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, 7 March 2011

Auctions . . . not just about buying stuff

Last Friday I went along to my favourite auction house to view the lots coming up for sale on Saturday; it was probably the best collection of lots I've seen for a long time and the rooms were crowded with people talking excitedly and making notes.

I'd spotted five things in the on-line catalogue, that I wanted to look at and maybe to leave commission bids for – once again I wasn't able to go to the auction and to bid in person, but this focuses the mind and prevents snap purchases so it's no bad thing!

The five lots were:
• A wooden framed over-mantle mirror
• Five woodblock prints by Hiroshige from the "100 views of Edo" series
• An oil painting of two ceramic jugs by Manuel Blesa
• A silver bracelet by Georg Jensen
• An oil painting of a farmyard by Roger Nicholson

I quickly crossed off the mirror – it was the wrong size for our fireplace. On to the Hiroshige prints, the estimate of £80 seemed too low and I smelled a rat, so I'd done some homework and checked the size of the original prints – these prints were slightly smaller, looked brand new but were printed from woodblocks . . . mmmm? The labels on the back of the frames said they were purchased at the Kyoto Arts Centre – I've been there and they sell reproduction copy prints, skillfully done but not original Hiroshiges. I was tempted, but crossed them off my list (they went for £85).

Now I was down to the final three . . . the Manuel Blesa painting was delightful, serene and beautifully painted, framed in a very Spanish heavy black frame it would look perfect in our dining room once I get the walls repainted . . . I checked with the auctioneer – there was a reserve of £250, I wouldn't be getting a bargain but the painting was worth at least that. I crossed it off my list. (It sold for £340, there's no way I'd have gone that high but I could see why someone paid that much.)

I asked the auctioneer to open one of the secure cabinets so I could look at the bracelet, I'm not an expert on Jensen but I really like his designs and want to learn more. I wish I'd done more homework before I looked at this . . . the lovely 'Seed and Pod' design was much more attractive in real life than in the catalogue photo, the workmanship was top quality – I loved the clever little lock on the catch. I was only going to bid if the reserve was low – at £250 it wasn't. As I walked away I overheard a confident dealer list the things he wanted to check out including the bracelet . . . I wasn't alone in spotting a quality piece (the Jensen 'Seed and Pod' bracelet sold for £440!)


I had one lot left on my list . . . the painting by Roger Nicholson; I usually only consider buying original prints but this painting really caught my eye – there was something special about it.


Before I went to the auction rooms I did a bit of research about the painter – Roger Nicholson was a highly skilled artist and designer. He is better known for his textile designs in the 1950s and the V&A Museum has a large collection of his designs. I wanted this painting but I was in a cautious mood, the estimate was only £50. I wrote down a very modest commission bid, handed it into the auctioneer and drove home.

The Roger Nicholson painting sold for £240.

I didn't get the painting (but I learned a lot).


Celia
x

23 comments:

  1. My dear friend Nancy is Roger's daughter, I must show her your blog. He was a wonderful artist and her mum Joan was a leading light in textile and embroidery design in the 50s. She herself is a fine artist. Her website is www.nancynicholson.co.uk.

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  2. Wendy! Oh my goodness!!! I wish I'd upped my bid now (though I suspect the other bidders were prepared to go higher) and I have strict limits in mind before I put in a bid.
    The painting had such a fresh style about the brush work, my art-radar buzzed into life as soon as I saw it!

    Celia
    x

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  3. Love the painting! I own a Jensen spoon (and it's in the seed and pod design!) and it's one of my most treasured things. Not only does it look good, but it has the best weight and tactile feel to it. Have never tried on a bracelet - which is a good thing because if I did I wouldn't have any self-control about buying it.

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  4. I always enjoy your 'auction' posts Celia and this one has left me not only impressed again by your discerning taste but also by your self discipline. I suspect I would get carried away.... especially if there was a piece of Georg Jensen going under the hammer! Lesley

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  5. Hi Terry - another coincidence! I'll have to do more research about Jensen then I'll know when I spot a bargain ;-)

    Hi Lesley - if I had gone in person on the auction day I could easily run up a big bill! But commission bids force you to think hard - but I was far to cautious last Friday (and up against others willing to pay a lot more than me).

