advice from the likes of Munnings). His career really flowered after the war, and his exhibitions would see long queues of people trying to buy one of his paintings. He was also popular with the royal family, particularly with the Queen Mother.
His popularity is enduring, perhaps because his works are very fresh and modern in style – in contrast to the more traditional Norwich School, for instance – and his subject matter is attractive and accessible.
He died in 1974; in his will he requested that one third of his paintings in his Norwich studio to be destroyed. Fortunately we are left with around 19,000 watercolours and 300 oil paintings, two of which feature in this month’s auction.
The first, entitled ‘A Grey Day near Salisbury’ is one of a number of pictures he painted in and around the Wiltshire town. It typifies his impressionistic approach to landscapes. The other work, ‘Near Sienna, October 1944’ was painted during his wartime army service, where he spent much of his time developing camouflage techniques.
Alfred Munnings was born in Mendham in Suffolk in 1878, and is best known as one of England’s finest painters of horses. He originally trained in the printing industry, becoming apprenticed to a Norwich printer in 1892, aged 14.
He spent most of this time designing and drawing advertising posters, while attending Norwich School of Art in his spare time. The lure of art clearly won out, because when he finished his six year printing apprenticeship, he immediately became a full-time painter.
This month’s sale features a dynamic Munnings watercolour en grisaille entitled ‘A highwayman pursues coach and horses’, along with a Christmas card from the artist in 1957.
It is a thrill to have such fabulous works by our ‘own’ great masters in this month’s sale, and they once again put Norfolk and East Anglia firmly on the artistic map.