Headline: Shropshire’s place in the global art mar

PUBLISHED: 16:01 07 July 2009 | UPDATED: 15:13 20 February 2013

One of the pictures on display

One of the pictures on display

Strap: William Lacey, paintings specialist at Halls, Shrewsbury, reports on the artists whose work in and around the county attracts local, national and international interest

Strap: William Lacey, paintings specialist at Halls, Shrewsbury, reports on the artists whose work in and around the county attracts local, national and international interest

Like it or not we live in a world run by computers. There must be very few companies these days that don't have an email facility or website. The advantage is obvious - instant global communication.
Even auction houses have had to 'get with it' and now most sale catalogues can be viewed online and buyers are invited to bid live over the internet. Despite this worldwide exposure it is still true that local pictures sell better locally.
Two watercolours by Emily Hay proved this point when they were offered in Halls' latest picture sale in April. These pictures were consigned to sale by an Anglesey lady who had stored them behind a wardrobe for years. Both watercolours depicted Shrewsbury scenes and were painted at the end of the 19th Century. A view of Frankwell was particularly interesting as it showed The String of Horses public house, which was demolished in the 1960s. The inn, a magnificent Elizabethan mansion, was saved for posterity and re-erected at The Avoncroft Museum of Buildings in Bromsgrove. The view brought back memories for many potential bidders and was sold to a local collector for £1,300, which must be a world record for Hay.
Emily Hay was one of several amateur Shropshire artists working in the area around 100 years ago. Frederick William Seville was proprietor of a photographic studio on Mardol, Shrewsbury who produced many picturesque views of the Severn and town. Seville's watercolours are keenly sought by collectors and can be bought in auction for under £500.
Little is known of Henry Walton who was working in Shrewsbury at the end of the 19th Century and into the 20th Century. A prolific watercolour painter, Walton does not appear to have exhibited his work but presumably made a living selling his pictures of Shropshire beauty spots to tourists or around the pubs. Evidently he repeated his most successful compositions as required.
The county has been visited by many influential artists in the past. In the 19th Century, such illustrious names as JMW Turner, John Varley, Peter de Wint, David Cox and Thomas Shotter Boys all stayed and painted scenes of Shrewsbury. Often these artists paused before embarking on a tour of Wales which, prior to the expansion of the rail system, was always an arduous adventure.
Thomas Rowlandson drew a wonderful caricature entitled An Artist in Wales. The miserable fellow is perched on his mule, umbrella in one hand, his paints in the other as the rain lashes down horizontally. Even today a trip through the hills on the A5 on a Bank Holiday can test the most ardent of travellers!
Today we think of Welsh artists as being exclusively 20th Century. There are a few exceptions - Richard Wilson RA was born in Penegoes, Montgomeryshire in 1714. He is regarded as the Father of British Landscape Painting, adapting the classical landscapes he had seen on the Grand Tour to the scenery of his homeland.
In the saleroom it is the more modern generation of Welsh artists who attract most interest. In Halls recent picture sale an oil on canvas by Sir Kyffin Williams depicting a Welsh farm sold for £26,000, greatly exceeding pre-sale expectations. Sir Kyffin, who died two years ago, is keenly collected. A determined private lady buyer beat strong trade interest to secure the picture at Halls. She had always wanted a work by Kyffin Williams and, having recently inherited a sum of money, decided to make her dream a reality. I feel sure this was a wise investment as Sir Kyffin's paintings have risen in value tremendously over the past 10 to15 years. In the same auction a small watercolour preparatory sketch for the oil made £4,400 underlining the demand for the artist's work.
Another artist much in demand is Swansea born Ceri Richards (1903 -1971). A typically powerful Richards drawing was offered with an estimate of between £8,000 and £10,000 in the April auction. The Rape of the Sabines was a Picasso- inspired ink drawing and one of many versions of this subject that Richards worked on during the course of his career.
The wildlife artist Charles Frederick Tunnicliffe (1901-1979) is always popular as is fellow wildlife artist Terence Lambert, who specialises in wonderfully detailed depictions of birds.
Obviously there are scores of Welsh artists one could mention, however, readers might be interested to know that William Selwyn, Gwilym Jones and Donald McIntyre are definitely at the top of the most wanted list from potential buyers.
Halls is now accepting entries for the next sale of fine pictures, silver and jewellery on June 25. Tel: 08451 309610 for further details.

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