'Remarkable': Sale of unseen collection of works by Scottish Colourist George Leslie Hunter

A remarkable and unseen collection of paintings by Scottish Colourist artist George Leslie Hunter is expected to fetch more £400,000 when it comes up for sale at auction for the first time .

The 12 paintings were collected over many years by Hunter's cousin, Arthur Leyden, in support of the pioneering artist throughout his career.

The works, which range from a pastel sketch of a Street Corner in Paris from 1907 to "classic" Colourist still life oil paintings completed at the height of Hunter's career in the late 1920s, have remained in Leyden's family ever since they were painted.

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The "unique" set with rare provenance will be offered for the first time at Bonhams' Scottish Art Sale on Wednesday [OCT 19].

May Matthews, Bonhams Managing Director, Scotland, said the Leyden Collection was "One of the most important by a Colourist artist ever to come to auction".

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She said: "To see a collection of work by one of the Colourists that has never been on the market before is very rare, but what we have here is the story of a cousin supporting a cousin right through his career.

"Whenever Hunter tried a new style he would be supported by Arthur. These were pivotal points throughout the artist's career and you have a wonderful example for each stage."

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Hunter, born in 1877 in Rothesay on the Isle of Bute, moved to America with his family when he was 15 and began working as a magazine illustrator in San Francisco.

He adopted the professional name of Leslie Hunter, although he continued to be known as George to his friends and family. Hunter forged a close bond with his cousin, Arthur, who was the same age and would go on to provide financial and moral support to the artist.

Leyden's collection, later passed down to his late daughter Peggy, spans all the key periods of the artist’s creative life.

Among the early oil paintings included in the collection is "Étaples", showing a family group enjoying a picnic in the northern French fishing port in August 1914.

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Hunter and Leyden had planned to travel to France together on a painting holiday but with the outbreak of war in Europe, Leyden backed out.

Traveling solo, his sketching excursions led to suspicions he was a German spy. Arrested by the gendarmes, he seized an opportunity to make a hasty escape to Paris with his painting, now valued at £10,000-15,000.

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The Leyden collection also includes "The Blue Teacup" (£80,000-120,000), a classic still life painted around 1928-29 in Leyden’s apartment in New York while Hunter was preparing for his first one-man exhibition in the city.

Meanwhile, "Still life with Roses and Japanese print" was painted during an experimental phase around 1922 and was bought by Leyden during a visit to Scotland in 1924. One of only two paintings by Hunter to feature a Japanese print, it is expected to attract bids of £60,000-80,000.

Hunter's portrait of his cousin Arthur, painted in 1913, could fetch £12,000-18,000, while two Fife landscapes completed around 1921-22 could each fetch around £10,000.

Matthews said: "Every painting in this collection is unique and really important in terms of recording each stage of Hunter's artistic development, but there is also a fantastic background story behind each one.

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"They were passed down from Arthur Leyden to his daughter Peggy who wanted to really celebrate her Uncle George and his work. It's a very personal collection a family legacy – and I'm sure it will attract a lot of attention."

She added: "This is an incredibly rare opportunity to buy Colourist paintings that have that extra special kudos that nobody's owned them apart from the artist's family."

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Hunter was one of the four stars of the Scottish Colourist school of art, along with SJ Peploe, JD Fergusson and FCB Cadell. Primarily self-taught, Hunter is often considered as "the most natural" of the group.

The son of a dispensing chemist, he attended Rothesay Academy until 1892 when his family emigrated to California. He returned to Europe in 1906 and lived for a while in Paris before the outbreak of the First World War.

Hunter, who was renowned for his bohemian appearance and eccentric behaviour, settled in Fife and painted still lifes and landscapes from 1924-27. He travelled again to the South of France between 1927 and 1929, when he returned to Scotland following a breakdown.

Despite continuing to paint, he suffered stomach pains and died in 1931 following an unsuccessful operation.

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Jill Marriner, co-author of The Life and Art of Leslie Hunter, said: "The pictures in this unique collection form an enduring celebration of Hunter’s artistic legacy."

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