Previous News - Studio sale ignites interest in forgotten artist


High prices after The Canterbury Auction Galleries sets auction record for painting by Colin Colahan.

The Canterbury Auction Galleries set an auction record last year for a painting by Colin Colahan (1897-1987), so anticipation was running high when the artist and sculptor’s widow offered the remainder of her late husband’s studio at the Kent saleroom. It did not disappoint, attracting international bidding and raising more than £40,000.

In October last year, an oil by Colahan titled “Ballet of Wind and Rain (Holland ’45)”, painted during the period he served as an official war artist, sold for £14,000. His personal copy of this most famous work, it depicted Second World War fighter pilots walking away from their planes on a windswept runway. Its loose brushwork, captures four fighter pilots, their heads bowed against the elements, done during Colahan’s second appointment to paint Australian squadrons supporting the Allied advance into northern European. Another version of the work is in the Australian War Memorial art collection.

Art historians have previously ignored Colahan’s work, partly as a result of his emigration from Australia in 1935, after which he exhibited there only twice. The Canterbury sales have served to reignite international interest, a buyer frm Melbourne flying in specially to purchase the record-setting painting. The studio sale, the largest collection to come on to the market at one time, is unlikely ever to be repeated.

The most valuable work proved to be an appealing study of five seated ballerinas resting after training. The large oil measured 60.5 by 40.25 inches and sold to a French buyer for £3,400. Its guide price was £600-800.

A study of two seated nude female dancers was estimated at £400-600 but sold to a buyer in the room for £1,550, closely followed by an oil of a standing nude “Monique”, which sold to an Australian buyer for £1,450 against an estimate of £300-400.

“Monique Asleep”, another nude, which had been exhibited at the National Society in London was estimated at 200-300 but sold to a UK buyer for 1,400.

The studio sale was also an opportunity to acquire a Colahan picture at pocket money price. A group of three unsigned charcoal sketches of women in labour sold on estimate for £30.

Colahan, the son of an Irish army surgeon and Australian mother, travelled in England, France and Spain, studying the classical masters and developing his technique, exhibiting in London and Paris. In London, he built a reputation as a portrait painter. His notable subjects including George Bernard Shaw, Charmian Clift and Sir Malcolm Sargent. Colahan died in Ventimiglia, northern Italy and was buried locally. His wife, who now lives in Kent, and four of his five children survived him.

The studio sale was part of The Canterbury Auction Galleries two-day sale which saw strong prices generally in the picture section. Most valuable proved to be a Venetian School portrait in oil on walnut panel of a young man, thought to be Oragio Grazzo, wearing a fur-trimmed cloak and brown cap. Previously in the Max Rothschild Ltd collection, it overturned its estimate to sell to an American buyer for £8,000.

An 18th century Continental School pastel portrait of a seated woman believed to be the Marquise de St Priest sold to a UK Internet bidder for £3,900, while a portrait attributed to John Baptist Medina (1655/60-1710) of Alexander Nair, a signatory to the Act of Settlement in 1701, sold to a U.S. buyer for £1,250.

A portrait of Arthur Clifton, painted during the time he was manager of the Carfax Gallery from 1863 to 1932 by the Scottish painter William Strang (1859-1921) sold to a London dealer for an above estimate £3,600. The Camden Town Group of artists held their three exhibitions at the Carfax Gallery in London’s St James’s.

In the contemporary art section of the sale, an etching by David Hirst (b. 1965) titled “Throw It Around” was from a suite of 14 from the “In A Spin – The Action of the World on Things”. One of a limited edition of 68 copies, it was signed by the artist in pencil and dated 4th July 2002 and sold for £4,400.

A lithograph by Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975) printed in orange and black, titled “Itea” from the Aegean Suite of nine lithographs published in 1970/71 was signed in full in pencil and sold for £2,000.

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