‘The Gust of Wind’, the 1930-31 linocut by Ethel Spowers, swept up an unrivalled £114,050 or A$ 174,600 (including buyer’s premium) at Bonhams in London – doubling her previous auction record set with ‘Wet Afternoon’.
Clearly, Bonhams strategy of a specific sale on the Grosvenor School and Avant-Garde Printmaking proved to be an unmitigated success with spectacular results.
75 of the 87 lots offered sold at Bonhams on 17 April, a clearance rate of 86%, and the sale achieved a total of £ 1.2 million or A$ 1.83 million.
Australia’s new auction record for Ethel Spowers (1890-1947) trounced Brit Christopher Nevinson’s (1889 – 1946) ‘Bomber’, a lithograph from 1918, fetching £109,250 incl. b.p., and Canadian Sybil Andrews (1898 -1992) coming in third on ‘Speedway’, her 1934 linocut, selling for £ 82,850 incl. b.p. This turned out to be yet another auction record on the day, as ‘Speedway’ is the artist’s most sought after, dynamic and rare print.
Exceptional results were also achieved for linocuts by another Briton, Claude Flight (1881-1955). His wonderful image of a red London double-decker buses rushing down Regent Street from 1922 sold for an impressive £ 49,250 incl. b.p., with ‘Boys Bathing’ from circa 1935 selling for the same price.
Six striking cubist / modernist coloured linocuts by Flight sold handsomely between £21,250 and £ 27,500 each.
The top price paid for a linocut by Briton Cyril Power (1872 – 1951) was for ‘The Runners’. This coloured linocut from the 1930s was perhaps the perfect Olympic Games gift, selling for £ 39,650 incl. b.p.
A new benchmark has been set by this extraordinary sale, and just one Australian work has eclipsed all comers to win the ‘Battle of the Commonwealth Artists’ (see article from 3 April 2012 below).
When compared to previous auction prices for prints by Australian artists, Ethel Spowers’ ‘Wind Gust’ sold for more than twice the price for of the previous record holder Robert Dale (1810-56, after): ‘Panoramic View of King George’s Sound, Part of the Colony of Swan River’, 1834, sold $ 79,350 incl. b.p. at McKenzies in Perth in May 2005.
Recent previous prints sale reveal the prowess of Ethel Spowers: the linocut ‘Wet Afternoon’ sold at for £ 51,650 (A$ 79,815) incl. b.p. at Christies, London, in April last year and again in November 2011 for $ 78,000 incl. b.p. at Deutscher + Hackett in Melbourne.
The only contemporary artist making the top 5 in Australian prints is Tim Maguire (born 1958) with Untitled, a monotype selling for $ 67,562 incl. b.p. in June 2003 at Deutscher-Menzies.
Australian auction data supplied by Australian Art Sales Digest. Article originally published in the Australian Art Sales Digest.