A stunning watercolour of Canadian Indian totems sold at Bonhams in Toronto on Monday (29.11.10) for $78,000 (Canadian dollars), completing a huge roundtrip that took the picture painted in Western Canada to the West Country in England, and then back to Canada.
Charles Lanning, Bonhams Regional Director in Devon, says: "The picture was brought to us after it was purchased for its frame at a local Devon auction. When the buyer took it home he researched the artist and felt it might be more interesting than he had realized."
"We decided to sell this charming watercolour painted by Walter J Phillips, titled The Hoh-Hok Houseposts at Karlukwees, in our Canadian Art Sale. It was the obvious place to sell as the artist has a reputation in North America. This is just another example of Bonhams' international reach. The client is delighted with the result, especially as he only paid a few pounds for something priced to sell for its frame."
The work was painted in the late 1920's, whilst Phillips travelled on the Pacific Coast, and was later translated into the second wood engraving in his 1930 portfolio, An Essay in Woodcuts.
In "Wet Paint", his unpublished manuscript on watercolour painting, Phillips was taken with the village Karlukwees "...never have I seen a more delectable sketching ground....I regretted leaving the coast, and I long to return."
The mystery seller has refused to reveal where the picture was originally purchased, but with an extra £48,000 in his pocket he may be back soon to pick up another frame or two.
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