Alec Waugh, Art Collector

A recent article in the Daily Telegraph profiled a little known artist named Cedric Morris (1889-1982) whose paintings seem to be enjoying a renewal of interest. The article in the Telegraph’s “Luxury: Art” column is by Colin Gleadell and explains that until recently Morris was best known in art circles as the teacher of Lucien Freud and friend of more famous modern artists such as Christopher Wood and Ben Nicolson. His flower paintings were popular among collectors, but his other paintings (notably, numerous landscapes) attracted little attention. This bagan to change a few years ago when he was featured on an episode of the BBC art research series Fake or Fortune where a Lucien Freud painting (or forgery) was the subject. One of the presenters, Philip Mould (who is also an art dealer) began to search for examples of the previously neglected landscapes. Now that flower paintings seemed to have peaked (selling in the £200,000+ range) Mould has been acquiring landscapes in the expectation of a similar upward trend in that market.

This is where Alec Waugh comes into the story. As explained in the Telegraph:

… Besides having nearly 30 of [Morris’s paintings] in his gallery, priced between £6,000 and £90,000, two weeks ago [Mould] set a new record when he paid nearly £60,000 at a sale in Dorset for a 1929 Somerset view that had previously belonged to Evelyn Waugh’s elder brother, Alec.

This doesn’t seem like big bucks in today’s art world, but Mould probably knows what he is doing. He has recently arranged two exhibitions of Morris’s paintings: one of flowers at the Garden Museum for viewing only and the other of landscapes at his own gallery, all of which are for sale. The article doesn’t say from whom Mould bought the “1929 Somerset view” painting (which is referred to as “The Withypool” in some reports). A Bridport auction house (Busby’s) reports that the painting was sold at auction on 15 March 2018 for a  price of £45,000, so that may have been the “Dorset sale” to which the Telegraph refers. But Mould reportedly paid “nearly £60,000”, and that would leave a price discrepancy of about £15,000 unexplained, although this may be because the hammer price excludes VAT (if there is any) and seller’s commission.  The provenance in that sale was described as “From the Estate of Alec Waugh (1898-1981) and thence by descent through the family.” The same auction house in Bridport also offered artworks in a sale from the estate of Alec’s younger son, Peter Waugh, in 2016. See previous post. The Bridport News story of the more recent sale (also citing a price of £60,000) includes a copy of the painting. According to the auctioneer’s catalogue, the estimated price for the painting was £10,000-20,000.

Details about the upcoming exhibits of Cedric Morris’s paintings in London may be found here:

Cedric Morris: Beyond the Garden Wall, 18 April – 20 July; philipmould.com. Cedric Morris: Artist Plantsman, 18 April – 22 July; gardenmuseum.org.uk.

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