Fresh to market pictures should excite art collectors

There has been a lot of talk recently of re-selling of artworks at auction too quickly in Australia. Two auctions coming up this month go a long way to crush this perception, and as a viewer of all the important fine art auctions it’s great to see.

Who would think that we have to thank Pro Hart and his estate for a new and exciting collection of pictures, accompanied by no less than the family of esteemed art patrons John and Sunday Reed of Heide fame – both consigned to Deutscher and Hackett at their sale on 16th and 17th April in Melbourne of 338 works.

Sothebys in contrast has an offering of 116 lots on 22nd April in Sydney and also contains works from the collection of the late John Roberts of Multiplex.

It is interesting to observe that both auction houses have used traditional paintings as their cover lots rather than more contemporary works. This is in stark contrast to the last Deutscher-Menzies and Lawson-Menzies sales, which had works by Sidney Nolan and Tim Maguire on their front pages.

Tom Roberts graces the cover of Deutscher and Hackett: a full length-portrait of Miss Hilda Spong, 1893, from the estate of Pro Hart. This is a rare large work of beautiful quality to come on to the market, with a wide estimate of $ 300,000 to $ 500,000 – one to watch.

Sothebys have given Ethel Carrick Fox pride of place, “Market, Under Trees” was last offered in August 1999 by Sothebys, achieving a record price for the artist with $ 266,500 inc buyer’s premium. It was later beaten by Sotheby’s again in May 2005 by “Arabs Bargaining”, which sold for $ 458,750 inc. buyer’s premium. With the movement in the market since 1999, their current estimate of $ 400,000 to $ 600,000 does not seem unreasonable. This is an exceptional and most beautiful paining – let’s be prepared for an exceptional result.

There seems to be some good reasons for the Australian War Memorial to have a closer look at the Deutscher and Hackett sale.

Will Ashton is a bit hit and miss in the auction room, however lot 26 is a different story “Victory Celebration, Martin Place Sydney 1919” conjures up a wonderful image and should happily reach its estimate of $ 25,000 to $ 35,000.

Others of interest for the War Memorial would have to include Charles Webster Gilbert’s sculpture “Australian Solder, Maquette for Broken Hill War Memorial”, 1922. Perhaps they might have some local Broken Hill competition. Lots 161 and 162 by Iso Rae should perhaps also be looked at.

Some of the standout paintings in the Deutscher and Hackett offering are:

Lot 29, Bessie Davidson “Interior with Poppies”, 1935, is bound to fuel considerable interest, estimate $ 120,000 to $ 160,000.

Two mesmerising portraits by William Dobell executed over 30 years apart are lot 30, ‘The Boy George’, c. 1928, estimate $ 30,000 to $ 50,000 and lot 47, ‘Emmy’, 1960, estimate $ 60,000 to $ 80,000.

And for the contemporary collectors, there is lot 57, Del Kathryn Barton, ‘Making love with love’, 2004, estimate $ 60,000 to $ 80,000 – watch this bird fly!

We will also see the first venture for Ex De Medici into the auction room: lot 58 ‘Godless’, 2002, estimate4 30,000 to $ 40,000. Quality and craftsmanship will no doubt win out here.

It’s also good to see some strong international works: lot 64, a Henri Matisse ink drawing from 1942 with an estimate of $ 90,000 to $ 120,000. Also lot 65, the Andy Warhol colour screen print of Mao, 1972, is a great image and comes with an estimate of $ 60,000 to $ 80,000.

It is about time that we experience some movement in the prices of Danila Vassilieff’s work. Well, here is a great chance with a number of works from the Reed family. Lot 87, 88 and 206 to 211 and there is even a Vassilieff from Pro Hart’s estate, lot 123, estimate $ 8,000 to $ 12,000 – should be most interesting. This is a chance to redefine the artist and his prices. The highest price for a painting by Vassilieff ‘ Fitzroy Life’ was achieved by Sothebys in August 2004, with $ 49,850 inc. buyer’s premium.

