Russell Drysdale's Old Larsen highlights Australian art at $1m

Russell Drysdale's Old Larsen, a portrait that has not been on the market for 42 years, is expected to provide the star lot in Christie's Australian Art sale in London on September 26.

Russell Drysdale Old Larsen Christies
Old Larsen. The 1953 piece was last offered at Christie's in 1971

Valued at £550,000-650,000 ($861,306-1m), the piece was last sold by Christie's in 1971, as part of its sale of the collection of esteemed collector Margaret Carnegie in Sydney.

The auction coincides with the opening of an exhibit of Australian art at London's Royal Academy. It also comes in the wake of the $19.2m sale of the Grundy Collection of Australian Art at Bonhams Sydney in June, which is the most valuable single-owner collection ever auctioned in the country.

While Drysdale's Old Larsen is one of the most anticipated lots of the sale, it is not the most valuable. That title goes to Frederick McCubbin's Bush Idyll (1893), estimated at £1.2m-1.8m ($1.8m-2.8m).

The piece is the last monumental scale McCubbin painting still in private hands. It was last sold in 1998 by Christie's in Sydney, where it made $2m to set the record for any Australian painting at auction - a record that it held for a decade.

The current record for any Australian artwork is held by Sidney Nolan's First-Class Marksman (1946), which sold for $5.4m in 2010. A previously lost work, it is the only one of Nolan's first series of Ned Kelly paintings that is not in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia.

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