From Landscape to Pencil People Lowry Leads the Way at Auction; COLLECTING 'When the Right Paintings Come Up, Collectors
Spicer, Lorne, The Mail on Sunday (London, England)
Byline: LORNE SPICER
THEY may be only matchstick men and matchstick cats and dogs, but L.
S. Lowry's paintings fetch fat prices.
On Tuesday, examples of his work, from simple pencil sketches to fullblown oils, will be on offer at Bonhams' 20th Century British and Irish art sale.
The sale includes a 1964 oil, Bargoed, showing the town in the Rhondda Valley of South Wales. It is expected to attract bids of more than [pound]400,000.
Bargoed is the first of two versions by Lowry; the other is owned by Salford Art Gallery.
James Rawlin, head of 20th Century art at Bonhams (formerly Phillips), says: 'It's rare to come across such a big Lowry landscape oil for sale because so many are in museums and institutions, hence the high estimate.' An oil painting based on Lowry's experiences as a rent collector for the Pall Mall Property Company, which features the artist in the painting, has a [pound]50,000 to [pound]70,000 estimate.
This may seem a lot, but it is reasonable for a Lowry oil of this intensity.
Basic single-figure oils, which sold for about [pound]5,000 at most only five years ago, are finding a niche market among those desperate to secure a Lowry but unable to afford the larger Lowry paintings.
Rawlin says: 'Prices are still rising for the smaller oils, but for the larger oils they have levelled off, with such paintings not registering the phenomenal growth experienced in 1998 and 1999.' In May, Sworders auction house near Colchester, Essex, sold a simple oil entitled Lancashire Woman Sitting Down, for [pound]14,500, which was above estimate.
In March, Strides of Chichester, West Sussex, offered Lowry's Old Houses oil, which was discovered by the auctioneer during a routine valuation at a local property.
This alone was enough to excite, but the fact that the seller had bought it some 30 years ago and it had not been on the open market since was certainly no bad thing.
The owner apparently had no idea of the painting's value. The estimate was [pound]40,000 to [pound]60,000, but it sold for [pound]98,000 to an anonymous phone bidder.
Rawlin adds: 'The buoyant market over the past few years for major Lowry oils has had a knock-on effect.
It has encouraged many people to snap up Lowry pencil drawings.'
Collectors who have been buying such works had their faith rewarded last summer when Sotheby's sold The Brow, Stockport, for [pound]78,300, a record price for a Lowry work on paper.
Rawlin says: 'In our July sale of 20th Century British and Irish art, we had a Lowry pencil drawing entitled The Tree from 1931, which still had the original price of [pound]3 13s 6d on the