Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Monday, 26 July 2010


On Friday I went for a scout around my favourite auction – this isn't a stuffy serious fine art auction house, it's a treasure house of all sorts of stuff and has a friendly atmosphere (if you've never been to an auction this is a good place to start).

It's easy to get distracted, I spotted a lovely carpet, but I tried to be focused. I usually take a good look at the pictures and prints, one day something really interesting is going to turn up. On Friday I spotted a signature I recognised . . .

I skipped off to the auctioneer's office to check in the catalogue for the estimated price but found no mention of a print by Sheila Robinson. I asked the auctioneer about the print, he pointed to the lot number and explained it was included with the large oil painting next to it on the shelf – 'the nudes?!' 'Yes, the nudes – they're apparently by a well known artist'.

My heart sank, I didn't want to buy a massive oil painting of a Life Class and if it was by someone really well known I couldn't afford to make a bid. My Mum lives near the auction house, so I checked on her computer and found that the painter of 'the nudes' was a noted portraitist, but then again I really wanted that print by Sheila Robinson. So, on my way home I returned to the auctioneer's office and filled out a 'Commission Bid' form – we had things to do on Saturday so unfortunately I couldn't bid in person – I put down the price I'd be happy to pay for the print alone, a B.O.G.O.F. (buy one get one free), it was a gamble . . .

. . . which paid off! This morning I collected both pictures from the auction house, they're bigger than I remembered! It was a tight fit getting them into my car.

Here's the Sheila Robinson print, I think the date is 1985*, two years before she died and is marked 1/Artist's Proof. Sheila was an innovative printmaker who often printed from cut cardboard as well as lino; she worked as an illustrator and designed stamps and posters, inspired by her mentor Edward Bawden. Later she taught printmaking at the Royal College of Art. I love the confidence of the cut lines and the colours she's used.

What about that oil painting? Here's a sneaky look at the corner – subtle colours and a light touch . . .

Here's the signature . . .

Elena Gaussen Marks, she is still working as a portrait painter in London as Elena Gaussen, there's a water colour study of a similar composition on her web site. What I've found out about her is an intriguing story – for 34 years she was married to Leo Marks, if you haven't heard of him you will probably know a poem he wrote.

There are things I like about the painting – the soft colours of the background and the memories it resurrects in me of hours and hours of life classes at art school. And, in finding out more about the painter, I've discovered the amazing life story of Leo Marks . But 'the nudes' are for sale . . .

. . . let me know if you'd like to make me an offer, I'll let you know if I put them into another auction**.

* I asked the Fry Art Gallery in Saffron Walden if they had any information about the Sheila Robinson Print. They have one in their collection dated 1963 – I can now see that is the date on this print. It is called 'Leaves' and the gallery staff are almost certain that Edward Bawden had the same print framed and hanging in his house.

** The nudes oil painting will be for sale in this auction on 22 September 2010.


  1. Oh, I can see why you had to have the Sheila Robinson print - it's glorious!

  2. what a great post... I really love your writing style and you clearly have great taste in art too...never done an auction but always fancied one... well done you!

  3. What a great find, I love the print. Never been brave enough to do an auction, but maybe I will now!

  4. I have buying something at auction on my lists of things to do before I'm 45 (not long to go) What puts me off is knowing weather a bid is too much, if I was there in person I might get carried away. A comission bid might be a way out of that especially if it was a bogof!!

  5. Well spotted - a lovely print.

  6. I'd be terrified to bid in an auction..but you did well. The print is really worth having to have the two.

  7. Like you, I much prefer the Sheila Robinson. It's beautifully composed and coloured.
    (I wish I could do subtle!)

  8. I should go to auctions more often!

  9. Lovely post, I shall certainly have to make a trip to that auction house one day, it's not too far and I really like the Sheila Robinson print, beautiful colours.

  10. We were just saying how clever you are, Celia! Now we can also classify you in the Gambler pigeonhole :-)
    Very well done indeed. With any luck, the net effect will be a very cheap (or free) SR print.
    Fiona and I used to adore going to auctions in our lead toy dealing years. Lacy Scott & Knight in Bury St. Edmunds have a great toy auction - possibly just once a year. Discipline is so important and your approach was perfect, totally objective and extremely safe.
    I remember once down in Southend on Sea, I bid quite a lot for one particular piece of vintage Britains lead toys in a box. It was only afterwards that I realised it had been entered by that well known TV auction programme (darned if I can remember its name). Never did get to see that particular show.

    Anyway, congrats on your win and on a lovely and entertaining article. F and I agree that your site has a lovely, calming effect. Thanks.

  11. Just a thimbleful...

    I am so pleased for you ! The print is delightful

  12. Hi Dottycookie - I'm chuffed :-)

    Thank you Belleaukitchen - you must 'do' an auction, it's huge fun!

    Hi Su - the local general auctions aren't scary - give one a try.

    Hi Rhiannon - Willingham Auctions is a good place to start - really friendly. And they have a super tea room!

    Thanks Andy - I've been looking for a good original print at the auction for a couple of years.

    Hi Jackie - a commission bid is the way to go if you're scared of bidding live - you don't get the adrenaline rush but neither do you over stretch the budget!

    Hi Veg Heaven - the colours are so well judged - love the browns and purples with the sage green.

    Hi Poshyarns - you can view the lots on line so you get a feel what's on offer and if it's worth the trip to view.

    Hi Danny - great to see a comment from you on PPPs! It took me a while to work out my tactics for this one, stage two will be selling the oil painting... that's new territory for me - any tips?

    Hi Mavis - there's something about prints taken from hand cut blocks which have been hand pulled, a direct connection with the artist. I can see and feel the assured hand behind this design.


  13. Hi Celia,

    Was just wondering if you had offered the nudes for sale anywhere. We want to know the outcome and the suspense is palpable!

    I guess you are not in any rush and want to avoid costly auction seller fees (we sold some antique fishing tackle at Cheffins and the commission came to about 30% from memory). I have no idea how suitable eBay would be but at least there you can set a reserve.
    I am working on building a classifieds section on the CSH site and that too could be an option.
    Best wishes to you both (walnut pickling season is upon us!).
    Danny x

  14. The Sheila Robinson Print is gorgeous, not sure about the other but at least you got the one you wanted!
    Thank you for the lovely comments on my blog too-I am well on the mend thanks!

  15. What a strange coincidence - Elena Gaussen was my art teacher at school 35 years ago!


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