The personal art collection of St Andrews-born Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, a leading figure of the St Ives School of artists, is to be sold live online and in London by fine art auction house, Lyon & Turnbull on Thursday October 28.
Most of the pieces in the sale were gifted to Barns-Graham by her artist friends.
Wilhelmina studied at Edinburgh College of Art, moving to join the artistic community in Cornwall in 1940, aged 27.
The private collection of around 70 paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture, ceramics and jewellery was among Barns-Graham’s possessions in her homes in St Ives and St Andrews when she died aged 91 in 2004.
The auction includes work by Dame Barbara Hepworth, Sir Terry Frost, Patrick Heron, Roger and Rose Hilton, Bernard and Janet Leach, Denis Mitchell, Ben and Kate Nicholson, Breon O’Casey, Alfred Wallis and Bryan Wynter.
There are also several paintings by Barns-Graham in the sale.
A highlight is a Hepworth “double-nude” drawing, Figure and Mirror – a wedding gift from Hepworth to Barns-Graham when she married poet, David Lewis, in 1949.
With bidding starting at £100,000, the work is a testimony to one of the first close friendships Wilhelmina made on arrival in Cornwall.
Three works by self-taught St Ives artist Alfred Wallis are also in the sale.
Wallis’ work – bought for pennies – now sells for tens of thousands of pounds.
The former mariner and rag and bone man died in poverty in 1942.
He was “discovered” in 1928 by painters Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood.
The artists were thunderstruck by the unselfconscious nature of Wallis’ work and the meeting has been described as a watershed moment in the history of Modern British Art.
Barns-Graham knew Wallis but refused to buy paintings directly from him as she felt it was exploiting his good nature.
Proceeds from the sale of her collection will go towards helping the Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust (WBGT) in its ongoing work to support artists with awards, travel bursaries, educational projects and exhibition sponsorship.
The trust was set up by Barns-Graham in the 1980s and, since 2006, has given funds totalling £400,000 to individuals and institutions.
Initiatives aimed at younger artists include summer schools in Fife and St Ives and a £25,000 contribution to Tate St Ives’ re-opening education programme.
It also provides bursaries in higher education to support travel abroad and provide financial assistance to enable students to complete studies.
Working closely with the Royal Scottish Academy and Porthmeor Studios in St Ives, WBGT also supports residencies for more established artists, encouraging career development and fresh ways of thinking and working.
Rob Airey, director of the trust, which is based in Edinburgh, said: “Funds raised from this sale will allow the trust to extend this ambitious financial support for artists and art education, which was so central to Barns-Graham’s wishes.”
Charlotte Riordan, head of contemporary and post-war art with Edinburgh-headquartered auctioneers, Lyon & Turnbull, said: “Selling a private collection is always exciting, but handling the sale of a collection relating to a significant movement such as the St Ives School is exceptionally rare.
“Although, as specialists, our role involves valuing a piece of work, you just never know how much people will be prepared to pay at auction. Hepworth’s drawings are scarce to market and the works by Wallis are really fantastic examples.”
Earlier this month a rare Italian dish, part of the collection of Lowood House, a Borders’ family home near Melrose, sold for more than £1.2m – a world record for a work of art of this nature. It was expected to fetch between £80,000 and £120,000.