Isle of Wight - Record Price

24th September 2015

A watercolour of Ventnor, painted by one of the leading feminists Barbara Bodichon sold for a world auction record price of £8,000 on Wednesday 23rd September in the Paintings sale.

Barbara was born in 1827 as a result of an extramarital liaison between Whig politician Benjamin (Ben) Leigh Smith (1783–1860), (the only son of Radical abolitionist William Smith) and Anne Longden, a milliner from Alfreton. Named Barbara Leigh Smith, she later changed her name when she married eminent French physician, Dr. Eugène Bodichon.  Throughout her life she was activist for women's rights and in 1858, she set up the English Women's Journal.

Signed, inscribed and dated ‘Barbara Leigh Smith Ventnor I W 1856’ the 71cm x 108cm work was inspired when the artist stayed with Anna Mary Howitt on the Isle of Wight, painting this during her stay. The picture was well received, the critic W.M. Rosetti described it as a 'capital coast scene, full of real pre-Raphaelitism'. Bodichon, seeking more wild coastal landscapes as subjects, went on to visit North Africa and the landscapes she painted from the villa which the Bodichon’s purchased near the coast in Algeria formed the basis of many of her future exhibitions.

The watercolour and bodycolour with scratching out, set in the original leaf and berry frame was offered with an estimate of £1,000 – 1,500.  Victor Fauvelle, head of the Paintings department commented ‘As well as being a spectacular panoramic view, capturing the Isle of Wight’s wonderful coastal scenery, this painting is an exceptional example of Pre-Raphaelite painting with superb detail. This resulted in fierce competition in the saleroom and the picture sold for a world record price for the artist’s work at auction.’

The highlight of the sale was an oil on canvas by Harry Robert Mileham (1873-1957), titled Tristram's Deathbed which sold for over three times the top estimate at £21,000.


Barbara Bodichon, neé Miss Barbara Leigh Smith (1827-1891)
Ventnor, Isle of Wight
Signed, inscribed and dated: Barbara Leigh Smith Ventnor I W 1856
71 x 108cm
Sold for £8,000


Harry Robert Mileham (1873-1957)
Tristram's Deathbed
Signed with monogram and dated 1902
Oil on canvas
78 x 90cm
Sold for £21,000

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