Friends and followers of the late Dame Elisabeth Frink focused their attention on Salisbury on Wednesday as her personal collection of art and artefacts (and that of her son, Lin Jammet) came under the hammer at Woolley and Wallis.
The collection more than doubled its conservative expectations to reach just under £270,000 (with premium), leaving just one lot unsold. Another lot (Frink’s Royal Academy diploma) was withdrawn before the auction and donated to the Frink Archive at Dorset History Centre.
Paintings specialist, Victor Fauvelle, wasn’t surprised by the sale’s success. “Buyers immediately grasped that this was a one-off opportunity to purchase a piece of remarkable Frink history and celebrate one of the most important British female artists of the 20th century,” he said.
Although Frink’s collection had been all but abandoned in a barn following her death in 1993, her former friends who came to view the sale brought memories and stories of many of the different objects, including part of lot 34 – a carved wood decoy stick – which was allegedly kept under the bed in case of intruders.
The artist John Taulbut came to the sale to view a carved yew crucifix (lot 55) that Frink had acquired from him around 1986, while the wife of William Thomson (the artist who had painted Frink and her son, Lin Jammet, in the 1960s and ‘70s) came to try and buy back some of his work. Nostalgia and affection played a big part in the prices achieved as bidders strove to acquire pieces that had been loved by this well-liked and influential sculptor.
The star of the day was a diminutive painting by the Scottish artist, Craigie Aitchison (lot 98), depicting a dog before the Crucifixion, which sold for £31,250, while a Mary Fedden painting (lot 67) inscribed to Frink’s son Lin realised £12,500. Importantly, the auction also set a record for works by Lin Jammet himself as two of his screenprints sold for £1,250 each, while prints by Frink herself far exceeded their usual auction estimates.
“It is difficult to focus on any lot individually as there are so many different highlights in this collection,” explained Design specialist, Michael Jeffery, who had first been introduced to the collection in the barn in Dorset. “Frink had eclectic but excellent taste and her friendships with other well-known artists mean that her collection abounded with interesting artworks that had a real personal connection to her and her family.”
Outside of the pieces by named artists, many unusual but highly decorative objects captured the attention of buyers. A huge pair of wooden sheep (lot 49), which several people remembered from Frink’s garden at Woolland (her home in Dorset), sold for £10,000, while a pair of wooden decoy models of Canada geese (lot 38) fetched £2,125.
The vast amount of interest in the collection meant that the 130 lots took almost four hours to sell, with an unusually high number of private clients registering to bid just days before the sale. The collection was sold as part of the Modern British and 20th Century Art sale (previously scheduled for June), which you can read more about here.
* All prices quoted include buyer's premium.