Linus Onus auction record

Robyn by Linus Onus and painted a year before the artist’s untimely death in 1996 reached an auction record for the painter at Sotheby’s Australia’s colonial, modern and contemporary Australian art sale in Melbourne on November 26.

The figure of $414,800 including buyers premium (IBP) was more than double the catalogue estimate of $160,000-$180,000 and the painting typical of his works which harmoniously integrated ‘western’ painting styles with Aboriginal culture – a reflection of his diverse and multicultural Scottish and Aboriginal heritage.

Comprising 60 lots, the sale totalled $2,700,470 IBP or 82.2 per cent by value and 66.7 per cent by volume.

Australian-British artist Roy de Maistre’s Portrait of Francis Bacon sold to an international telephone bidder for $79,300 IBP, reflecting the enormous interest in Bacon after the recent sale of rare triptych Three Studies of Lucien Freud for a world record auction price.  

Two tapestries from The Estate of the late Dr Jan Altmann attracted strong bidding.

Brett Whiteley’s River 1976 (estimate $50,000-70,000) and John Perceval’s Fisherman’s Inlet 1975 (estimate $25,000-35,000) respectively achieved $112,240 IBP and $42,700 IBP.

These rare wool tapestries were manufactured by the home of French tapestry weaving for half a millennium, Tapisseries d’Aubusson, which also produced works on commission by leading international artists such as Jean Lurcat, Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso.

An exemplary work by Margaret Olley Yellow Room, Afternoon (1990) achieved an auction record price of $158,600 IBP against a presale estimate of $70,000-90,000.

Edmund Capon has referred to Olley’s work as a ‘continuing celebration of the great tradition of painting, just as it is a celebration of the fruits and hidden riches of the detail of her own immediate world.’ (Margaret Olley, 1996, p. 7)

The highly anticipated sale of Arthur Streeton’s masterpiece, Evening, Venice 1908 sold for $219,600 IBP (estimate $180,000-220,000, lot 10).

The winning bidder is just the second owner to acquire the painting after it was purchased a century ago by prominent Australian businessman Oswald Syme (former chairman of The Age) and has remained in his family’s possession until the auction.

Previously hidden from public view, the work was reproduced for the first time in the sale catalogue.

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