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Oxfam nets £20,000 as donated ‘Henry Tuke’ painting sells at Stamford auction for record price





An unwanted painting donated to a town charity shop has been snapped up by an art collector for almost £25,000 at auction.

The painting of a nude figure was brought to Batemans Auctioneers, in Stamford, around eight weeks ago with other artworks donated to the Oxfam Shop, in Oundle.

Senior valuer Greg Bateman was stunned when the early 20th-Century English impressionist oil painting, believed to have been created by Henry Tuke in around 1915, was unveiled from a humble shopping bag.

The nude study of a young man is believed to be have been painted by renowned English artist Henry Tuke
The nude study of a young man is believed to be have been painted by renowned English artist Henry Tuke

“We help out a few charity shops and a volunteer from the shop said ‘we have a few paintings for you’,” he said

“The first painting that came out was this one and I was so amazed I actually swore at her, which was rather unprofessional – ‘it’s Tuke!’

Greg suspected it would create interest, but with no signature and little background information, he slapped on an estimate of £400 to £600. It proved a little conservative.

Batemans founder Ron Bateman (right) with managing director Greg
Batemans founder Ron Bateman (right) with managing director Greg

“The difficulty was that it wasn’t signed and no real official provenance,” he explained.

“We weren’t able to speak to the person who donated it, we don’t even know a name, so we don’t know how they came by it.

“That missing knowledge isn’t a good thing in our world.”

Batemans managing director and senior valuer Greg Bateman with a Cadbury's Conundrum Egg which they sold for £31,000 in 2021
Batemans managing director and senior valuer Greg Bateman with a Cadbury's Conundrum Egg which they sold for £31,000 in 2021

The ambiguity didn’t put off potential buyers as bidding opened at the Ryhall Road sale rooms at £520 and quickly began to climb.

Six minutes and 88 bids later from eight bidders, the hammer went down at an eye-popping £20,000, with a collector from the south west of England eventually forking out a handsome £24,800 with buyer’s premium fee.

“The estimate was obviously a bit of a way off, but without being able to officially attribute it I was happy to go low and let the market decide and it seemed to decide it was absolutely right,” Greg said.

The mystery artwork became the most expensive painting Batemans has ever sold, comfortably eclipsing the previous mark of £12,000 for a large Trajan Hughes oil.

It is also the fourth-most expensive lot the auction house has ever sold, topped by a Cartier set of pearls sold earlier this year for a cool £32,000.

Minus a much-reduced commission fee for charities, Oxfam will receive all but £12 of the hammer price.

“I was exceptionally pleased with the result and very pleased for what we’ve been able to do for the charity.”

Greg consulted a nationally-recognised art expert in London as part of his research into painting and artist, but couldn’t prove definitively the brushstrokes were Tuke’s.

He said the painting, believed to be of Tuke’s boat handler, Charlie Mitchell, could have been unfinished and given away as a gift.

”Tuke was generally a signer of his paintings, and there aren’t many of his that are unsigned,” Greg said.

“He was an interesting chap and came from money so he didn’t have to sell his art – he painted because he enjoyed it and gave away a lot of them.”

Ultimately Greg could not theorise when it came to selling the painting.

“But if you don’t know, don’t make it up,” he said.

“Our job is to put it in front of people who know far more than we do so it was catalogued as ‘in the manner of Henry Tuke’.

“The collector will be trying to pin down a firm attribution, but is nonetheless extremely pleased to have fought off extremely stiff competition to 'win' it.”



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