A major collection of paintings by Hertfordshire County Council will be offered for sale to the public at Cheffins Fine Art Auctioneers in Cambridge on the 21st March. The council is selling 428 paintings from its 1,828-strong art collection and those available at Cheffins feature 11 works from some of the most prominent members of the famous Great Bardfield Artists Group. 

The Great Bardfield Artists were a community of artists who lived in the small village of Great Bardfield in Essex, from 1930 – 1970. The group organised a series of ‘open house’ exhibitions throughout the 1950s which attracted international attention, making the artists involved household names overnight. Cheffins is offering 11 works by these influential names, with pictures by Edward Bawden, George Chapman, Michael Rothenstein and Kenneth Rowntree, which have the potential to achieve over £25,000 in total.

Brett Tryner, Associate, Cheffins, says: “The Great Bardfield Artists were some of the most prominent and influential artists of the period. Specialising in figurative painting and printmaking, these well-known individuals changed the landscape for homegrown talent over a period of forty years. Their work was overlooked for some years; however interest was reignited in the late 1980’s when the Fry Gallery opened in 1987. For some of the artists, recent books and retrospective exhibitions have helped to cultivate a healthy and burgeoning collectors’ market for the best pieces. For example, Andy Friend produced the first comprehensive group biography of the group in 2017, named Ravilious & Co: The Pattern of Friendship whilst Long Live Great Bardfield, an autobiography by Tirzah Garwood, also illustrates the rich tapestry of artistic life in this quiet corner of Essex. Edward Bawden is arguably one of the most popular artists amongst the group within the auction and trade market and his work is now achieving triple the figures of a decade ago, selling to private collectors, institutions and galleries."

One of the highlights of the collection is The Road to Thaxted, a lino-cut by Edward Bawden from 1956, created during his time at Great Bardfield, this has an estimate of £3,000 - £5,000. Similarly, a lino-cut also by Bawden and titled Brighton Pier is estimated to achieve between £4,000 and £6,000. An oil on canvas pictured titled Mlle Manicette Caniere by Kenneth Rowntree is expected to achieve between £1,000 and £2,000. Other works by George Chapman and Michael Rothenstein have lower estimates, under £1,000, but are still likely to be popular with collectors. 

The pictures on offer at Cheffins are part of Hertfordshire County Council’s compilation which 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. 

Other Essex-based artists in the collection include Robert MacBryde and Michael Ayrton, which have estimates of £7,000 - £10,000 and £1,000 - £2,000 apiece. Robert MacBryde, although originally from Scotland, lived for many years at Tilty Mill near Dunmow; whilst Michael Ayrton spent some years in Toppesfield, near Braintree.

Auction: The Hertfordshire County Council Collection | Thursday 21st March 2019 from 11am
Viewing Times: Saturday 16th March 10am – 2pm | Sunday 17th March 10am – 2pm | Monday 18th March 10am – 5pm | Tuesday 19th March 10am – 5pm | Wednesday 20th March 10am – 5pm
Location: Cheffins, Clifton House, 1-2 Clifton Road, Cambridge, UK, CB1 7EA