A striking portrait painting by Henry Lamb (1883-1960) topped Cheffins’ Art & Design Sale on Thursday 09 May 2019 when selling for £18,000.

The oil painting is of David McKenna (1911-2003), a man who combined a successful career in transport with a lifelong devotion to music and whose family had a close friendship with the artist.

The portrait perfectly illustrates that love of music, as he is captured seated playing a clavichord in the oil painting which is dated 1935, a year after his marriage to Lady Cecilla Keppel, daughter of the 9th Earl of Albemarle.

McKenna, who studied Engineering and Marketing at Trinty College, Cambridge, served as general manager and chairman of the Southern region of British Railways and the Victoria line on the London Underground is largely credited to him.

A Bronze sculpture of a reclining female nude by Polish-born artist Oswald Herzog (1881-1939) far exceeded its estimated price when selling for £13,000, the second highest price on the day.

Herzog’s sculpture rarely come to market so it is no surprise to see the price. He grew up in Germany and became a well-established artist, primarily as a sculptor, based in Berlin and was associated with the famous der Sturm circle of artists. 

The Der Sturm exhibitions became the mainstay of Berlin’s modern art scene from 1912 to 1932, but many of the pieces were not everybody’s taste. Herzog's art was condemned as 'degenerate' by the Nazi Party which exhibited some of his works at 'Entartete Kunst' – German translation of Degenerate Art - in Munich in 1937.

The next lot from the same vendor, another German bronze, a Cubist composition this one by Rudolf Belling (1886-1972) dated 1935, sold for £4,800. Belling’s art was also described as degenerate by the Nazi Party and he was banned from working in Germany in 1930, after which he emigrated to Istanbul for 30 years before returning to his country of birth. 

A pencil drawing by English artist Ben Nicholson (1894-1982) made just shy of that price when selling for £12,000. Inscribed on the back in pencil ‘Assisi /Oct 8 – 55’, the drawing demonstrates his appreciation of Italian architecture and landscape and is a special category in Nicholson’s work.

British artist Donald McIntyre (1923-2009) had a total of seven paintings in the sale from three different vendors. The highest priced of these was Lot 266, an acrylic landscape picture of Iona, an island off the coast of Scotland where McIntyre produced many of his paintings. The painting was knocked down for £7,500.

Paintings by Pierre Adolphe Valette (1876-1942), famously the tutor of L S Lowry but an artist in his right, were in demand, with all of six of his oil paintings selling for a total of £15,600 with prices ranging from £2,000 to £3,400. 

Martin Millard, director of Fine Art at Cheffins, said:

The diversity of the sale attracted a broad spectrum of interest from across the globe, with the top lots exceeding expectations.  The bronzes had both come from the same private vendor, and with their wonderful patination they were always destined to do well, but the results on the day were very strong indeed. 

“We are now inviting entries for our next sale in October and look forward to welcoming back many of the new buyers who we met last week.”

Of the 331 lots auctioned, the sale in total grossed £206,970.

A full set of results can be found on the Cheffins website.