London to St Ives: A Journey Through British Art


During the middle of the 20th century, London – bomb-ravaged and starving but still the capital city of a global empire – had a serious competitor as the artistic capital in a small fishing village at the westernmost tip of the country. In both London and Cornwall, artists wrestled with the question posed by German philosopher Adorno – how could one write poetry after the horrors of Auschwitz? For London-based artists such as Frank Auerbach, Lucian Freud and Reg Butler this resulted in an intense and forensic re-examination of the human figure and human relationships. In St Ives, on the other hand, artists such as Patrick Heron, Peter Lanyon and Terry Frost turned to abstraction – Modernism’s attempt to filter out much of modernity – in a search for the eternal, ineffable and universal rooted in an ancient landscape untroubled by man.

Taking a closer look at the artists in the sale, it is evident that the war had a direct impact on their lives: Peter Lanyon, the RAF mechanic; artilleryman Alan Davie and tank trooper Alexander Mackenzie; Terry Frost and Roger Hilton, the commando prisoners of war; Reg Butler, the conscientious objector and architect-turned-blacksmith; merchant seaman Lucian Freud and child refugee Frank Auerbach; Michael Kidner, demobilised from the Canadian Signals corps at the age of twenty-nine.

Bringing together an exciting selection of paintings, drawings, etchings and sculpture by the British artists at the forefront of the avant-garde, this private collection is marked by a profound engagement with the unique nature of post-war British art. This sale follows the recent landmark auction of David Bowie’s personal art collection at Sotheby’s in November 2016, in which records were achieved for Auerbach and Lanyon.

  • 29.06.2017
    Auktion »
    Sotheby’s Auktionshaus »

    Sotheby’s New Bond Street galleries on Thursday 29 June.

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  •  Lot 18 Peter Lanyon, 'Fly Away', 1961, Estimate £300,000-500,000
    Lot 18 Peter Lanyon, 'Fly Away', 1961, Estimate £300,000-500,000
    Sotheby’s Auktionshaus
  • Lot 20 Patrick Heron, Tall Brown June 1959, 1959, Estimate £400,000-600,000
    Lot 20 Patrick Heron, Tall Brown June 1959, 1959, Estimate £400,000-600,000
    Sotheby’s Auktionshaus
  • Lot 8 Frank Auerbach, 'Jake Seated', 2000, Estimate £300,000-500,000
    Lot 8 Frank Auerbach, 'Jake Seated', 2000, Estimate £300,000-500,000
    Sotheby’s Auktionshaus
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