Finally, there are a number of ink drawings by Joy Hester with estimates between $ 5,000 to $ 8,000 from the Reed collection, and they are sure to find new homes. Equally a number of drawings by William Dobell from the Pro Hart collection are price very favourably at between $ 1,000 to $ 6,000.

Sothebys present a different, but no less rich and rewarding showing: firstly a number of fine works by Ray Crooke, and don’t be surprised if we see a new record set by their first lot ‘The Shell’, 1959, exquisite in its depiction, with an estimate of $ 50,000 to $ 70,000. The record at auction for Ray Crooke was set in 2001 for ‘Islanders, Thursday Island’, 1960, with $ 82,250 inc. buyer’s premium.

And on to more juicy offerings: two divine oils by Grace Cossington-Smith – yes, they are both small, but do they shine! Lots 4 and 5 come with estimates of $ 14,000 to $ 18,000. Why do I think they might just sell for a lot more…?

And there is another Jeffrey Smart – but every so often one comes along and it has just got all you ever want in a Jeffrey Smart painting. This is it. Lot 7 ‘On the beach’, San Diego, estimate $ 200,000 to $ 300,000.

Two previously unknown stunning landscapes by Eugene von Guerard have emerged for the Sothebys sale: Lot 14 ‘View from Daylesford towards the Pyrenees’, c. 1864, estimate $ 250,000 to $ 350,000, and lot 58 ‘Italian Landscape’, 1847, $ 180,000 to $ 250,000 estimate. The latter comes from a private collection in Germany. The strong Aussie dollar should be helpful for the return to the vendor.

And here some more works to watch at Sothebys:

Lot 19, Tracy Moffat’s self-portrait, estimate $ 30,000 to $ 40,000 is simply striking – perhaps for the National Portrait Gallery?

Lot 21, ‘Frogs on waterlilies’ by Lin Onus, $ 70,000 to $ 90,000.

Sidney Nolan, lot 24, ‘Siege and Burning at Glenrowan’, a woven wool tapestry, estimate $ 180,000 to $ 220,000

Lot 30, a Robert Dickerson with an estimate of $ 40,000 to $ 60,000 (Deutscher and Hackett also have a good work from 1966, lot 14, $ 35,000 to $ 45,000)

Again Sidney Nolan, lot 52, ‘Luna Park’, 1945 – iconic. If you had the opportunity to see his retrospective at the Art Gallery of NSW like me you might think that his earliest work was his best. Love this one, estimate $ 50,000 to $ 70,000. Coincidentally, Deutscher and Hackett also offer a Luna Park work from 1942, lot 91, estimate 4 30,000 to $ 45,000. Also, watch out for lot 55 at Sothebys, ‘St. Kilda Pier’, 1945, $ 35,000 to $ 45,000.

And there are two more great tapestries, this time from John Coburn: lot 92, ‘Autumn’, estimate $ 18,000 to $ 25,000, and lot 93 ‘Sydney Summer’, estimate $ 35,000 to $ 45,000.

Sothebys also offer four more excellent Ray Crookes: lot 68 ‘The Fish’, lot 102 ‘Farm Natives’, lot 103 ‘The Football Match’ and lot 107 ‘Net Fishermen’, all with estimates of $ 20,000 to $ 30,000.

Well that’s about it. Any questions or comments please don’t hesitate to email or phone 02 9977 0700. If you wish to bid for anything, of course we are happy to assist; equally advice free from bias is always at hand. To view works online go to and

Written by

David Hulme is an approved valuer for the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts program and a member of the Art Consulting Association of Australia. David Hulme is also managing director at Banziger Hulme Fine Art Consultants, which is a highly respected art consultancy in Australia and has been in operation for over ten years. David also regularly comments on the Australian and international art market on national radio and in numerous local and national newspapers.

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