In the Telegraph, Colin Gleadell gives the full picture on the rival sales of World War I prints. On one side is the Fine Arts Society which is mounting a show of war art; on the other is Sotheby’s which is selling the collection of Richard Attenborough which contains 12 World War I prints. Can a market with low volume absorb this much work in such a short time?
“It’s an extraordinary coincidence, considering how rarely these works come up on the market, that Sotheby’s has this sale at the same time as our show,” says Gordon Cooke, of the Fine Art Society, who has spent over a year organising the exhibition. In all, there are going to be 20 of Nevinson’s prints for sale within a stone’s throw of each other; more than the total that have appeared at auction over the last six years.
Cooke can only remember seeing one example of Nevinson’s 1916 print, Troops Resting, (pictured) at auction during his 30 years in business and it fetched a record £62,400 at Christie’s three years ago, more than six times its highest estimate. Next week, both he and Sotheby’s will be offering examples of the same print – £85,000 at the gallery, and a more cautious £30,000-£50,000 estimate at Sotheby’s. The Sotheby’s buyer will, of course, have to pay 20 to 25 per cent in commission and VAT.
It is only in the last eight years that Nevinson’s war prints have been making serious money. When Lord Attenborough was collecting them, the best could be bought for between £1,000 and £2,000 each, says Gordon Samuel, then of the Redfern Gallery, who advised him. […] Since 2001, the prices of Nevinson’s war prints have quadrupled, though the less desirable works at Sotheby’s by him are estimated at between £1,000 and £5,000.
At the Fine Art Society, all the Nevinson prints are sought-after examples and priced between £25,000 and £85,000. Other wartime gems are William Roberts’ angular watercolour, Gunners pulling Cannons, Ypres, made from personal experience and priced at £175,000, and Paul Nash’s evocations of a landscape “more conceived by Dante or Poe than by nature”, as he wrote from the front (£35,000 to £85,000).