Sir William Nicholson painting leads sale

A broad sweep of pictures spanning three centuries with strong links to Scotland are coming to the Fine Paintings, Works on Paper & Sculpture auction on December 13 in London.

The highlight is a striking painting Mixed Flowers in a Black Jug by Sir William Nicholson, which is first recorded in the collection of Sir James Murray (1850-1933) when exhibited at the City Art Gallery in Aberdeen. Titled Sir James Murray’s Collection of Pictures, 1920 the exhibition showed part of the large art collection hanging in his London and Aberdeen homes. …’A beautiful composition of colouring‘ declared the Aberdeen Press and Journal reviewing the 1920 exhibition.

Sir William Nicholson (British 1872-1949) 'Mixed Flowers in a Black Jug'
Sir William Nicholson (British 1872-1949) ‘Mixed Flowers in a Black Jug’

Having prospered in the Aberdeen meat trade Murray, became Chairman of the Aberdeen Art Gallery Committee (1901-1928), and a major donor both in terms of money and paintings to the Gallery, (founded in 1885). He was also a Liberal MP for East Aberdeenshire from 1906-1910. In 1917 he presented the Gallery with one of William Nicholson’s largest still lives The Brown Crow (1917) which, perhaps coincidentally, also includes a black Jackfield jug, as pictured in the painting above.

Another work is a charming portrait Phyllis with a bouquet of flowers by female artist Elizabeth (Bessie) MacNicol (Scottish 1869-1904), with an estimate of £5,000-£7,000. MacNicol was a student at the Glasgow School of Art (1887-1893) under Francis Henry Newbery, who encouraged her to travel to Paris to study at the more liberal Académie Colarossi where women were permitted to study alongside men. MacNichol was thus one of the first wave of female artists from Britain to study in France.

Phyllis with a Bouquet of Flowers by Elizabeth (Bessie) MacNichol (1869-1904)
Phyllis with a Bouquet of Flowers by Elizabeth (Bessie) MacNichol (1869-1904)

Frustrated by the chauvinistic attitudes she encountered there, however, she soon returned to Scotland where she exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy and the Royal Glasgow Institute. In 1896 she stayed in the artists’ colony in the fishing village of Kirkcudbright in Galloway on the Solway Firth, where she painted her striking portrait of Edward Atkinson Hornel (collection of Broughton House, Kircudbright), one of the Glasgow Boys, and the colony’s leading proponent.

The same year she exhibited at the Munich Secession. She married Alexander Frew, a doctor and fellow artist, in 1899 and set up a large studio at their home in Glasgow, but died in the later stages of pregnancy in 1904. Now counted as one of the fabled ‘Glasgow Girls’, her work is all too little known as much was destroyed after her death.

Other works coming to the Fine Paintings, Works on Paper and Sculpture auction at Olympia Auctions includes an Old Master drawing Apollo and Artemis attributed to Alexander Runciman (Scottish 1736-1785), estimated £800 – £1,200. Leaping forward to the 20th century ‘Head of a Critic’ by Ken Currie (b. 1960) is another Scottish artist who studied at the Glasgow School of Art. Industrial Glasgow was the subject of his early work, and from the mid-1990s he painted haunting images of individuals such as this. This oil on canvas above left is estimated at £1,500-£2,500.