LS Lowry’s only painting depicting an auction room sold for more than double its estimate.
1958 “The Auction” has never been auctioned before and was acquired by its current owners more than two decades ago.
The painting was first exhibited in 1959 as part of a retrospective at the Manchester Art Gallery.
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It was shown at London’s Royal Academy of Art in 1976 and was last exhibited in China in 2014.
At Sotheby’s, it sold for Â£ 2,556,000 this week, well above the estimate of Â£ 1.2 to 1.8 million.
Full of characters, including a dog on a leash, the painting depicts a busy auction room with the auctioneer on the podium about to bring down the hammer.
Frances Christie, Vice President of Sotheby’s UK & Ireland, said: âFew paintings are better for auction than Lowry’s own auction scene, a work that captures the excitement of an auction in a way that only Lowry does distinctive iconography.
âThe artist was no stranger to auctioning himself, and as an avid collector of watches and Pre-Raphaelite art, he indulged his passion with bids in salesrooms from Manchester to London.
âHe often followed up on his own pictures, which later went through Sotheby’s, and had an appreciation for his work that was in complete contrast to the early days of his career as he battled for recognition.
“The delightful circularity of The Auction’s appearance at Sotheby’s would undoubtedly have satisfied Lowry’s ironic sense of humor – a case of life that mimics art.”
As early as the 1920s, Lowry touched on the subject of auctions with a drawing entitled Sell ââthe old antique shop . Another painting Jackson’s auction and sales room from 1952, shows the exterior of the Manchester auction house with the furniture piled up.
In The auction , however, for the first and only time Lowry shows the full glory of a sale in action.
Paintings are piled high and cabinets viewed and through the hustle and bustle of potential buyers the auctioneer is raised and about to seal the sale.
Lowry joins a select group of artists who have explored the subject, from the great English satirists like William Hogarth and Thomas Rowlandson to Bansky today.
Although Lowry did not sell a single work at his first exhibition in Manchester in 1921, he was successful in later years, with prices for his works reaching Â£ 7,000 at auction during his lifetime.
He used his extra money for a pleasure: the acquisition of works of art.
He bought works by young artists, including his protÃ©gÃ©s Sheila Fell and Lucian Freud, as well as the Pre-Raphaelites.
The Stretford-born artist, who lived on Station Road in Pendlebury, acquired several masterpieces, including a superb version of Rossetti’s Proserpine, which he bought at auction for 5,000 guineas in 1964.
In addition to being an observer of auctions, Lowry was well aware of the ups and downs of buying and bidding.
The largest collection of LS Lowry works – more than 400 – is in the Lowry Arts Center in Salford Quays.
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