Lyon & Turnbull's recent Decorative Arts auction incorporated a variety of important pieces that generated excitement among collectors and those new to the auction world alike. Specialist Theo Burrell discusses the background of some of the top lots from the recent sale.

Top lots from the sale comprised items by renowned Glasgow School artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh, including lot 249, Mackintosh’s pencil and watercolour of a pine, which sold for £15,000. This work was completed in 1915 in the coastal village of Walberswick in Suffolk. Mackintosh made the move south to Suffolk in order to enjoy a summer retreat with the hope that his health and career would benefit from the change, joining friend and mentor Francis Newbery who had spent holidays in the area. Locals were rather perplexed by the newcomers to the region, however, and Mackintosh was even arrested under suspicion of being a German spy! Mackintosh produced a range of botanical drawings and watercolours between 1901 and the 1920s and these are thought to be some of his best art works.

     Decorative Arts: Design Since 1860

Lot 249

Added to the pine was lot 248, a suite of silver cutlery, showing Mackintosh in his role of designer. These pieces, which sold for £21,250, had been commissioned as part of a twelve place setting of dining cutlery by Fra Newbery and his wife Jessie in 1902. The commission was handled by a jeweller's in Glasgow, Edwards & Company, and the cutlery was made by D W Hislop, a Glasgow silversmith who worked with Mackintosh on other projects. All of the cutlery was later divided equally between the Newberys' daughters, Mary and Elsie; Mary's pieces were sold separately during the 1970s and 1980s. The pieces which made up lot 248 were sold to benefit the Willow Tea Room Trust, who work to ensure the restoration of the tea rooms. 

     Decorative Arts: Design Since 1860

Lot 248

Design items were much in demand at the Decorative Arts auction, where we also realised a price of £27,500 for lot 493, the Sir Basil Spence dining suite for H. Morris & Co., Glasgow. The ‘Allegro’ suite comprised a table, set of six armchairs and a sideboard made from laminated plywood, a revolutionary new material for mid-century designers and makers at the time. Sir Basil Spence was one of the leading British architects of the 20th century, whose monumental or 'brutalist' style came to define modern architecture in Britain. Morris of manufacturers Morris of Glasgow asked Spence to collaborate on a range of plywood furniture he was working on, which was to include his Bambi chair and celebrated Cloud table. The result was the Allegro dining suite, which was awarded a diploma by the Council of Industrial Design in January 1949. Few examples exist today, meaning that this was a rare group to come up for auction. 

     Decorative Arts: Design Since 1860

Lot 493
SIR BASIL SPENCE (1907-1976) FOR H. MORRIS & CO., GLASGOW  | 'ALLEGRO' DINING SUITE, DESIGNED 1947-1948 | Sold for £27,500

Furniture realised strong prices during the auction, with other notable lots including pieces by manufacturers Shapland & Petter. Lot 99, an Arts & Crafts mahogany open bookcase realised a price of £10,000, whilst an inlaid oak hall table beat its estimate when it was sold at £6,250. Shapland & Petter were founded by Henry Shapland and were one of the largest employers in the town of Barnstaple. They became cabinet makers in 1854, and during the First World War they manufactured plane propellers in order to help the war effort, they also fitted ocean liners and carriages, as well as providing furniture for a whole host of public buildings and churches. The company was renowned for excellent design, workmanship and manufacture, and the high prices today are a testament to their skill and popularity. 

     Decorative Arts: Design Since 1860

Lot 99

All prices include buyer's premium.

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For more information, or if you are interested in consigning to our next Decorative Arts auction, please contact:

Theo Burrell | Specialist | 0131 557 8844