9 of East Anglia's most stunning and iconic paintings
- Credit: Sworders
With its picturesque landscapes, East Anglia provides the inspiration for some of the most legendary pieces of art.
Here, Sworders' picture specialist Sarah Flynn picks nine of the best that were either made in the region, or are by its most famous artists.
1. Portrait of Christopher Griffin Jr, by Thomas Gainsborough
The great English portrait and landscape painter was born in Sudbury and worked in Suffolk before moving to Bath in 1759.
This portrait was painted when Griffith was visiting Bath and Gainsborough's studio had become one of the sights of the city.
It is a direct image, uncomplicated and honest - but demonstrates the artist's ability to catch a likeness and paint lace to perfection.
It sold for £26,000 in 2009.
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2. Hull's Mill at Sible Hedingham, by Eric Ravilious
Eric Ravilious moved to Hedingham in 1935 and painted this scene of working mills in the months after his arrival in the village.
He was tragically killed in the Second World War, lost in action when his plane went down off the coast of Iceland in September 1942 - so his work is scarce.
The painting is an important example of Ravilious’ work. Selling for £26,000 in 2003, the Fry Art Gallery, in Saffron Walden, was able to acquire it with assistance from the Art Fund and the Victoria and Albert Museum.
3. Foxglove, by Sir Cedric Morris
This rediscovered painting by the artist-plantsman Cedric Morris sold for £160,000 in 2019, a world-record price at the time.
Foxglove is surely the quintessential Morris still life depicting blooms of pink and purple foxgloves and other English garden flowers. A real treat for the senses.
It was painted in 1932, just three years after Morris and lifelong partner Arthur Lett-Haines chose the country life over a London studio.
4. A Suffolk spring landscape with Welsh mountains beyond, attributed to Lucian Freud
This picture was a real find – it came from the estate of Tom Wright, a Suffolk artist who studied at Benton End, in Hadleigh, under Cedric Morris.
The canvas was covered with a painting by Tom Wright, yet curiously had ‘Lucian’ scrawled in large letters on the reverse.
The agent handling the estate, knowing that Lucian Freud had been a contemporary of Tom Wright at the East Anglian School of Art, took a chance that there might be another painting underneath Wright’s picture.
With a bit of detective work and some tests by a conservator, there did indeed seem to be another image underneath - and lo and behold, a possible Lucian Freud landscape was revealed.
Dated to around 1939-40, experts concluded that it was probably an imagine amalgam of a Suffolk landscape, where he was studying with some Welsh hills beyond.
It sold at Sworders for £30,000 in July 2018.
5. A lady on a bay hunter jumping a hedge, by Sir Alfred Munnings
Munnings, one of the country's greatest ever artists, was born at Mendham Mill, across the River Waveney from Harleston. His father was the miller and Alfred grew up surrounded by horses.
This Edwardian watercolour (signed and date 1906), which sold for £27,000 in December 2014, is very much of its period.
The rider is shown riding side-saddle and jumping a hedge, leaning backwards - probably the most dangerous things a horsewoman can do.
Munnings' expert knowledge of the horse is clear in every work he painted. It is often forgotten that he only had the use of one eye, having lost the sight in the other in a bramble bush in his youth.
6. Portrait of the Sea, by Maggi Hambling
Sudbury-born Maggi Hambling, a student of Cedric Morris at the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing from 1960, loves the sea in all its wild changes. Perhaps her best known work is Scallop, the memorial to Benjamin Britten that stands on the beach outside Aldeburgh.
The Fitzwilliam Museum had an exhibition of her Wave paintings a few years ago. In these paintings, she captures perfectly the moment of the sea as the wave crashes on the land.
Her work is much collected, as underlined by the £5,400 fetched by this tiny oil from 2006.
7. A river landscape with an angler and his dog near a bridge, by John Sell Cotman
This very beautiful early Cotman oil attracted great interest in the saleroom.
Works of this quality by Cotman come up rarely nowadays and its lovely provenance and exhibition history helped it to achieve a price of £14,200, hotly contested on several telephones.
The painting was part of a group of Norwich School pictures from the family of Surgeon Vice Admiral Godfrey Milton-Thompson.
It had been exhibited many times in the 1950s, when it was owned by Gavin Astor and hung at Hever Castle.
8. Dedham Vale with Brantham mill and haystacks, by John Constable
Anne Lyles, the great Constable expert, wrote that this previously unrecorded early oil sketch by Constable represented an exciting new discovery.
This very personal oil sketch from around1809 shows the countryside he knew so well – with one of his father’s mills in the far distance.
The fact that the picture once passed through the hands of Leggatt Brothers points towards a likely provenance direct from a member of the Constable family.
It sold for £70,000 in December 2020
9. The James and The Foremost Prince, by Eric Ravilious
Original works by Ravilious don’t come up very often on the market, as he died at the age of 39.
This particular piece was a real find – the vendors didn’t know it had any value at all when they brought it show Sworders and were delighted with the £85,000 sale price achieved in April 2016.
The painting benefitted from very good provenance and had been exhibited at the Imperial War Museum.