Major contemporary art sale to raise funds for gallery

Edward Bawden CBE (1903-1989) was an award winning painter, printmaker, draughtsman and graphic designer. In the last decade of his life he expressed a wish for a major archive of his work to be held together at the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, Bedford, UK.

In Bedford's planned rebuild of the museum complex, it will create an Edward Bawden Gallery, fitted with purpose-built secure drawers and cabinets giving the public access to this remarkable resource.

In order to raise funds for equipping the gallery, Bawden's Executor Peyton Skipwith in conjunction with Bloomsbury Auctions, is holding a sale of drawings, watercolours, prints and illustrated books, including works donated by Bawden and his friends.

Those friends include names such as Eric Ravilious, Douglas Percy Bliss and Charles Mahoney - as well as many younger admirers including David Gentleman, Peter Blake, Bernard Dunstan and Michael Foreman. Most of the pieces offered are fresh to the market.

The Cecil Higgins Gallery has a major archive of the work of Edward Bawden spanning all periods of his career from 1922 to his death in 1989; this was made possible by Bawden's generous gift to the gallery of the contents of his studio.

In a letter to the Gallery's curator he wrote, "My own wish, would be for all the jigsaw pieces of my life's work to be together, not scattered willy-nilly to any institution that happened to want this bit or that … I must say I would feel immensely happy if I could be allowed to leave my remains to Bedford."

Edward Bawden's Bunyan's Dream/The Pilgrim's Progress
Edward Bawden's Bunyan's Dream/The Pilgrim's Progress
(Click to enlarge)

One of the highlights of the sale is undoubtedly Bunyan's Dream/The Pilgrim's Progress, a watercolour by Bawden of his famous tapestry design for the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977 commissioned by the Cecil Higgins Gallery in Bedford, John Bunyan's birthplace.

The watercolour on paper work was the study for the tapestry which hangs permanently in the Gallery, and is estimated at £2,000-3,000 - though it could easily bring much more.

Bunyan's unique vision of the world spanned over 60 years, during which he produced some of the most influential designs of the 20th century, from advertising material for Shell to ceramics for the Orient Line.

The Cecil Higgins Gallery will house a fascinating overview of his linocuts and lithographs, as well as material for the London Underground, Fortnum & Mason, Twinings and NatWest Bank to name but a few.

In addition, the archive also embraces Bawden's working drawings, lino blocks and unrealised project designs, thus offering a complete insight into the work of this leading 20th-century artist and designer.

The sale will be held at Bloomsbury Auctions on Thursday, November 28 in London. Collectors and investors wanting to buy contemporary works before then may want to look here.


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