Constable's Helmingham Dell tops Eliot collection, up 89% on estimate

The art collection of writer TS Eliot's wife, Valerie Eliot, has sold through Christie's, with John Constable's Helmingham Dell, Suffolk, selling as top lot on November 20 in London.

John Constable's Helmingham Dell, Suffolk, 1800

The drawing is one of two known to have been created by Constable in Helmingham Park in July 1800, and is one of his few dated pieces from the period. Originally valued at £250,000-350,000, it sold for £662,500 ($1m), making an 89.2% increase.

Valerie Eliot (1926-2012) was modernist poet TS Eliot's second wife, who fell in love with his work while in high school, having heard the 1927 poem The Journey of the Magi. She subsequently became Eliot's secretary at Faber & Faber, and the pair were married in 1957.  

A lifelong collector, Eliot focused on British art, with her collection charting much of its history. The auction featured a who's who of the top British names, with proceeds to benefit her charity Old Possum's Practical Trust, which gives grants to support literary, musical and artist's projects and organisations.

"Compiled over 20 years, the collection encapsulates the history of British art from Hilliard to Freud via Gainsborough, Spencer, Moore and Bacon; and includes quintessentially English sea and landscapes by Constable, Turner, Atkinson Grimshaw and Lowry," said Christie's deputy chairman Orlando Rock.

L S Lowry Deal Sands
The market for Lowry's work is stronger than ever

Following the Constable piece was Deal Sands, a 1947 oil painting by LS Lowry, which sold for £554,500 ($892,745), achieving a 121.8% increase on its £250,000 high estimate.

Lowry also saw strong bids at Bonhams last night (November 20), with a collection of 18 of his works selling for £1.7m ($2.8m), led by Steps at Wick at £890,000 ($1.4m).

Also featuring in the Christie's sale was an oil painting by Sir Winston Churchill, entitled The Cathedral, Hackwood Park, which was painted in the 1930s and gifted to the second Viscount Camrose. It made £362,500 ($583,625), with its 141.6% increase on its £100,000-150,000 valuation reflecting the overall success of the sale.

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Images: Christie's

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