£1m coffee pot smashes art record

A WORK by Scottish Colourist Samuel John Peploe has smashed the record for the most expensive Scottish painting sold at auction.

Still Life with Coffee Pot fetched nearly 1 million, easily breaking the record set seven years ago by former coal miner Jack Vettriano with his romantic picture The Singing Butler.

The painting was sold yesterday to an unnamed UK private collector at Christie's in London.

The auctioneer's British and Scottish pictures expert Andre Zlattinger said: "It's a masterpiece by him, a fabulous picture, and a great result."

The price for the 1905 painting, including the buyer's premium, was 937,250. The previous record for a work by Peploe was 623,650 for Tulips, sold by Sotheby's in London last year.

The actual coffee pot is still owned by Elizabeth Peploe, the artist's daughter-in-law.

Her son, Guy Peploe, managing director of the Scottish Gallery, told The Scotsman his grandfather would have been "astonished". He said: "He was an extremely modest man and would be highly embarrassed by all the attention and the value of his work.

"He just quietly, in a very self-critical way, got on with his work. He knew he was good, but that does not necessarily translate into commercial success. It certainly didn't in his lifetime.

Mr Peploe added: "For a lot of people this isn't a typical Colourist picture, it is the pinnacle of his achievement in his early style. It shows incredible skill. It demonstrates an extraordinary technical mastery. But he later turned his back on this technique and the way forward for him was the way of colour."

The Christie's auction of 20th century British and Irish art in London yesterday brought in a total of nearly 18m. It featured a strong showing of Scottish artwork, from the Colourists to Stephen Conroy, in a test of how they rank against other major British artists.

In recent years, Christie's and Sotheby's have stopped holding separate art auctions in Scotland, to the dismay of some Scottish experts. But the auctioneers argue that taking the works to London will boost UK and international sales of Scottish work.

Gordon Brennan, head of painting at Edinburgh College of Art, said Peploe was the most important Scottish post-impressionist painter.He said: "He somewhat overshadowed the other Scottish Colourists, but no doubt due to the recent publicity received from the Royal Academy show in London it is understandable that an already highly collected painter has been able to realise such a high auction price.

"The auction is a fickle barometer of 'value', but nevertheless it is interesting that such a painting should reach such a high market value."

Tom Hewlett, director of the Portland Gallery in London, said: "Collectors of Scottish Colourist paintings are looking for the best examples and they are prepared to pay good prices for works that stand out and are fresh to the market."

Still Life with Coffee Pot fetched the third-highest price in the sale. The top lot was LS Lowry's The Football Match, from 1949, which sold for 5,641,250. It was a world record for the artist, known for his stick figures. It was the highest price ever paid for a work in the category of 20th century British and Irish Art. Stanley Spencer's The Crucifixion from 1934 sold for 2,001,250, setting a record for his art.

Experts may also be relieved to see the classic artworks of the Scottish Colourists re-establish their presence at the top of the market ahead of Vettriano, whose prices appear to have slumped since they soared in the wake of The Singing Butler's sale. The only Vettriano piece in the sale, Dancers, was on at an estimated 30,000 to 40,000, but failed to find a buyer.

A series by the Scottish artist Joan Eardley, whose pictures have become increasingly popular at auction, also sold well, as did two pictures by Scottish artist Stephen Conroy.

Still Life with Coffee Pot is rated one of five or six signature works by Peploe, but the sales of other Scottish Colourist works in the sale were "patchy", said Mr Zlattinger. He blamed it on the fact that several had been sold in recent years and so were not "fresh to market".

Figures in a Street, Montmartre by Peploe sold for 103,250, more than double the pre-sale estimate of 40-60,000. John Duncan Ferguson's Paris sold within estimate for 34,850.

But FCB Cadell's Roses, at an estimated 80,000 to 120,000, did not find a buyer, and neither did Peploe's Still Life with Wine Decanter, at an estimated 200,000 to 300,000. His Roses, however, from the early 1920s sold for 337,250, against an estimate of 300,000 to 500,000.