A painting portraying a game of golf on one of the nation’s first courses to allow women to play went under the hammer for nearly £900,000 as it became the star lot in a sale of Scottish art.
Sir John Lavery’s depiction of his step-daughter Alice playing on North Berwick’s links had only expected to generate up to £500,000 at Sotheby’s in London.
But the sale of the painting, which had a starring role in a National Galleries of Scotland exhibition of work devoted to golf two years ago, helped generate nearly £3.2 million worth of sales at the auction.
North Berwick Ladies’ Club was formed in 1888 to meet the growing demands of women to play the game. It helped nurture the talents of early female stars like Dorothy Campbell, Millicent Couper and Elsie Grant-Suttie.
It was painted in 1921 by Sir John, one of the leading members of the “Glasgow School” of painters who came to prominence in the late 19th century.
He was appointed an official artist for the Royal Navy in the First World War, but was prevented from travelling to the Western Front by ill-health.
Work by the Scottish Colourists was among the other most sought-after works in the sale, with three paintings by FCB Cadell - Interior, The Red Chair - going for more than £220,000.
Two paintings by modern-day artists, Peter Howson and Jack Vettriano, fetched more than £150,000 and £125,000 respectively.
Sotheby’s revived its annual Scottish art sale after a five-year hiatus last November due to a resurgence of interest in the work of the Colourists and other 20th century artists such as Anne Redpath and John Bellany.
The Scottish art world was dealt a huge blow in 2009 when it emerged that the annual sale of Scottish art at the Gleneagles hotel in Perthshire was ending after more than four decades. The event was relocated to London for two years before being disbanded completely by the auctioneers in the wake of the financial crash.
Simon Toll, Scottish art specialist at Sotheby’s, said: “We’re delighted with the results, which build upon the success of last November’s relaunched Scottish art sale.
“We saw strong prices for the Colourists and for contemporary Scottish artists, and an exceptional outcome for Lavery’s quintessentially Scottish golf painting.
“The remarkable response to our pre-sale exhibition at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh carried through on the day of the sale, with interest from both new and established collectors, 80 per cent of the lots snapped up, and 50 per cent of the works sold achieving figures above the high estimate.
“Following the momentum sparked by our recent sale of David Bowie’s art collection, prices for Peter Howson, John Bellany and Ken Currie went beyond expectations.”