Auction 158 Highlights

Welcome to Smalls Auctions Sale 158.

The focus of this Sale is a cameo Collection of Art focussing on the controversial subject of War.

The official War artist George Washington Lambert is represented by an initialled oil study on board of a Battlefield Scene in Palestine painted circa 1917. There is also a pen sketch of an ‘Australian Digger’ by perhaps Australia’s most celebrated artist Russell Drysdale dating to 1943. But perhaps the most atmospheric work is hastily sketched pen drawing by Theodore Penleigh Boyd of a ‘Road in France.' Boyd, the uncle of Arthur and David Boyd, was a Wynne Prize winner who served as a Sergeant in the Electrical and Mechanical Mining Corp of the A.I.F. in WWI produced a series of drawings which were published in 1918 in a book titled ‘Salvage -Pictures and Impressions of the Western Front.’ He found an abandoned cartographer’s nib in the dirt which he put to good use writing in the preface of Salvage “a dugout has generally been my studio and I drew chiefly to occupy my time and distract my thoughts, during the long hours of rumbling bombardment overhead.” A first edition copy of ‘Salvage’ is also in the Sale and his accompanying descriptions of the sketches certainly transports you in spirit to the perilous frontline.

The less finished whimsical pen drawing by the controversial artist William Dobell is also worth mentioning. While Penleigh Boyd was capturing the comradery of life under fire in the trenches, Dobell at home in a different time and place summed up the loneliness of War with a few spartan strokes of his pen.

‘Gone to Buy a Victory Bond,’ which is offered in our Sale is certainly not a masterpiece, but it is an intriguing glimpse into the mind of a creative genius.

An example of  the  creative spark of the artist was on show a few years ago when 1,000 landscape artists participated in a painting ‘fest’ on the cliffs of Cornwall to draw attention to Civilisation’s destructive War on the Environment. It drew the world’s press if only to record a ‘Guinness’ moment and, although most who participated would be dismissed as ‘amateur’ artists, amongst the throng there would also be a handful of ‘true’ artists whose works would find a place in the finest galleries.

Everyone has life experience of the World in which they live but only a few see it, and it takes the skill of a ‘true’ artist to stop the viewer in their tracks to consider what they are looking at. It could be the random composition and striking colour palate of Jackson Pollocks ‘Blue Poles’ or the distressed form of the horse in Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ that has captured the individual’s creative spurt or a picture-book political treatise on the ugliness of War that even a sociopath would understand. It is the ‘finished’ work that offers the public the chance to glimpse into the mind of the artist, but it is often the studies or preparatory sketches that show the intellectual struggle that led to a masterpiece.

William Dobell was a ‘true’ artist best known for his controversial ‘caricature’ of ‘Joshua Smith’ that took out the Archibald ‘Portrait’ Prize in 1943 after withstanding a legal challenge by fellow artists. The painting is now a prize exhibit at the Art Gallery of New South Wales which also stores in its archives the important working sketches that Dobell drew on to complete his work. That Dobell himself valued his sketches as intimate works of art is evident by his “season’s greetings” to “Mr & Mrs Pitt” signed simply ‘Bill Dobell.’ “I’ve not forgotten my promise of (a) sketch. Will be seeing you again in March” he wrote affectionately to his friends.

‘Gone to Buy a Victory Bond’ beautifully captures the loneliness of War. So, while Australians set off to do their patriotic duty, at home sat an empty table festooned with bottles and wine and beer glasses with a celebratory cake missing just one slice and facing a single chair. Was the artist musing on the solitary ritual of celebrating an anniversary while a beloved husband, son or lover served overseas. And was the sudden act of the celebrator upping to buy a victory bond an empty gesture to speed up their return.

The sketch represents a reflection of unsettled times when victory against the Japanese was hoped for but was not necessarily expected after the fall of the British stronghold of Singapore in 1942 - and for that it deserves praise.

On a more lively note the Sale also features  a fine selection of Costume Jewellery, some interesting Silver Table Ornaments as well as a selection of Silver Coins to tempt you.

We hope there is something that takes your interest.

Smalls Auctions