Potential record smasher Whiteley on view at Sydney art auction

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 2nd November, 2020

Brett Whiteley’s Henri’s Armchair 1974-75 – offered for sale for the first time since being purchased from the artist by the late Clive Evatt QC – could be the painting that smashes all previous Australian art records when it goes under the hammer as a single lot auction by Menzies at 7pm on November 26 in Sydney.

Carrying a catalogue estimate of $5 million to $7 million, the painting is set to eclipse the $5.4 million achieved 11 years ago for Sidney Nolan’s First-Class Marksman 1946 by Menzies when sold to prominent art dealer Roger McIlroy.

The fact that no other Australian painting has achieved a price of more than $4 million since then emphasises how rarely paintings of this calibre come up for auction.

The Brett Whiteley (1939-1992) work will go on display for the first time to the public at the Melbourne viewing of Menzies Australian and International Fine Art auction from Wednesday November 4 to Sunday November 8 at 1 Darling Street, South Yarra, before travelling to Sydney for further viewing.

The fine art auction will also be held in Sydney, from 6.30pm Thursday November 19 at 12 Todman Avenue Kensington, where Sydney auction goers and art lovers can view from November 12.

A rare and significant Tom Roberts (1856-1931) Sydney landscape adorns the catalogue front cover and could well set a landscape record for the artist.

Entitled North Shore (Study for An Autumn Morning, Milson’s Point, Sydney) 1888 (lot 28) and with a $500,000-$700,000 estimate, it is one of the most important Roberts work to appear on the market in years.

The work is a study for An Autumn Morning at Milson’s Point Sydney completed that same year – and purchased in 1983 by the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Only accessible in 1888 by ferry, both paintings depict Sydney Harbour’s northern shores – with contemporary reviewers attributing the works dusky pink hue to air pollution caused by coal burning at the time.

In 1900, Roberts exhibited North Shore as part of an exhibition to raise money for his trip to England three years later.

It later ended up with his good friend and music teacher Nancy Elmhurst Goode (his 1900 portrait of her is in the National Gallery of Victoria collection) and is on the secondary market for the first time in almost 50 years.

The Steps, Palma 1965 (lot 32) by Jeffrey Smart (1921-2013) is another highlight, while Arthur Streeton’s (1867-1943) The Ballarat Dump, St Gratien 1918 (lot 27) is a significant contribution to Australian World War I history.

William Robinson’s The Sacred Rock Carnarvon 2006 (lot 31) should certainly generate plenty of interest along with Del Kathryn Barton’s At What Cost 2018. Both are being offered for the first time on the secondary market.  

French artist Eugene Boudin (1824-198) is internationally significant and his La Meuse devant Dordrecht (The Meuse near Dordrecht) 1885 (lot 25) is one of his most important works to appear at auction in Australia.

Other important works include Fred Williams’ Gum Trees in Landscape III 1969 (lot 29), Brett Whiteley’s The Sunrise – Japanese: ‘Good Morning!’ (with a catalogue estimate of $1.5 million to $2 million), Sidney Nolan’s Kelly I 1979 (lot 34) and Garry Shead’s The Miracle 2001 (lot 35).

In all the fine art auction features about 160 lots with other famous artist names including Tim Storrier, Eugene von Guerard, Frederick McCubbin, Emily Kane Kngwarreye, Arthur Boyd, Peter Booth, John Olsen, Robert Dickerson, Ben Quilty and Hugh Sawrey.

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