Author: Aoife Moriarty
It’s a story that puts most shock Antiques Roadshow valuations in the shade. A ‘print’ bought by an art lover for £100 has turned out to be a rare painting by wartime artist Eric Ravilious.
‘Bathing Machines, Aldeburgh’ was bought by an Oxfordshire pensioner in a probate sale last year. When she died earlier this year, her husband brought it to be valued, discovering it was in fact a rare Ravilious watercolour worth in the tens of thousands.
The painting had not changed hands since its initial sale at a Tooth’s exhibition in 1939 and art historians were consequently unaware of its existence. It is part of a set of three watercolours painted by the artist in 1938 on a visit to the Suffolk coastal town.
Ravilious, born in west London, studied at the Royal College of Art and was also an illustrator and printmaker. He served as a war artist, painting ships and planes in flight, and died in 1942 during a failed RAF search mission off the coast of Iceland.
The artist’s daughter, upon hearing of the work, immediately jumped on a train to Banbury to view it. Anne Ullmann called it ‘an absolute corker’, commenting on its ‘interesting subject matter, superlative technique and – as ever – faultless design’.
Originally valued at £40,000 to £60,000, the work has now been sold by JS Auctions for £312,700 – a record for the artist, known for his ability to beautifully capture morning light.