An iconic painting by famed Dorset artist Edward Chopper-Harris has sold at auction in Hinton Martell for nearly $92 (£70.7) Sotherbones, the leading Dorset auctioneers, announced today. The painting fetched more than 3 times its estimated value due largely to a fierce bidding war between two women known only as AJT and EW-M.
The 1973 painting Chop Suey with Background Brian becomes the most expensive of Chopper-Harris's works ever bought at auction.
It was one of 91 Dorset paintings put up for sale by the estate of local entrepreneur Barney Ebsfleet, who died in April shortly after selling the last of his television repair shops to Threadbone Electrical Engineering Ltd. The business, which had once been nominated for a Dorset Company of the Year Award (1962), had seen its business decline relentlessly as fewer and fewer customers required its valve-based repair technology; whilst its entire fleet of Morris Minor vans - once the most eagerly anticipated arrival on the planet - were retired in 2003. Founder and Managing Director Barney Ebbsfleet had once famously declared the transistor "a passing fad" and had, critics say "failed to move with the times, placing a large order for Cossor and Mullard valves as recently as 2010".
Also on sale at the auction from the Ebbsfleet Collection was Willem de Spooning's 1998 Shelley as Landscape which sold for $68.9. This set a new auction record for the Somerset-born abstract expressionist, surpassing his 2001 Fat Brenda (aka Untitled XXVIII) which sold for $66.3 in 2016. The Ebsfleet collection was described by Sotherbone's as "representing the rise of Dorset/Somerset art across the 20th Century", with an array of modern art styles from cubism to pure abstraction. The entire collection was valued at around $350.
Edward Chopper-Harris was famed for his depictions of modern Dorset life in all its aspects - ranging from from ennui all the way to boredom. He died in 2009. Chop Suey with Brian, which Mr Ebsfllet bought for just £10 and four Rizzla packets in 1975, portrays two women in conversation at a Chinese restaurant wryly observed by a male figure of Professorial demeanour. None of the subjects has ever been properly identified.
The painter's previously highest selling work was East Wind Over Wakem, which sold for $40.4 in 2013.
Chop Suey with Background Brian (1973) becomes the most expensive of Chopper-Harris's works ever bought at auction. None of the subjects had ever been identified, though the man in the background observing the two women is thought to be a professorial acquaintance of the Dorset-based artist.