Decorative Arts score for design

May 22, 2018

Wessex Auction Rooms’ recent Decorative Arts sale was a roaring success and with Decorative Arts and 20th Century Design as hot topics in the auction world, what exactly is a Decorative Art? Loosely they can be described as anything ranging from Arts and Crafts through to Art Nouveau, Art Deco, American 1950s and 1960s design, 1960s studio glass and studio pottery through to the present day, Scandinavian design and furniture to name but a few. And yet Decorative Arts is more of a ‘look’ rather than having definitive parameters.

Highlights include a Laurence Stephen Lowry, ‘The Beach, Deal’ signed limited edition print together with a print of the preparatory sketch which sold for £2,100. “Lowry prices remain strong at auction, with the best prices seen for those that are signed in pen or pencil (and even better if there are few of them signed), are limited edition and in excellent condition” comments Izzie Balmer FGA DGA, Auctioneer and Head Valuer at Wessex Auction Rooms. Lowry is renowned for his portrayals of the industrial districts of North West England; his most popular pictures depicting urban landscapes and everyday life, with Lowry’s distinctive ‘matchstick men’ going about their day-to-day tasks.

A bronze abstract wall hanging by Edward Barker captured hearts with a battle ensuing between several phone lines and online bidders. As a founder member of the Norwich 20 Group there was strong British interest in this lot. Racing up to £1,400 the crack of the gavel finally fell to an internet buyer. A similar example of a large public bronze by Edward Barker can be seen in Delft.

The auction contained a collection of Prestige Moorcroft vases with ‘Another World’ pattern vase by Nicola Slaney fetching £700. The Moorcroft story began in 1897 when William Moorcroft was employed by James Macintrye & Co as a designer, soon progressing through the ranks to become head of the department and in 1913 he went independent. With the Moorcroft factory still designing today the company’s ethos is continue design development. Moorcroft is always a popular choice at auction, with the original William Moorcroft pieces commanding the most interest.

An Emmanuel Cooper jug saw some fierce bidding on the internet. The distinctive shape of the jug with its wide handle and sparrow beak lip, striking blue, pink and metallic grey glaze began with bids from the room, but the internet soon out-raced the room bidders, finally settling at £440. Studio pottery has become a strong area at auction with buyers looking for something handmade, unique and distinctive.

Cool and quirky furniture remains very much in vogue with the Egon Riss for Isokon Penguin Donkey book rack selling for £420. The original Isokon Penguin Donkey was designed by Egon Riss during the 1930s. The compartments were designed so they were the perfect fit to hold Penguin books. The flowing curved design of the Penguin Donkey ensure it retains a fresh and contemporary look that is in demand.

With many reproductions on the market it was a joy to see an original Art Deco spelter lamp of a nude lady, partially kneeling with arms outstretched holding a dappled green glass ball. With lots of pre-auction interest it was no surprise when she sold for £400.

An Arts and Crafts oval brass and copper mirror with four Ruskin roundels attributed to Liberty & Co, sold for £400. Unusually two of the Ruskin roundels were encased in copper mounts and two were encased in brass mounts. The mirror ticked all the boxes: Arts and Crafts, Ruskin and Liberty, all three of which are strong names in the auction industry.

Wessex Auction Rooms are consigning now for their next Decorative Arts auction. For more information please call the office on 01249 720888 or email