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Catalogue of delights

November 12, 2008

Kay Nielsen (Danish, 1886-1957)
Girl grasping blooms of thorny shrub in snow covered landscape
signed ‘KAY NIELSEN’ (lower right)
pen and black ink and watercolour heightened with bodycolour and gum arabic
24 x 21cm (9 7/16 x 8 1/4in) unframed

Returning today from an early morning jaunt to the dentist, I found that a copy of a catalogue for an auction of “Victorian Watercolours and Illustrations from a Private Collection” at Bonhams Knightsbridge (London) had been thoughtfully propped up on top of my computer (by the tooth fairy?) Some of you may remember how much I love illustration from the Victorian era, so all excited I made myself a cup of coffee and sat down to consume the thick glossy volume.

It fell open at a pencil and watercolour sketch by none other than Joseph Southall, the genius of whom I blogged about fairly recently. This is “Beauty seeing the image of her home in a fountain”, and I presume it’s a cartoon or preliminary work for this painting of the same name:

Joseph Edward Southall (British, 1861-1944)

Beauty seeing the image of her home in a fountain signed with monogram and dated ‘1897’ (lower left)
pencil and watercolour heightened with bodycolour, 47 x 46cm (18 1/2 x 18 1/8in),

all images and italic text: Bonhams

Imagine being able to own a work by Southall!

And there’s more. This catalogue reads like a Who’s Who of Victorian and pre-raphaelite artists, and every single lot has been illustrated in the catalogue. I browsed through images of original artwork by Holman Hunt, Burne-Jones, Edmund Dulac, Jessie M King, Walter Crane, John Tenniel (most famous for his Alice in Wonderland work), E.H. Shephard (best known for Winnie-the-Pooh) and more. There’s some work by Arthur Rackham such as this charming portrait of his daughter, ‘Beryl decides to dress Arabella Stuart like the little Elizabethan lady’ (note the “History of Costume” propped up in front of Beryl):

Arthur Rackham (British, 1867-1939)
A portrait of the artist’s daughter, Barbara, 1915
signed ‘Arthur Rackham’ (upper left) and inscribed on verso ‘Beryl decides to dress Arabella Stuart like the little Elizabethan lady’ (verso)
pen and black ink and watercolour
33 x 26cm (13 x 10 1/4in) unframed

There’s even some George Barbier illustrations, and we’re not talking printed pochoirs out of a back copy of the “Gazette du Bon Ton”, but the actual artwork itself in pen and ink and watercolour:

Georges Barbier (French, 1882-1932)
Jeune fille elegante
signed and dated ‘G. Barbier 1912’ (lower left)
pen, ink and watercolour heightened with bodycolour and gold paint
29 x 23cm (11 7/16 x 9 1/16in) unframed

What I love about illustration from this period is the strong ‘design’ element- the imaginative use of colour and beautiful borders and backgrounds and fantastical costume. I came across a few illustrators and artists in the catalogue who I’d never heard of (though I probably should have done) but whose work was amazing, such as Danish illustrator Kay Nielsen, whose beautiful illustration is at the very top of this post. I immediately gravitated towards the images with costume interest, such as the saturated art nouveau fantasy of Florence Mary Anderson:

Florence Mary Anderson (British, active 1914-1930)
You are to be called Azulina
signed and dated ‘Florence Mary Anderson’16’ (upper left)
pen and black ink and watercolour heightened with bodycolour
27 x 20cm (10 5/8 x 7 7/8in).

And Averil Mary Burleigh:

Averil Mary Burleigh (British, 1883-1949)
Watering the lilies
signed ‘AVERIL M BURLEIGH'(lower right)
watercolour over pencil heightened with gold paint
29.5 x 13cm (11 5/8 x 5 1/8in) unframed

As my birthday is coming at the end of the month I would love to think I was supposed to ring around my favourites and return the catalogue from whence it came. Or perhaps I can get away with popping the Southall picture onto my birthday wish list between “3mm double pointed knitting needles” and “Addi Turbo 4.5mm 60cm circular knitting needle”. I suspect not :)

All the photos from the catalogue are up on Bonhams website. If you click on a lot you can enter a flash version of the image, which allows you to zoom in close and pan around. Information on the sale and also how to buy a printed catalogue can be found on the website. The auction itself is on 19th November 2008.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 14, 2008 3:19 am

    How lovely! I love thoughtful people :)


  1. - BleuMaison

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