LUST-HAVE | 20th century British art auction at Sotheby's

via wikipedia

THE CLASS that most enthralled me at university was one with this exact same title (minus the 'auction at Sotheby's' part, which, by the way, happened mid-December, when I started writing this post!), taught by brilliant professor Timothy Barringer.

It's no secret (at least not in the art world) that Yale has the biggest British art collection outside of Britain thanks to one seriously generous man named Paul Mellon, and we students were granted access to works of art by Turner, Whiteread, Rego and more because of Mellon's beneficence. [Check out the Yale Center for British Art for more info.]

I sort of thought I would grow up, professionally speaking, in the art world, working at an auction house or the like.

Apparently not the case.

But I can share with you lot a few arty nuggets time and again, particularly on subjects I know about.

This -- 20th century British art -- being one of them.

Even if you haven't the slightest inclination towards the arts, this group of Brit artists has been hugely influential in the world, whether it be through social commentary, breaking ground with new mediums or techniques or simply paving the way for future artists inspired by them.

From Vorticists (there's a great Vorticism exhibition on at Duke University at the moment if you find yourself in Raleigh-Durham, North Caronlina and the Cornell University Art Gallery had a great Bloomsbury Group exhibition recently too) to the natural leanings of the St. Ives group or the YBAs, you've been touched by the works of 20th century British artists (and get your mind out of the gutter right now... not in a naughty way). 

Here's a list of my favourite artists from the collection on auction and resources to help you learn more about 20th century British art (early 20th century) if you fancy it. That said, I can't be arsed to add links so Google them!

Paul Nash, Graham Sutherland, Stanley Spencer, David Boomberg, Henry Moore, Walter Sickert, Barbara Hepworth, Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell, Jacob Epstein, Wyndham Lewis, Gwen and Augustus John, Paula Rego, Christopher Nevinson...

A few fun facts for you:

If you ever go rambling and start in Cookham, you'll come across Spencer's home. It's just by the station.

Paul Nash's name graces one of those blue plaques one street south of Euston Road (katty corner to the back of the Camden library branch right there).

Henry Moore's giant sculptures litter the lawn by Kenwood House in the upper bit of Hampstead Heath. They're marvellous when the Rhododendrons are in bloom.


  • Check out the video on the auction items (now long since passed) HERE and for a speedy lecture on a few amazing piece.
  • Here's a Wiki-view to the world of British art.
  • Check out the various Tate locations for a wealth of information on British and other artists.
  • The Imperial War Museum has quite a few pieces from this early 20th-century era in British art too.