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.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Dipping my toe in the water

Do you remember my last blog-post about bidding at an auction? I decided that I needed to believe in my hunches and the next time I spotted a picture that gave me a tingle down the spine, I'd be braver and bid higher.

Last Friday at Willingham Auctions my art-antenna crackled into action . . .

I spotted these serious looking women:

This beautifully composed oil painting:

and this rather gorgeous chair:

So I left three commission bids with the auctioneer (because once again I had to be somewhere else on the auction day, and it makes me consider very very carefully what price I'm prepared to pay).

So what happened.

The serious women are in fact Xenia Noelle Lowinsky and her sister Ruth Lowinsky portrayed in two wood engravings by Eric Gill. I got very excited and almost lost my head and put in a huge bid to make sure I got them . . . but sensibly I did a few minutes research and found the same prints for sale at various galleries for fairly modest prices. So, Xenia (prison reformer and gardener) and Ruth (society hostess, food writer and grandmother of herb growing expert Jecka McVicar) were bought by someone who out-bid me by quite a lot and paid a lot more than the prices online!

The chair has also gone to someone else, I had no idea what it might be worth but the estimate was so low it was worth a modest punt! I'm very pleased that I spent some time enjoying looking at the beautiful needlepoint upholstery while it was in the sale room. At the end of the day someone else wanted it more than I did – and I think they got an absolute bargain!

But . . . Gosh! I successfully bid for the painting by Katherine Fryer. I don't usually consider buying oil paintings but I liked this so much I rushed off to find out who the painter was – and do you now what? She's also an accomplished printmaker! You can see some of her wood blocks here; she studied at Leeds College of Art, last year they published a tribute on their web site to celebrate her 100th birthday.

I collected the 'The Pond' from the auction house this afternoon; I could see that someone had tidied the picture up and had replaced the paper tape around the edges – but they had carefully left the original label visible:

W. R. A. E. 1935
ARTIST: K. M. Fryer
TITLE: "The Pond"
Price: £4 . 4 (4 guineas)

Katherine May Frier was born on 26 August 1910, she had left Leeds College of Art in 1931, so this is a painting from the start of her long career as an artist.

And, look! there's another painting on the other side of the canvas . . .

You need to turn the canvas upside down to see it . . .

The account of her life on the Leeds College of Art web site mentions that Katherine's reminiscences of her time in Leeds recall soot-clad buildings – she used to wonder how the French Impressionists were able to create brightly coloured canvasses from urban scenes. Is this abandoned picture one of her attempts to do just that? Did she cast it aside and then use the reverse of the canvas to paint this picture of a still pool on the edge of a wood, looking out over the green fields?

So, Katherine Fryer's painting "The Pond" is now propped up on a chair in my studio; it's a picture I will spend time enjoying – the repeated geometry of the fence, it's reflection in the water, the dark against light/light against dark patterns, and the symphony of shades of green, I can imagine dipping my toe into the cool water.

In 2000 she held a solo show of called 'One Point of View', and said that "she will continue to draw and paint for as long as she is able to do so" – in her early 20s, when she painted "The Pool" she didn't know her career as an artist and an inspirational teacher would be so long. Perhaps you know her? I'd love to find out more about her work.



  1. That's a superb oil painting Celia! What a find.

    I know nothing about the artist but I reckon that you'll get loads of pleasure from looking at that painting.

  2. I think you actually got the most gorgeous of the three pieces you chose, it really is a fabulous painting, I love it! So that's consolation for not getting the other two isn't it! I love auctions. I once bought an entire tea set in different ice cream colours, so tea cup one colour, saucer mixed up and a different colour, if you know what I mean, all for £6! £6, can you believe it! I have bought stuff I've ended up regretting, just because I got in a buying frenzy, but you sound much more controlled, and I'm very impressed you do your research. That great big enormous beautiful slinky black hen your eggs are under is just FABULOUS! Love Vanessa xxx

  3. Ooh yes, you got the best of the three, I love that painting, aren't the colours gorgeous? And so nice to be able to find out so much about the artist. I would love to go to auctions but I just know I would get carried away and we've already got too much stuff for our very small cottage. Also, I haven't enough walls now we've gone open plan, especially now I know so many talented printers! Penny x

  4. What a beautiful painting, I can see why you put a bid in for it, it is so lovely, off to look at her links now. x

  5. Wow - what a find! both of the paintings are great. I regularly put bids on at auctions but find im outbid, not always a bad thing though as id just fill the house to the rafters!

  6. I feel dreadful now, having to admit this ... but I have a loft with more than 50 paintings stacked ... I used to fill the walls with watercolours and oils, many of them inherited and some really lovely ones amongst them. But then we decorated about 9 years ago and the walls were this wonderful Farrow & Ball colour (Gervase Yellow, now removed from their range but supplied to order) and we loved the shade so much, and the simple chalky-ness of the Estate Emulsion we didn't want to put up any pictures! Eventually, we put three up on the wall behind where we sit so we don't look at them all the time, but after walls with many paintings to walls with no paintings, we have found the room very, very restful (we have lots more things to look at - books, ornaments, flowers, mirrors, but only three paintings!)
    Margaret P

  7. Oh I loved this the moment I saw it, I am afraid my paintings go up the walls, three deep in places.
    Her style is very reminiscent of an
    Australian artist, Dorrit Black who painted at about the same time.

  8. Celia, your wise eye and your measured toe have captured such a beautiful canvas. The Pool is a beautiful painting that would give anyone viewing it many hours of pleasure, and moments of deepening contemplation. Perhaps that is the power of seeing a pool?

    And then to discover the hidden treasure on the reverse of the canvas. Quite marvelous. Both sides of this canvas show images that are so true in their observation and so skilled in their distillation, composition and color sense. Congratulations! xo

  9. Celia,
    Your painting is wonderful. There was a good Sky Arts programme on the other day about Eric Gill so I would also have wanted to bag those prints but I think you have got something you already love. I am always struggling with lights and darks and wish I had this artist's eye. There is a great understanding of colour there and I'm equally smitten with the image on the other side! If you find anything out about her please let us know! Lesley

  10. What a lovely post. We have an auction every week in Cockermouth but I am not usually in town at the right time.

    That chair is wonderful, hope it has gone to a good home.

  11. of the three, the painting really draws my eye in & want to linger. what a great piece!

  12. Well spotted and congratulations on getting what we all think was the best of the three!

  13. I love the painting, auctions are such fun. I like them at Willingham and sell there. I have some old paintings to take - must get round to it!!

  14. With modest means, and eagle eye
    A printer on the prowel
    Dusty corners, hidden treasure
    A bargain to be found?

    Eyes alert, excitement rising
    Breath held... Bidding done..
    Heart pumping.... Hold your nerve.
    A win! Result! Exhale.....

    Congratulations with a poem.... I've been all inspired this morning. Hope you like it ~ Julie

  15. Thank you for all your comments

    and the clever poem too, Julie :-)


    I'd love to hear from anyone who was a student of Katherine Fryer.


  16. Celia that's a beautiful painting, I love the colours and the movement in it - what a great auction win! I hope you enjoy it, well done!

    Julia x

  17. Such a beautiful painting, in fact, I love both sides, I would have to hang each side alternating every month or so.


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