Collecting art

PUBLISHED: 16:11 19 July 2011 | UPDATED: 16:45 20 February 2013

John Speed map

John Speed map

Don't expect to pick up a Monet or a Picasso but shrewd buyers have plenty to look into says Halls' painting Specialist William Lacey

Now the recession is over, if we are to believe the media and politicians, we might soon be able to relax and loosen our belts a little. There is no doubt that many collectors have felt the pinch over the past year and may have been cautious about spending on anything other than necessities.

However, a shrewd buyer with a keen eye and a little knowledge can build up a fascinating collection on a limited budget. A glance through one of Halls Collective Auction catalogues will reveal many pictures available for under 200. The choice is wider still if one has a fund of 500.

The range is huge from 17th century prints to limited edition, signed prints from the present day. For those looking for original art, there are the traditional Victorian landscapes and portraits in both watercolour and oils right through to exciting modern works by young,
local artists.

Telford-based painter and print maker, Carl Jaycock, for example, had nine works in Halls February auction, ranging in price from 150 up to 700. This appears to be a good investment for an artist rapidly establishing a national reputation. There are collectors out there who had the nous to buy Damien Hirsts early works at this sort of price not that long ago!

An atmospheric watercolour view of Shrewsbury from Underdale Road painted in 1893 by local artist Frederick William Seville, who in addition to being a keen amateur watercolourist, was the proprietor of a photographic studio on Mardol, was priced at between 60 and 80 in the same auction. Not a high price to pay for a unique work with historical interest.

Also of historical interest and offering endless scope for collectors are maps. I am always amazed how reasonably priced the majority of British county maps are in auction. A fascinating Shropshire map by John Speed published in the early 17th century can be bought for around 200. The first edition was published in London in 1611.

Speed county maps are not rare there were no fewer than nine editions of Speeds atlas The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain published. The maps were all printed from the original copper plates with very slight alterations. By the time the last edition was published in 1770 the plates were virtually worn out.

Map collectors tend to restrict their collections to examples by a specific cartographer or maps of a particular county or country. I recently met a gentleman who had managed to assemble maps of all 13 Welsh counties, although it had taken him over 20 years.They were all 17th century maps by various hands and made a very decorative display.

Interesting too to see and compare different cartographers styles. Twenty years to collect 13 maps of the Welsh counties may seem a long time, however the majority of maps of this period showed Wales as a complete country, so the Welsh counties are rare.

Limited edition prints are keenly collected. David Shepherd, Britains greatest modern wildlife artist, has produced many photographic prints of his work. A reproduction signed in pencil by Shepherd of his trademark tigers or elephants can be bought in auction for between 200 and 250. A print may be one of an edition of perhaps 500 or even 1,000 but the buyer has the assurance that no further prints will be produced of that image.

An unlimited edition print that has not been signed by the artist can be bought for much less but has very little chance of increasing in value. Original oils by David Shepherd can fetch tens of thousands of pounds, so a good quality, signed print is an affordable option.
There is a wide range of perfectly acceptable pictures available at affordable prices in auction. Do not expect to pick up a Monet or Picasso for a song, but keep browsing the sale catalogues or looking online and, sooner or later, you are sure to find that special painting that will give years of pleasure and may even turn out to be a very wise investment.

William Lacey can be contacted at Halls, Welsh Bridge, Shrewsbury, tel: 01743 284777.
Halls is consigning for the next auction of pictures, silver and jewellery on March 24.

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