Francis Bacon works discovered on the backs of amateur paintings sold for almost $70,000 today at an auction in Surrey, southern England.
The six works, showing background and architectural elements from what appear to be 1950s “Pope” paintings by Bacon, were on the reverse of canvases by the little-known artist Lewis Todd offered by Ewbank’s on the second day of a sale in Guildford.
A top price of 27,544 pounds ($41,000) with fees was paid by a telephone bidder for a fragment showing the leg of a chair and a glimpse of ecclesiastical clothing. Concealed beneath a 1958 studio interior by Todd, it had been estimated at 25,000 pounds to 35,000 pounds, based on hammer prices. Three Bacons were successful, selling for a total of 44,822 pounds.
Some blue background brushstrokes by Bacon fetched a further 11,268 pounds, again just more than the low estimate. The group had been valued at as much as 145,000 pounds.
Todd, who died in 2006 at the age of 81, was a caricaturist for the Cambridge Daily News. After World War II, he was encouraged to paint by the local artists’ suppliers Heffer, who also provided materials for Bacon.
Bacon favored painting on the unprimed reverse of canvases. Heffer provided rejected examples to Todd, who was asked to cut them up and then painted his own impressionist compositions on the unused fronts, the auction house said.
Five of the works were confirmed by the Francis Bacon Authentication Committee. Paint samples were analyzed by Northumbria University and conform to those used by the artist in the 1950s and 1960s.
In 2007, Ewbank’s sold a group of rejected and damaged Bacon paintings retrieved from a skip outside the artist’s London studio by electrician Mac Robertson. Valued at about 50,000 pounds, that collection sold for 1.1 million pounds.
The London jewelry dealer Laurence Graff has paid almost a million pounds for one of the most widely reproduced paintings of the 1950s and 1960s.
The original canvas of “Chinese Girl” by Vladimir Tretchikoff, a Russian artist who settled in Cape Town, was offered by Bonhams in a sale of South African art in London yesterday. It was bought by Graff for 982,050 pounds with fees, a record for the artist and almost double the 500,000-pound upper estimate, based on hammer prices.
The painting will be displayed in the Delaire Graff Estate, a boutique hotel owned by the jeweler and collector in the Stellenbosch vineyard region of South Africa.
More than 500,000 full-size lithographic reproductions of this 1952 painting of a green-faced Oriental beauty are estimated to have been sold by the time Tretchikoff died in 2006. It was the biggest-selling print in history, the London-based auction house said.
The model for the painting was Monika Sing-Lee, who was spotted by Tretchikoff working in her uncle’s launderette at Sea Point, Cape Town. The original canvas was acquired by 16-year-old Mignon Buhler of Chicago in the early 1950s when the artist was on a promotional tour of the U.S. It has remained in the same family ever since, Bonhams said.
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