The Barbara Holliday collection of 20th Century Modern British paintings and sculpture will go under the hammer at Sworders Fine Art Auctioneers this January
Emerging from the shadows of a wooded entrance sits a hand- some Victorian house in the hamlet of Highlaws, a stone’s throw from the Cumbrian coast, which is where, over 50 years ago, Ormond and Barbara Holliday were embarking on married life. Whilst Ormie was fully occupied running the farms, Barbara set to work on what soon became her great passion – furnishing The Gale.
Inside lay an expansive collection of Georgian and Victorian furniture, paintings, ceramics, silver and jewellery alongside commissions of beautiful lampshades and cushions. A much more cosmopolitan taste than you would expect to find at that time, well over 300 miles from London.
From the early 1970s Barbara had been scouring the auction rooms on her regular trips to London and the provinces, picking up treasures on almost every excursion. She had been a close friend of local born artist Sheila Fell (1931-1979), who mostly painted scenes from her birthplace in Cumbria. Fell had trained and lived in London, and was a significant talent, having her first solo exhibition aged just 24 at the Beaux Arts Gallery in Bond Street in 1955, soon afterwards she joined the teaching staff at Chelsea School of Art.
Barbara became a passionate collector of contemporary art and sculpture, particularly by Royal Academicians, and enjoyed buying directly from her artist friends. Olwyn Bowey and Carel Weight in particular became close family friends, making long trips to The Gale to paint, and guide Barbara’s collecting passion. Through them she met and bought works by several significant Academicians of the late 20th century, among them Dame Elizabeth Frink, Sir Jacob Epstein and Sir Robin Phillip- son. Late in his life she also formed a friendship with Sir Eduardo Paolozzi and bought one of his magnificent Count Basie bronzes. He in turn gave Barbara several plaster sculptures.
Her two sons Johnny and Mark grew up at The Gale, and in later years, loved visiting the family home with their own children, on each visit they saw how Barbara’s collection had progressed.
Today, Mark lives in Africa, and Johnny, with a career in aviation, travels extensively from his base in the East Midlands. Both sons have chosen a few personal items from their mother’s home to keep and it is with a mixture of sadness and pride that they now offer her diverse and fascinating collection for sale.
This outstanding collection of 20th century Modern British Art will go under the hammer at Sworders Fine Art Auctioneers on Tuesday 15th January 2019, the fully illustrated catalogue will be published in December and the 440 lots are expected to realise up to £400,000.
The impressive collection assembled by Barbara Holliday over the last 50 years includes exceptional works by leading modern British artists, principally Dame Elizabeth Frink, Sir Cedric Morris, Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, Sir Jacob Epstein, Sir Robin Phillipson, Anthony Gross, Bernard Dunston, Ruskin Spear, Mary Fedden and William Roberts.
Highlights include the bronze bust of Count Basie, the American jazz pianist and band- leader by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005) from the 1980s. There are just two others in existence, each with a slight variation in patina. The first is green and is in the Tate; an unnumbered bust, brown-green in colour, is currently at the National Galleries of Scotland. The one in the Barbara Holliday Collection is brown, and likely to be the only one to come to market and carries an estimate of £15,000-25,000 (SOLD FOR £15,000)
Barbara lived in the era of the hand-writ- ten letter and delighted in writing to her artist friends. The paintings and sculptures in the sale that have letters directly relating to them are being sold with the original correspondence included.
This collection has such a lovely back- ground story and is particularly poignant, as today there are not many people who take their collecting as seriously as Barbara did!
Sworders continues to invite entries for their next auction of Modern British & 20th Century Art.
By keeping a close eye on their local movements, they have secured record prices for the Great Bardfield and Benton End artist communities. Entries close Friday 11th January 2019