The Harlequin Sale: the estate of Michael Raw
The Harlequin Sale: the estate of Michael Raw

The Harlequin Sale: the estate of Michael Raw

14 August 2023

The Harlequin Sale, a single owner auction bursting with colour and design is to be held at Tennants Auctioneers on 7th October 2023. On offer are the extraordinary collections of the late Michael Raw of Sedbergh, who filled his home with an exuberant array of art and design.

Michael Raw was an erudite, compelling, and much-loved history teacher at Sedbergh School, remembered for his charm, warmth, and wit as well as his old-fashioned eccentricities. Michael was educated at Haberdashers School and Queens College, Cambridge and went on to write for the Cambridge Footlights and Not the Nine O’Clock News as well as playing rugby for the Harlequins before dedicating his life to teaching. At Sedbergh, he tempered his erudite teachings with entertaining and gruesome detail creating an enviable level of engagement from his pupils, taught rugby with great enthusiasm, and involved himself in all aspects of school life including writing and performing in the school’s sketch show A Kick in the Stalls. After retiring from teaching, he took on the role of school historian, preparing a history of the school to coincide with its 500th anniversary.

Having spent part of his childhood in Africa, the son of Missionary parents, Raw collected African art, and two of the most notable works on offer in the sale hail from the continent. Word Play by Wosene Worke Kosrof (b.1950) (estimate: £2,000-3,000 plus buyer’s premium) is a characteristic example of the Ethiopian artist’s work. Wosene was one of the first of the contemporary African artists to make a name for himself internationally. Now based in California, he was born in Addis Ababa to a single mother who, whilst she herself could not read, ensured her children went to church school to learn the sounds and script of Amharic, one of the major languages of the country. Later realising the aesthetic potential of the Amharic script, it became the core of his work and the main visual narrative element as in the present painting. The work is joined by Lorry Station by the Ghanaian artist Ablade Glover (b.1934) (estimate: £2,000-3,000). Glover is a significant figure on the West African art scene, whose works are held in collections around the world. His work, which teeters between abstract and realism, depicts with vibrant colour and texture urban landscapes, shanty towns, Ghanaian women, and crowded market scenes, becoming distillations of the heat, colour, and exuberance of his homeland.

From closer to home are fine examples of British 20th century sculpture and ceramics, such as Sailboat by Breon O’Casey (1928-2011) (estimate: £3,000-5,000). O’Casey was an important figure in the St. Ives School of artists, working alongside the likes of Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson. A hugely versatile artist, he created jewellery, woven rugs, etchings, paintings, and sculpture from his studio in Cornwall. Absorbing the world around him, he created abstracted impressions of patterns and forms found in nature, and the sea remained a constant source of inspiration. Also of interest are a group of works by John Maltby (1936-2020), one of Britain’s most respected potters. After initially training with David Leach and concentrating on producing Anglo-Japanese thrown pots, he later turned to making more individual, sculptural pieces inspired by the likes of Picasso and Alfred Wallis. After an illness in the late 90’s, Maltby could no longer work with large masses of clay, and began producing a range of new slab-built figures featuring birds, warriors, kings, and queens. On offer in the sale are two of his stoneware Ancient King figures, each with an estimate of £700-1,000, alongside two further works.

A fine selection of Italian, Danish, and Dutch 20th Century Design furniture, with examples of designs by such 20th century greats as Le Corbusier and Josef Hoffmann reissued under license by leading modern manufacturers, is also on offer. Highlights of the design furniture include a Cassina LC2 Two-Seater Sofa, designed by Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand (estimate: £600-900) and a Wittmann Sitzmaschine Recliner Armchair, designed by Josef Hoffmann (estimate: £500-800). The latter ‘Sittingmachine’ was first designed by Hoffmann in 1905, a beautiful marriage of form and function. In 1903 Hoffman co-founded the Wiener Werkstätte, who were commissioned to design the building and interior furnishing for the Sanatorium Purkersdorf the following year, for which the present chair was originally designed. Incorporated into the design are levers, which are both decorative and can be used to change the angle of the backrest. Also on offer are a ClassiCon De Stijl Table designed by Eileen Gray (estimate: £300-500), and a Cassina Utrecht Armchair designed by Gerrit Thomas Rietveld (estimate: £700-1,000).

Vivid colour ties the whole collection together, exemplified by his collection of quirky works of art and harlequin themed objects and textiles inspired by his years playing for the legendary Harlequins rugby team.

THE HARLEQUIN SALE – 7th October 2023

Viewing: Wednesday 4th October – 4pm to 7pm
Thursday 5th October – 10am to 4pm
Friday 6th October – 10am to 4pm
Saturday 7th October – from 8am

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