Colin Gleadell tells the story of the Great Bardfield group of artists whose work has been gaining ground on the auction market. The leading light of the group was a Eric Ravilious; Edward Bawden also got attention but is seen as being one of two of the second rank Essex artists. The work of the other, Kenneth Rowntree, has been mostly forgotten until now:
Rowntree (1915-1997) is the least known of the two – largely forgotten and undervalued – though in his heyday he was highly successful. […] Rowntree died in 1997, and his wife, Diana, in August last year, leaving behind an eclectic array of works – paintings, sketchbooks, designs, prints and props – in his studio.
Local auctioneers Anderson & Garland were brought in to value the contents, and, with few auction precedents to go by, divided them into 350 lots covering Rowntree’s extensive career and many interests.
Far from just making a list, the auctioneers produced a meticulously researched catalogue, which is in itself a valuable historical document, and promoted the sale cleverly in interior design magazines. At auction – last Tuesday – 95 per cent of the works were sold, and the total, estimated at £130,000, reached £250,000.
Sharing top price of £8,550, a record for the artist, were a slightly surreal view of a weathervane perched on an Essex rooftop estimated at £1,000 to £1,500, and View from a Hotel Window, painted around 1958 on a tour of America, and pre-figuring Hockney to some extent, which had been estimated at £2,000 to £3,000. The level of trade buying indicated that the professionals believe Rowntree’s market still has some way to go.
Art Sales: Essex Boys Moment in the Sun (Telegraph)