Last week I lunched at the Coogee Pavilion on the most perfect day. The scene before me was almost identical to that captured by Elioth Gruner in his beautiful small painting Fisherman, Coogee Beach (1913). Small as it is, the painting seems to jump off the wall. There is an added poignancy in the date of the picture being almost on the eve of the horrors to come in the following year. The painting provided a cracking start to Sotheby’s grand double-header sale of the David Newby Collection and Important Australian Art on 3 May; together they grossed $14.25 million, Sotheby’s highest result in 10 years. Gruner’s Coogee painting fetched $164,700, double the upper pre-sale estimate and setting an auction record for the artist.
The big gun in the auction was the heavily promoted Eugene von Guérard Breakneck Gorge, Hepburn Springs (1864) which had remained in the family of the original purchaser, the Hon. William Stanbridge until this sale. It sold for $1.95 million, almost double the estimate. Other paintings delighted their sellers: Arthur Streeton’s lovely Cremorne (1926) at $549,00, more than doubling its estimate; Rosalie Gascoigne’s Summer Fat (1995) at $585,600, inexplicably to me, 50 per cent above its estimate; an intriguing Weaver Hawkins Seated Man Beneath Umbrella (1921) at $73,200 nearly three times its estimate; and a charming J.S.Watkins (who?) Goldfish (1919) at $103,700, a runaway at over four times its estimate. Art consumer confidence is high. Happy days are here again!
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