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Buffalo Bill in Arbroath: Angus artist’s painting of 1904 Wild West travelling show to star in Edinburgh art auction

The Travelling Show. Supplied by Bonhams.
The Travelling Show. Supplied by Bonhams.

A collection of works by a famed Angus artist of the Victorian era are expected to star at an Edinburgh auction later this month.

Forfar-born James Herald was widely acclaimed for his watercolour and pastel work – much of it depicting his home county.

But the shoemaker’s son shunned the limelight and adulation of audiences in London’s major galleries.

Angus Council collections hold many of his pieces and he was celebrated in the first 2022 exhibition at the Meffan gallery in his home town.

James Herald art
A Street Fair is estimated at £6,000 – £8,000. Supplied by Bonhams.

And now his fans will have a chance to snap up a selection of paintings when they are offered at Bonhams Scottish art sale in Edinburgh.

They include a watercolour said to depict the visit of Wild West showman Buffalo Bill to Arbroath in 1904.

Some of the paintings could fetch as much as £8,000.

James Herald
Angus Council has many Herald paintings in its collection, including this one depicting Forfar’s Osnaburg Street. Pic: Gareth Jennings/DCT Media.

Talent evident from teenage years

Herald was born in 1859 and was an Angus man through and through.

He spent much of his life in Arbroath, with sojourns in Edinburgh and London.

And the people and places of north east Scotland became his muses.

That’s evident in the selection going under the hammer on May 18.

James Herald
After the Service, Arbroath, estimated at £1,000 – £1,500. Supplied by Bonhams.

Herald painted mainly in watercolours and pastels, having developed his talent doing caricatures of customers in his father’s Forfar shop.

He enjoyed considerable financial success early in his career.

But after his return to Arbroath from London in 1901, Herald became increasingly reclusive.

So for the rest of his life he was happy to scrape a living from his art, often giving away paintings or exchanging them for drink or meals.

Wide acclaim

However, his lack of interest in money didn’t prevent him from enjoying critical success, including an acclaimed one man show in London in 1910.

Two of the works were bought and presented to the British Museum with a third going to the Victoria and Albert Museum.

May Matthews, Bonhams Head of Scottish Art, said: “Herald is a fascinating character and a much-underrated artist.

Arbroath harbour
Arbroath Harbour Dawn by James Herald. Supplied by Bonhams.

“His lack of financial ambition undoubtedly hindered a wider appreciation of his talents.

“But as the works in the sale show, he had a wonderful touch and an almost mystical connection with the people and townscapes of Angus, and especially Arbroath.”

The Bonhams sale also includes works by Mearns artist Joan Eardley and Fifer Jack Vettriano.

His piece, between Darkness and Dawn, is estimated to reach between £50,000 and £70,000.

Under the hammer

Herald highlights in the sale include:

A Street Fair. Painted in 1906, this lively scene is a great example of Herald’s style. Estimate: £6,000-8,000

After the Service, Arbroath. Estimate: £1,000-1,500

Arbroath Harbour, Dawn. Estimate: £2,000-3,000.

And the intriguing Travelling Show.

Herald painted a series of watercolours which are widely accepted as depicting Buffalo Bill’s visit to Arbroath on August 22 1904.

However, it has been argued that these pictures depict a rival showman, who called himself ‘Buff Bill’. Estimate: £800-1,200.

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