    Celia
    x

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  6. I've never been to an auction and I'm not sure I would dare to bid but you always make it sound so exciting. Maybe I'll pluck up courage one day.

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  7. You must go along to one Gina! Willingham Auctions is a good place to start as it's very friendly.

    Celia
    x

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  8. The painting has such atmosphere, I hope it went to a good home.
    And What a coincidence, the blogging world is so small!
    love
    Lyn
    xxx

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  9. I love that painting too. Very occasionally something sets the hairs on the back of my neck going and this one did. How odd. I don't know why it happens.

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  10. its a good painting, shame your budget didn't stretch that far. I used to buy and sell books at auctions, fascinating buying a job lot in a box and finding something special, like one box that contained 11 or 12 Balzac books, but un-cut, as in the pages weren't trimmed so a rare printing error (and of course unreadable). I've still got them (still unread)

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  11. Hi Lyn - yes! what was the chance of that?!

    Hi Elizabethm - I got that very feeling when I saw it - dammit! should've upped my budget!

    Hi Wessex Reiver - oh it must have been fun to rummage through what you'd bought!


    Celia
    x

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  12. Hi Celia... well disciplined you! The temptation is always to go a bit further when you're really attracted to something.

    For a bit of fun I've put mine and my son's name down against my two daughters for the BBC programme Bargain Hunt. If we're lucky enough to get picked there's going to be an almighty post on my blog!

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  13. Hi John - Oh do let us know if you are selected for Bargain Hunt! How do they pick such rubbish things to sell on? and I love TW's sarcastic voice-over!

    Good luck!
    Celia

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  14. I'm always struck by your thoroughness in researching these things and your self-discipline too! I love the Nicholson painting.

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  15. It just goes to show that you must have good taste and the right instincts! I suppose that is why it is such a thrill when you do finally beat everyone else to a real bargain!

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  16. You would be my first choice for an auction house 'buddy' Celia! Good taste and restraint in equal measures. The Nicholson painting is wonderful and I really like the sound of that Jensen bracelet.

    Jeanne
    x

    PS Looking back at a previous post, have you tried the Butley Oysterage in Orford? I think you would like it Celia.

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  17. Just a thimbleful...

    I had to give up going to auctions because we downsized and I just don't have room any more. What a shame. Georg Jensen stuff is wonderful - I inherited about a dozen pieces including the big almond shaped iconic ring but it WAS TOO SMALL FOR MY KNOBBLY KNUCKLES and I had to give it to my daughter !!!

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  18. Greetings from Southern California

    I am your newest follower. I invite you to visit my blog and follow me if you want too.

    God Bless You :-)

    ~Ron

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  19. I am very impressed with your wisdom and research, it is hard to keep your cool in an auction house!

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  20. What good taste you have Celia, and great self restraint! It's sounds like an interesting day.
    Penny x

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  21. Hi Chrissie - the research is my favourite bit.

    Hi Matron - you're right there, I want a bargain but I'm also pleased when i spot something with a low estimate and it goes for a high price I can't afford. Or maybe it's one of the auctioneer's little tricks that sucks people in... who know?

    Hi Jeanne - thanks for the recommendation about Butley Oysterage, it's a long time since I've been to Orford.

    Hi Mavis - Oooo lucky you having all that Jensen stuff - I hope you wear it!

    Welcome to PPPs Old Geezer :-)

    Hi Acornmoon - It's much harder to keep your cool when attending live! I'm more level headed with commission bids.

    Hi Penny - level headed - mmm maybe too cautious this time.

    Another auction day coming up soon... will it be a good one?

    Celia
    x

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  22. Dear Celia,
    Just found your blog whilst researching Roger Nicholson bio,
    I have a large tapestry by Harumi Isobe depicting a homage to Roger Nicholson by making a tapestry of RNs painting "Spring Evening".
    Harumi was also in colaberation with RN in publishing a book on fabric design and art.
    I would loved to know more of Roger Nichoson and Hurami Isobe, so if any of your followers have any info of either would be a bonus to me.

    Best regards.
    Rob.

    P.S.
    I'm total auction nut and its a must to keep control, I admire your constraint.

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  23. Hello roger Nicholson was my grandfather and I am lucky enough to have some of his paintings on my walls. Harumi was a big inspiration to me - her talent and her kindness will always remembered - its lovely to randomly find their names mentioned as a result of a google search

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