Artworks by a highly respected and prolific Leicester artist have attracted great interest at a recent auction.
The artworks, by Rigby Graham, who died aged 84 in 2015, were sold at Gildings Auctioneers’ 20th Century Art and Design auction in Market Harborough on April 5.
Many of the artworks in the auction were in watercolour and ink, depicting scenes from the city and county, mainly dating from the 1970s and shown at Graham’s 1980 exhibition at the Gadsby Gallery in Leicester city centre.
Highlights included ‘Packhorse Bridge and Canal Bridge, Aylestone’, which sold for £800 and ‘Demolition on Walnut St’, which sold for £700. ‘Britella Factory, New Pringle St’ and ‘Jig at Acresford’ sold for £500 and £480 respectively, while ‘Hospitals at Sutton Cheney’ and ‘Natural Gas Station, Shangton’ both fetched £240.
“It was a great pleasure to sell these artworks by Rigby Graham, who was best known in his home town for his striking depictions of a city undergoing constant development and change,” said Will Gildings, director and 20th century art and design specialist.
“As well his paintings, Graham was also well known for the murals he painted around the city, notably at Lansdowne Boys’ School and Woodstock Junior School and on steel panels for a 1989 mural for a treatment room at Leicester Royal Infirmary.”
As well as finding inspiration in his home city, Graham’s unique creativity was also sparked on his travels, notably in Ireland. The standout lot from the auction was a 1976 London painting, ‘The Prospect of Whitby, Wapping’, which sold for £1,800, a fivefold increase on its estimate of £250 – £350.
Rigby Graham was born in 1931 and moved to Leicester with his family in 1942, where he attended Wyggeston Grammar School, before moving on to Leicester College of Art, where he later lectured in design, printing and bookbinding. His art career never brought significant financial rewards, and he actively disliked the London art scene, making it a policy never to ask his dealer how much his pictures made. Despite this, he was awarded an MBE in 2010. Also, his long association with the Goldmark Gallery in Uppingham, Rutland, is reflected in their exhibition of his work this spring.
Rigby Graham was also a prolific book illustrator and writer, both with his own presses and for other publishers, with over 300 books to his name, some of which he even made the bindings and paper for. This auction also included a book, ‘Graham’s Leicestershire’, signed by Graham, which sold for £420.
“This book was a tour-de-force of a project commissioned by Graham and Bill Gadsby of The Gadsby Gallery and inspired by 19th century Leicester topographical artist John Flower’s ‘Views of the Ancient Buildings in the Town and County of Leicester’,” added Mr Gilding.
“Conceived as a chronicle of the city and county, it was an ambitious project that Graham accepted on the condition that it would not be a ‘namby-pamby book.’ Due to its lavish nature, the project was nearly abandoned, but was eventually produced in a limited edition of 150, of which this example is numbered 22 and sold in its green cloth boards and red slip case.”
The 20th Century Art & Design auction took place at Gildings Auctioneers’ newly refurbished saleroom and was its first sale with live bidders in the room since the pandemic. Those interested in selling or buying similar works of art can find out more at www.gildings.co.uk.