A Hunger for Heidelberg – Bonhams Australia Bank on Tradition

A Hunger for Heidelberg – Bonhams Australia Bank on Tradition
Frederick McCubbin (1855-1917) Shelling Peas c.1913
(Courtesy Bonhams Australia)

For the first time in 20 years, an Australian auction house is holding a sale that concentrates on the work of some of the most sought after artists of the Heidelberg school. 

Representing a shift in taste from the more modern to the more traditional, three quarters of the value of the Bonhams Australia sale of Important Australian Art, which is estimated to fetch between $5 million to $7 million auction, is dedicated to paintings from the Heidelberg school.

To be held in Sydney on the 19th of November, the ambitious auction presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire a number of paintings that should be in museum collections from artists such as Emanuel Phillips Fox, Tom Roberts, Frederick McCubbin, Charles Conder and Arthur Streeton.

Thanks to a dispute with Sotheby’s Australia and his ex-wife, art collector and entrepreneur Con Ange will sell a number of incredible works from his collection through Bonhams Australia to pay a court-ordered settlement to Sotheby’s – but that’s another story.

Mr. Ange, a former adult entertainment kingpin, has consigned seven paintings to the sale including the cover lot, Frederick McCubbin’s masterpiece Midsummers Eve 1902-1912, which museums all around Australia will be salivating over.

Being sold with an estimate of $1.2 -1.6 million, the iconic painting is likely to end up in a museum collection, but will also be a highly tempting prospect for many collectors considering that the estimate is so reasonable.   “That painting will be worth $5 million before I die,” commented Mr. Ange.

Mr. Ange also told Artinfo.com Australia that one of the reasons that the judgment awarded to Sotheby’s against him and his wife was so large was that the McCubbin painting – withdrawn by Mr. Ange from a Sotheby’s sale in 2009 – had received three offers of $1.5 million at the time.

The interest shown in the painting three years ago is an indication that the sky is the limit for such an important work of art.

Also sourced from Mr. Ange’s collection are several other important Heidelberg paintings including Streeton’s Seaside Pastoral (lot 16) and A Sunlit Mountain (lot 32), as well as Charles Conder’s Woman in a Row Boat (lot 25).

Considering his business background and the fact that his passion for art was sparked by a visit to Norman Lindsay’s studio, it is no surprise that Mr. Ange had a number of fantastic paintings by Lindsay in his collection.   Three of those paintings, lot 14, 27 and 36, are also featured in the sale.

Consigned by another private collector from Melbourne, Tom Roberts’ La Favorita is an incredibly important painting originally exhibited at the groundbreaking 9x5 exhibition in 1889.  Painted on a cigar lid, the femininity and fragility of the woman depicted in the painting is echoed in the petite dimensions of the work.

Estimated to fetch between $350,000 and $450,000, the historically significant painting by one of Australia’s most highly regarded artists is another of the lots that should be in a museum collection.

Singled out by Bonhams Australia Chairman Mark Fraser as his favourite work in the sale, Autumn 1889 by Emmanuel Philips Fox is a triumph of atmostphere and perspective that draws the viewer into the whimsical landscape scene.


WHERE: Byron Kennedy Hall, Moore Park, Sydney

WHEN: Monday November 19, 6.30pm (followed by the Aboriginal Art auction at 7.30pm