Important painting under the hammer

PEOPLE who have seen the immensely popular Oscar-nominated film “The King’s Speech” staring Colin Firth will be familiar with the death of King George V.

Wednesday, 9th February 2011, 5:07 am

So there could not be a better time to offer for sale an oil painting of George V lying-in-state at Westminster Hall by renowned Beverley artist Frederick Elwell, RA ROI RP.

The painting will go under the hammer at Dee, Atkinson and Harrison’s Antique and Fine Art auction on Friday, February 18 at the Exchange Saleroom, Driffield.

The painting - which carries a pre sale estimate of £10,000 to £15,000 - belongs to a private vendor whose family had royal and artistic connections.

The vendor’s late husband’s Great Grandfather Col J B Stracey-Clitherow was on friendly terms not only with George V and Queen Mary but also with Fred Elwell, who lived and worked between 1870 and 1958.

Pippa Whiteley, Saleroom Manage, said: “In 1930, the Colonel commissioned Elwell to paint his portrait, which was considered by Elwell as ‘the best portrait he ever painted’, and it subsequently hung at the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition.

“On visiting the RA, the King not only recognised the Colonel but greatly admired the portrait and the following year commissioned Elwell to paint his own portrait, which now hangs in the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

“In 1998, after attending a lecture given by the leading Elwell expert Wendy Loncaster about Fred Elwell, our vendor’s husband learned of a painting being offered for sale titled ‘George V lying-in-state in Westminster Hall’.

“With the obvious connection between his ancestor and George V, the vendor travelled to London and bought the painting from London dealers The Fine Art Society Plc on New Bond Street.

“The painting has remained in the family until being offered for sale.”

The oil painting measures 29.5 “ x 24.5“, is signed and dated 1936, and depicts the catafalque on a torch lit dais in Westminster Hall beneath the hammer-beam roof.

Looking on are Queen Mary (wife), Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (daughter-in-law) and the future Queen Elizabeth II (Granddaughter).

Exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1936 (cat no 301), the painting was once owned by Charles P Mason of The Hawes, Lancing, Sussex.

Frederick William Elwell was born in 1870 in Beverley and studied art at evening classes at Lincoln School of Art. In 1887 he won a scholarship which enabled him to start full time studies. In 1889 he became a student at the Antwerp Academy, where his interest in portraiture and still life developed under the influence of 17th century Dutch and Flemish artists. After further study at the Academie Julian in Paris he moved to London, having had his first work accepted at the Royal Academy. Failing to make a living in London, he returned to Beverley where he established a successful reputation as a painter of portraits for a wealthy Edwardian clientele.