Sworders Modern British & 20th Century Art 20 April 2021
Two of my take-home pictures from the sale would be the Bridget Riley fragments (lots 118 and 117). I love Riley’s work, and this is just the period I would want to collect, when she was focused mainly on black and white compositions. Being printed on to Perspex gives them a real sharpness and a contemporary feel. Such a remarkable achievement when you consider they were created over 50 years ago. J AN E OA K L E Y Other highlights of the catalogue for me include the three works by Simon Bussy (lots 73-75). I think his use of pastel is beautiful; the bright yellow of the Hangnest is so striking that I would love to own it! We sold an oil painting of a Bird of Paradise by Bussy in 2018 that remains one of my most favourite pictures that I have handled at Sworders. Temporary ownership of beautiful paintings is one of the perks of my role and I feel fortunate to have had it hanging proudly above my desk, albeit briefly, until the lucky bidder secured it for £16,000. It is such a joy to work on this sale as it includes a fantastic category of prints, so we get to celebrate some remarkable printmaking. I was so pleased to see the CRW Nevinson, ‘Waterloo Bridge from a Savoy Window’ (lot 44), but a particular favourite of mine is the work of Gerald Brockhurst. He was one of the finest portrait artists of his generation, his works have a wonderful intensity; the subject often placed directly confronting the viewer with uncompromising frankness. His richly detailed surfaces are stunning, and this intensity is carried over into his etchings. We are lucky enough to have four in the sale. He was a self-taught engraver, developing a remarkable technique that creates a rich velvety depth, achieving a striking tonal contrast. Of his works in the sale, I think my favourite is ‘Dorette’ from 1932 (lot 47). It is a typical Brockhurst composition of a glamorous sitter, half-length placed before a landscape. She stares at us, with an unsmiling intensity. The smooth delicacy of her skin and features contrast to the plain woollen cardigan and the curls of her hair, drawing our gaze in a quite mesmerising way. The sitter was his young muse and mistress Kathleen Woodward, who he named ‘Dorette’, just as his friend Augustus John had done with his muse Dorelia. I am delighted that we have an Alexander Archipenko in the sale (lot 65). Cubism and the avant-garde movements in Paris in the early 20th century have long been a particular interest of mine and he is a sculptor I have always admired. He was a member of the Section d’Or and, along with Picasso, the first artist to experiment with cubism in 3D. His sculptures and indeed some of his works on paper have gone on to sell for huge sums at auction, so I feel this is a great opportunity to own something really quite special by one of the great artists of the 20th century.