INVISIBLE WORK BY MODERN BRITISH ARTIST MARK GERTLER EMERGES FROM PRIVATE COLLECTION AFTER 100 YEARS
Chorley’s auctioneers are delighted to offer a previously unseen and never before exhibited work by the great British artist Marc Gertler (1891-1939). The book, titled Still life with earthenware vase and blue ewer has been in the private collection of esteemed art connoisseur, Lt. Col. Murray “Victor” Burrow Hill, DSO, MC (1887-1986) for over 100 years. It is believed that Victor may have acquired the work directly from the artist the same year it was painted, that is, during Gertler’s stay with other artists in France in 1922. It will be offered in a sale entitled Fine paintings including the Victor Hill collection of modern British art at the Chorley Auctioneers on December 5, 2022.
Commenting on the work, Chorley’s manager Thomas Jenner Fust says: “We are delighted to be able to offer this unpublished work by Mark Gertler, a unique and talented artist. The earthenware pitcher, blue enamel jug, and white tablecloth, while atypical in Gertler’s work, beautifully capture the character of rustic French interiors of the period. The landscape glimpsed through a framed window and the softly painted diagonal strokes are typical of Gertler’s landscapes between 1919 and 1920.”
Gertler was born in Spitalfields, London, the youngest child of impoverished Polish Jewish immigrants. He took evening art classes at Regent Street Polytechnic, before winning a national art competition which inspired him to apply for a scholarship from the Jewish Education Aid Society. After achieving it, he was able to study at the prestigious Slade School of Art. Although very accomplished and having several patrons, he spent much of his life juggling finances and in mental despair. He suffered from depressive episodes triggered by his unrequited love for the English painter Dora Carrington (1893-1932), whom he met at the Slade. He also had an unpredictable and slightly arrogant personality, which was often his downfall – after a visit to Virginia Woolf in 1916, she exclaimed “Good God, what an egoist”. Despite this, he was passionate about his craft and admired by many literary figures and was the subject of many characters in books, such as Gombauld in Aldous Huxley’s Crome Yellow and Loerke in DH Lawrence’s Women in Love. His modernist works were well received and he was considered a genius by some. His later works, however, were more experimental – spatially flatter and placing more emphasis on surface textures and patterns, causing a decline in interest. Struggling to stay true to his artistic aspirations, he committed suicide in 1939. The oil on canvas is estimated at £6,000-8,000 although, due to its emergence after so many years and never having been seen by the public, the interest could push it higher.
In the same private collection is a study for the large-scale work Why didn’t you go out yesterday by the great British artist Sir Alfred Munnings (1878-1959). The smaller-scale preparatory painting shows us first-hand how the artist worked and gives us clues to the creative processes he went through to produce the finished masterpiece. Why didn’t you go out yesterday is considered one of Munnings’ most humorous paintings. It features his wife Violet, a family friend, and four of his own horses. Painted in 1935, it was inspired by another portrait Munnings had seen, which showed some members of a prominent New Jersey family (a Mrs. Cutting and her daughters), which amused him. He said, “I was so taken with the arrangement that I repeated almost the same design on another canvas for my own amusement.”
The work offers us the “inside trail” of how Munnings experimented in order to decide which elements worked well. Chorley director Thomas Jenner-Fust said: “In this study it is likely that Munnings would have painted the center fighter first, as the one on the right is a worked version, with reconsidered elements such as the angle of head and tic. of the left ear, communicating the horse’s state of alert, both present in the final picture. Spontaneity, immediacy, understanding and above all pleasure are apparent in this study. It also captures Munnings returning, as he has throughout his life, to two of his greatest passions; horses and hunting. The work, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy of Art in 1939, is estimated between £40,000 and £60,000.
Also in Victor’s collection is a work by the Irish painter Roderic O’Conor (1860-1940). Born in Milltown, Ireland and raised in Dublin, he studied at Ampleforth College and the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin, before venturing to Antwerp in 1883 to study at the Royal Academy. Like many artists at the time, he went to study in Paris and after falling in love with France, he spent a large part of his life there. He painted among other places in Brittany, often with impressionist painters Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauginwhich had a direct impact on his work.
The painting in the sale dates from around 1902 and is oil on canvas. Title The Loing at sunset it refers to Montigny-sur-Loing, a small town outside of Paris. Much appreciated by artists of the 19e century, they flocked to enjoy painting the lush forest of Fontainebleau and the winding river, as well as enjoying the camaraderie of fellow artists. O’Conor’s affection for the area led him to return several times in the mid-1890s, where he had good friends, many of whom were also artists.
O’Conor created a series of landscapes of serene views along the tree-lined Loing River and the present work is a fine example. Of the painting, Thomas Jenner-Fust said: “To render the light failing, he deployed a vibrant color palette, including pink, purple and two different yellows, exaggerating the local colors of the scene itself. . The derivation of this technique, still very radical in 1902, refers to the early discovery by the artist of Vincent van Gogh (the expressionist gestures) and Paul Gauguin (the exotic palette) a decade earlier. Described by the irish time as ‘The Great Forgotten Irish Painter’2. O’Conor’s works are in many public collections around the world, the painting is estimated between £40,000 and £60,000.
Another exciting addition to Victor Hill’s collection was Roses in a blue vase by British painter Sir Matthew Smith, BCE (1879-1959). Born in Yorkshire, Smith studied at the Manchester School of Art and later at the prestigious Slade School of Art. He was also trained under Henri Matisse in Paris, where he became interested in Fauvism. After his short-lived marriage to fellow artist Gwen Salmond (1877–1958), he was infamously in a relationship with the artist Vera Cunningham (1897-1955), who modeled for his nude works between 1923 and 1926. Disabled from the army, Smith spent time in Aix-en-Provence, France. His work at the time was non-naturalistic in form and reflected the Fauves, with the use of bright, bold colors. His first solo exhibition was recorded at Tooth’s Gallery in London in 1926.
Discussing the work, Thomas tells us that it was made in 1927 in Smith’s studio in London and that Victor Hill acquired the work for his collection in 1929. He says, “1927 saw the production prolific of a host of flower paintings by Smith, with increasing intricacy of arrangements and compositions. Smith enjoyed collecting old vases and jugs for his still lifes, finding them in second-hand shops and second-hand shops in London, an activity he called “browsing”. They played an important role in floral pieces, providing interesting curvilinear shapes and strong color. Roses in a blue jug is a superb example of the middle of this period when things were going very well for Smith, as his work was selling, beginning to be reviewed in the art press and the prestigious Bond Street gallery Arthur Tooth & Sons became his dealer in 1928 Oil on canvas, the painting is estimated at £15,000-20,000.