152 artworks in ownership of Hertfordshire County Council were offered for sale on 21st March, generating a total of over £440,000, with a 100 per cent sale rate. 

The pictures available at Cheffins featured works from some of the most renowned British artists of the 20th century including the likes of John Tunnard, Joan Eardley and Anne Redpath. The pictures sold are only a part of the Council’s 1,828-strong collection, many of which are being retained for public enjoyment. 

The highlight of the sale was a surrealist work by John Tunnard, titled ‘Brandis .44’ which sold for £37,000, well over its estimate of £10,000 - £15,000. This was closely followed by a pastel work by much-loved Scottish artist, Joan Eardley, which sold for £31,000. Also from Scotland and the Edinburgh School, Anne Redpath’s ‘Blue Plate’ also sold for £31,000, tripling its lower estimate of £10,000. Other highlights include Keith Vaughan’s ‘Grey Shore Seascape’ dating back from 1950 which was sold for £27,000, Robert MacBryde’s ‘Still life with an oil lamp’ from the late 1950s which sold for £22,000 and Julian Trevelyan’s picture, ‘Oxen,’ from 1955 which sold for £19,000. Closer to home, works by the artists from the renowned Great Bardfield Group, based in Essex, also sold for prices well into the thousands. These include three lino-cuts by Edward Bawden which saw two sell for £8,500 and one for £6,000; a picture by Kenneth Rowntree which made £1,900 and various pictures by Michael Rothenstein and George Chapman which sold for well over estimates. 

Brett Tryner, who handled the sale, said: "This sale generated mass attention from collectors, dealers and the media, particularly as the selection on offer included some of the most well-known names in British 20th century art. Many of these artworks were offered to the public for the first time and this auction has really set the bar for the values for these important mid-century painters, such as Keith Vaughan, John Tunnard and Adrian Heath. The burgeoning popularity and emerging market for these artists has been clearly demonstrated by the solid prices paid for many of the lots on offer and the sheer volume of bids which were received on the day. Buyers included collectors from the UK and overseas, institutions, the trade and also purchasers from Hertfordshire.” 

Councillor Terry Douris, Hertfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, Libraries and Localism, said: “It’s fantastic that today’s sale has raised more than we expected. The money raised can be used to improve the condition and public visibility of the nationally significant sculptures we hold. The Council will also invest in its retained collection and we are developing plans to increase its accessibility, improve display and interpretation.”

The County Council’s compilation was started in 1949 as part of the School Loan Collection, a post-war initiative by Sir John Newsom, the Hertfordshire Chief Education Officer at the time. The initiative involved obtaining artworks from contemporary British artists for schools to borrow from the council, therefore improving the educational experience of schoolchildren in Hertfordshire schools by exposure to real, contemporary art. Many of the pieces were purchased from reputable dealers, artists and the ‘Pictures for Schools’ exhibitions which took place from the 1950s and 1960s. The service has become less relevant to the evolving curriculum as students have had the opportunity to experience art in new ways, such as gallery visits or through modern technology. It was suspended in 2012 and permanently discontinued in 2017.

We will offer another 300 works from the Hertfordshire County Council Collection at the Interiors Sales on the 25th April and 23rd May. 

All prices reported are hammer prices and do not include buyers’ premium.