Sassoon as a caricaturist

26th May 2022

Long regarded as one of Britain’s best loved war poets, and now immortalised in a film starring Jack Lowden, few know of Siegfried Sassoon’s talent and waspish humour as a caricaturist.

Now 52 hand drawn caricatures by Sassoon have being sold at auction in Wiltshire, alongside photo albums, copies of his books, his top hat and other personal articles. The 77 lots from his collection were sold by his descendants at Woolley and Wallis in Salisbury, where his Officer’s dress jacket was sold in 2010 for £12,000.

The pencil and watercolour cartoons include portrayals of Rudyard Kipling, T S Eliot, Ezra Pound and the Sitwell family – all of whom are portrayed in a less than flattering light, largely owing to differences of opinion and, in some cases, a degree of professional jealousy.

“The caricatures and photo albums have only been available to a handful of scholars and the family themselves, so the appearance of this collection on the market offers a rare private insight into Sassoon’s mind and how he saw the world around him,” said Paintings specialist, Victor Fauvelle. “The whole collection throws a light onto the life of one of the most significant voices of his generation and provides an unrivalled opportunity for collectors.”

Chief among the collection was a painting by William Nicholson that is believed to have been bought as a gift for Stephen Tennant, with whom Sassoon had a love affair in the late 1920s. Whether Tennant didn’t like the painting, or whether the steady decline in their relationship after 1929 meant that Sassoon never had the opportunity to give it to him is unknown, but it has remained with the family since it was painted and fetched an astonishing £550,000.

Deeply personal to Sassoon was a painting of his horse, Cockbird, who he once described as ”the equine equivalent of divinity”. In the 2010 sale a silver trophy for Point-to-point racing in 1911 was engraved with Cockbird’s name and fetched £8,365. In 1914 both Sassoon and Cockbird went off to war. The latter was never to come home but was immortalised in Memoirs of a Fox Hunting Man. It sold for £7,500.

The whole collection far surpassed modest expectations to sell for £615,500 when it came under the hammer on 31st May.

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