Issue 52, Autumn 2017

Editor's Letter: Lucinda Bredin

"'Spirit of the age' is a phrase that's too often, perhaps, accompanied by a rolling of eyes or a contemptuous snort. And while we latch onto symbols that seem to reflect the contemporary grotesque – I'm thinking of fidget spinners, rainbow bagels and avocado lattes – the obverse of the coin is the people and objects that encapsulate the optimism of an era.

These thoughts came to mind when putting together this issue, as it contains some towering figures that defined their epoch. Take Andrew Grima, the jeweller. To mark a single-owner collection of Grima's avant-garde designs coming to auction in September, Nicholas Foulkes has revisited the 1960s to discover why Grima's pieces were worn by Bond girls and royalty – and why Grima's Jermyn Street shop (designed by Ove Arup, no less) resembled the lair of a Bond villain.

Grima's designs reflected the 'white heat of technology', to use Harold Wilson's slogan for a time when space travel sprung from Marvel Comics to the front pages of the broadsheets. Anything seemed possible in those days. Roll backwards to the Thirties, however, and Britain was a very different place: pessimistic, parochial and with the threat of impending war hanging over it. Looking at a photograph of Herbert Read, the art critic who did so much to import European modernism to England, shown scrutinising the teeth of a surreal sculpture in his suit and bowtie, reminded me how one man can make such a difference.

On page 32, Herbert's son Piers Paul Read, the novelist and biographer, writes about how his father created an artistic network – he founded the ICA with Roland Penrose – to link British artists with the European movements. He was rewarded with gifts from artists with whom he had worked, and some of these pieces are being offered at Bonhams this autumn.

Finally, the life of M.F. Husain in itself sums up our current times. The artist, whose major work Untitled (Blue Black Horse) is offered in October's Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art sale, was one of the most feted in India... until religious extremism caught up with him. Turn to page 22 to find out what happened.

Enjoy the issue."

Lucinda Bredin

  1. Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966) Figurine (femme debout au chignon) 8 7/8 in (22.3 cm) (height) (Conceived circa 1953-1954 and cast in 1980 in an edition of eight plus one artist's proof)

    Page 6

    Go figure

    The more Giacometti looked, the less he could see. But even as his sculptures shrank, Martin Gayford says, his influence grew

    Much of the greatest figurative art of the 20th and 21st centuries – by Freud, Auerbach and Bacon – has come from repetition: depicting a few familiar models, again and again and again. Van Gogh, who was greatly admired by all ...

  2. Page 13

    High priest of modernism

    Friend to the greats of modern art when they were poor and unloved, Herbert Read kept the works artists showered on him in gratitude. Piers Paul Read introduces works from his father's stellar collection to be offered at Bonhams

    In September 1949, my father, Herbert Read, realised a long-cherished ambition of returning to his roots in rural North Yorkshire ...

  3. Federico Beltran Masses (Spanish, 1885-1949) Pola Negri y Rudolph Valentino

    Page 17

    Pola star

    Last lover of silent-screen idol Rudolph Valentino, Pola Negri mourned him in characteristically flamboyant – and public – style. Laura Watts describes their afterlife together

    On 23 August 1926, news broke that Hollywood heart-throb Rudolph Valentino had died, due to complications from peritonitis. He was 31 years old. Tens of thousands of fans took to the streets of New York ...

  4. Page 22

    Rolls of honour

    If you want to stage the motoring event of the decade, where better to hold it than Bonhams? Mark Beech reveals what happened when Rolls-Royce unveiled its new Phantom

    It is the evening of 27 July and, in a hushed room at Bonhams, a black-tie audience await what many have called the automotive event of the decade. The lights dim ...

  5. Page 27

    On a plate

    Europeans used carcasses to decorate tables – until trade between the Spanish and the Chinese presented a more elegant solution. William Sargent stands back in admiration

    At first glance, these exquisite, sculptural porcelains might seem bizarre, even useless. They come from China, but illustrate a complicated story of 18th-century dining habits in Spain: what was eaten, how it was eaten, and ...

  6. Page 30

    Platform
    Grand National

    The life of Gabriele Finaldi, the Director of the National Gallery, changed when he saw a Rembrandt. He tells Lucinda Bredin what happened next...

    The day that I saw Gabriele Finaldi, the Director of the National Gallery, had not got off to an easy start. The terrorist attack on London Bridge had occurred three days before and the gallery was ...

  7. Sir George Clausen, RA, RWS (British, 1852-1944) Noon in the Hayfield

    Page 33

    Field of vision

    George Clausen's paintings conjure a peaceful, sun-drenched world, but were met with astonishing hostility. Kenneth McConkey explains why

    It is midsummer. The mowers are active in the field beyond a row of trees. A child who has been clearing the hay props her rake against a tree, doffs a shabby straw hat decorated with meadow flowers, and slumps onto ...

  8. Page 40

    Travel
    Bonjour Trieste

    John Kasmin is beguiled by the city's exquisite melancholy

    It was Jan Morris who defined the 'Trieste effect'. In the only
    book you need to read about the place, she summed up the city thus: "This opaque sea port of my vision, so full of sweet melancholy, illustrates not just my adolescent emotions of the past, but my lifelong ...

  9. Page 46

    My favourite room
    Twiggy

    When she's looking for glamour, Twiggy knows just where to go...

    Brasserie Zédel has one of the most beautiful dining rooms in London, possibly in the world. It was created in the mid Thirties, in the basement of the glamorous Regent Palace Hotel, and is entirely evocative of the period. Its fortunes declined after the Second World War, and ...

  10. Page 53

    Wild horses

    He was India's most significant modern painter, but he died in exile. Alastair Smart explores the life of M.F. Husain, a rock-star artist who captured the spirit of a new nation

    One of India's most important artists of the 20th century, M.F. Husain was also undeniably its most flamboyant. With his mane of white hair, fondness ...

  11. Page 57

    Jewel personality

    Even among the film stars and aristocrats of Swinging London, Andrew Grima was a celebrity. Nicholas Foulkes tells his story

    At the distance of half a century it is difficult, if not impossible, to appreciate the excitement that surrounded 80 Jermyn Street, where Andrew Grima opened his eponymous jewellery shop in 1966.

    Until that point, a smart jeweller's shop ...

  12. Page 68

    Inside Bonhams
    A life in pictures

    Veronique Scorer describes the thrill of making discoveries and meeting new people to Lucinda Bredin

    I remember visiting a retired couple at their bungalow in Buckinghamshire," recalls Veronique Scorer, Head of Pictures at Bonhams Knightsbridge. "The gentleman had inherited a painting after his father's death a few years previously and was keeping it under the bed. It turned out ...

  13. Page 70

    Wine
    Master class

    Jancis Robinson's proudest moment was when she became a Master of Wine. In November, Bonhams holds an auction to help others achieve the same accolade

    I've been writing about wine for so long – more than 40 years – that a certain number of awards and decorations have come my way. I'm flattered by all of them, but perhaps ...

  14. Page 82

    News:

    In and out of Bonhams' salerooms

    Roll up, Rolls up

    Rolls-Royce Phantoms are a rare sight, with only a few built each year. But the unveiling of the eighth generation of Phantom – the first new model in more than a decade – at Bonhams New Bond Street HQ in July was a one-off opportunity for car aficionados to pay homage. Lord ...

Contacts
  1. Lucinda Bredin
    Author
    Bonhams
    Work
    101 New Bond Street
    London, United Kingdom W1S 1SR
    Work +44 20 7468 8394

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