Thursday, 09 December 2021

Home is where the art is

Home is where the art is

ARTWORKS tell the stories of those who made them and of those who bought and loved them, according to Sally Hunter.

The gallery owner has been taking a trip down memory lane as she ponders the imminent sale of the contents of Badgemore Grange in Henley, where she lived with her late husband Ian Posgate.

She is downsizing to a London flat after more than 30 years and selling the large collection of artworks gathered by the couple.

“Collecting stuff is fun,” said Ms Hunter. “It makes a house a home and charts the lives and loves of the occupants.

“Here are the pictures, objects, china and furniture bought by me and my late husband. They made Badgemore Grange a special place for us.”

The house, which was built around 1860, is surrounded by more than nine acres of land next door to the Friar Park estate owned by Olivia Harrison, widow of Beatle George.

It was owned for much of the mid-20th century by the Bravington family of jewellers but was bought in 1970 by Mr Posgate, an insurance underwriter at Lloyds of London. He died in 2017.

The first time Ms Hunter came to the house was in 1990, when she and Mr Posgate got married. The couple had met through a mutual friend in the art business and shared an interest in mid-20th century British art.

Ms Hunter had run a gallery with her first husband in St Ives in the early Seventies and later took over a gallery in Knightsbridge and specialised in modern British art.

She said: “We bought the best examples of their type but then artworks were affordable — £1,500 was considered a lot of money to pay for a painting.”

She enjoyed furnishing her country home.

Ms Hunter said: “With a gallery in Knightsbridge, the business of arranging, hanging and moving were part of my stock in trade, it was just that the area to be filled at Badgemore was so much bigger.”

Many of the pieces to be auctioned come with a back story.

Ms Hunter said: “The early Nineties, when we started to hunt for items to furnish the estate, were difficult times for the trade.

“Two lifesize Indian wooden figures were bought for £500 on the last day of a closing down sale at India Works and had to be shipped out immediately — Ian driving and me, arms through the sun roof, clamping the figures to the top of the car.”

The couple shared a love for India and its decorative arts. They visied the subcontinent many times and built a sizeable collection of objects, mainly through shops and salerooms in London.

Company School watercolours of birds came from Visions of India sales at Christies and the specialist dealer Arthur Milner, while a heavily carved temple door from Gujarat was purchased for the conservatory from the Conran Shop in Fulham Road.

A 2005 acquisition from dealer Gordon Reece was a pair of 18th century Goan figures of angels that marry Christian and Indian iconography.

Carvings of the Nandy Bull (the vehicle for the Indian god Shiva) had the benefit of referencing Ian’s farming activities on the estate.

Old cattle would serve out their retirement years in two fields next to the house, cropping the grass while planning their escape into the garden or adjoining golf course.

The couple’s priciest acquisitions — the four large plaster reliefs by Gilbert Bayes — were bought in the Nineties from the Fine Art Society in Bond Street. Two were made for the Bank of Scotland in Glasgow and the other two came from the Fountain of Months series of 1937. ]

These were displayed in the hall, landing and stairs against a pale green wallpaper that was designed by Peggy Angus and reprinted by hand by her granddaughter from the original lino blocks.

“These I shall be especially sad to leave but they belong somewhere befitting their scale,” said Ms Hunter.

The reliefs have guide prices of between £5,000 and £12,000 each.

Scattered through the house are lampshades painted by Quentin Bell, whose work Ms Hunter showed at her gallery, and curtains by Enid Marx and E Q Nicholson, who were also exhibitors.

Many of the British paintings are by artists championed by the gallery.

The cloakroom is close-hung with studies of lions and tigers at London Zoo by Elsie Henderson while a still life of flowers and a paint box on a chair is by Margaret Thomas.

Ms Hunter, who knew the latter artist well, said: “She also painted dying flowers. She was a tough old bird.”

From Margaret Thomas to Joan Warburton and Lucy Harwood, many of the pictures and artists are associated with East Anglia, a reflection of Ms Hunter’s early life in Suffolk — she was brought up in the riverside market town of Woodbridge.

She said one of her favourites was Nicky Loutit, adding: “My assistant of many years, Nicola Blaxall, observed that she has the ability to turn a brown ploughed field in Norfolk into a piece of poetry — a piece of alchemy.”

Two of the most striking works are portraits.

One by Alfred Wolmark, is an early painting of his sister and mother with exceptional brushwork, which has a guide price of £2000 to £3,000. The other, a large portrait by Henry Lamb of his wife and daughter, Henrietta, is expected to fetch between £3,000 and £5000.

Ms Hunter recalled that in her later years Henrietta would often visit her gallery.

Other pictures are not necessarily of high value but were valued by the couple.

Ms Hunter said: “It is a collection which we hugely enjoyed putting together and living with for many years.”

The auction of 430 lots will be held by auctioneers Sworders at Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex. on Tuesday, May 18. Viewing is available by appointment and online at www.sworder.co.uk

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