Birds of A Feather Flock Together

Recently, a client showed us some rare birds indeed. The tightly rolled paper turned out to be ten watercolour works by Australian bird painter H. Hepburn Calvert. They obviously had been rolled up since 1919 when they were originally painted and seemingly never framed.

Calvert_magpies Finally, they were allowed to reveal their rarely seen beauty: Stunningly clear watercolours of native Australian birds, among them magpies, parrots, black swans, ducks and kingfishers. They are very large works at 96 x 65 cm paper size.

The colours are as fresh, vibrant and rich as the day H H Calvert painted them in 1919, thanks to the lack of exposure to any light – which is a real rarity. It is very exciting to find watercolours of this age, almost one hundred years old, in such pristine condition and then to find ten such works is a rare treat. Little is known about painter H. H. Calvert, although a good number of his works continue to surface in the auction room and the State Library of NSW has some works in its collection.

We are delighted to aid the sale of these works through Davidson Auctions on Saturday, 16 June 2007 at their Annandale premises at 43 – 45 Nelson Street.

After these unknown gems, let’s go to the familiar big names of the likes of Fred Williams, John Brack, Jeffrey Smart, Brett Whiteley and Albert Tucker – who have all seen runaway prices in the auction room so far this year. Deutscher-Menzies will be all the more pleased to have significant offerings from all of these artists plus many more.

The major John Brack (lot 34) is a sister painting to the record breaking ‘The Old Time’, 1969, which sold at Sotheby’s for over three times the estimate, setting an Australian record with $ 3.36 million. With an estimate of $ 800,000 to $ 1 million all eyes will be on ‘Backs and Fronts’, 1969, almost identical in size and to us a more appealing image.

Albert Tucker’s ‘John Batman meets Eliza Callaghan’, 1971, (lot 27) has a reasonably broad estimate of $ 450,000 to $ 700,000. Going on recent results for the artist: who knows how far this one could go?

Lot 33 – Jeffrey Smart’s ‘The City Bus Station’, 1985 – 86 is a cracker, this should go to the top estimate of $ 650,000.

Lot 35 – Brett Whiteley’s recent record price of $ 2,88 million could be toppled by ‘The Olgas for Ernest Giles’ from 1985. It is a massive 213.5 x 244.5 cm, with an estimate of $ 2.25 million to $ 3.25 million.

Lot 36 – Fred Williams’ ‘Lysterfield II’ from 1974 is a large work with a colour palette that will appeal to many and a price to match, with an estimate of $ 380,000 – $ 480,000.

As is usual, Sidney Nolan is very well represented in this sale with 17 works, as are Charles Blackman with 12 works, Brett Whiteley with 10 and Lloyd Rees with six paintings.

As the prices are rising for John Coburn, we really are starting to see some real gems come into the auction room. Lot 18 appears to be no exception to this, titled ‘White Bird’, 1972. If this work looks as good in the flesh as in the catalogue, the estimates will be well and truly smashed (estimates are $ 55,000 – $ 75,000).

Lot 93 is a delightful watercolour by Julian Ashton ‘Boatman on the Hawkesbury River’, from 1883, with an estimate of $28,000 – $35,000.

Lot 73 is a bas-relief bronze by George Rayner Hoff, with an estimate of $ 9 ,000 – $ 12,000. It is rare to see his work come up in the auction room. Hoff designed the War Memorial in Hyde Park and the Holden car logo (and he was born in the Isle of Man, as was David…).

We are looking for another lovely watercolour to finish off. How about lot 225 ‘The Heron’s Pool’ from 1914 by Emma Minnie Boyd – Arthur doesn’t always have to get all the attention. The estimate of $ 4,000 – $ 6,000 looks promising.

Written by

Brigitte Banziger

Hello, my name is Brigitte Banziger and I am an art consultant and manager at Banziger Hulme Fine Art Consultants, Australia's art valuation and art advice experts. We offer comprehensive art valuation and art brokerage services (selling and buying art on behalf of clients). Our art services cover everything from valuations, art care and restoration, to general advice such as helping define the goals for your art purchase and work out the best strategy on how to achieve those goals, including where, how and and when to buy.

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