Mary Martin
Opposition by Mary Martin. Estimate: £30,000-50,000.

Rare Mary Martin Work Leads Bonhams Blazing a Trail: Modern British Women Sale

London – Opposition, an extremely rare work by the innovative Constructivist artist Mary Martin, is one of the leading works in Bonhams Blazing a Trail: Modern British Women sale in London on Wednesday 28 September. Executed in 1956, it is estimated at £30,000-50,000.

Janet Hardie, Bonhams Senior Specialist in Modern British and Irish Art said: “With unique provenance and extremely rare in its use of materials and colour, Opposition presents a fascinating insight into Mary Martin’s working practice in the mid-1950s, when she was an active member of the nearly all-male Constructivist movement. Pieces from this period are scarce – Martin was bringing up two small children at the time which restricted her artistic output – and it is even more unusual to find one in this experimental style. It is a real honour to include this very special work in Bonhams Blazing a Trail sale, the aim of which is to introduce collectors to the wealth of British 20th century women artists whose talents don’t always get the recognition they deserve.”  

Mary Martin (1907-1969) was part of an avant-garde group which included Victor Pasmore, Robert Adams, Adrian Heath, Anthony Hill and her husband Kenneth Martin, whom she had met while studying at the Royal College of Art. In the late 1940s and early ‘50s, Martin explored the possibilities of making constructed abstract art, often using the medium of the relief and three-dimensional shapes to do this. Opposition was acquired direct from the artist in 1962 by the architect John Weeks with whom Martin had collaborated with on a number of occasions, including on a pavilion at the seminal This is Tomorrow exhibition in 1956 at the Whitechapel Gallery in London. 

Blazing a Trail: Modern British Women showcases the works of lesser-known painters and sculptors with those by more established artists.  An iconic Head by Elisabeth Frink (1930-1993) estimated at £70,000-100,000, for example, sits alongside Still Water and Madonna – estimated at £5,000-8,000 each – by the surrealist painter Ithell Colquhoun (1906-1988) whose Battle Fury of Cuchullin established a new world auction record for her work at last year’s inaugural sale.

Other highlights include:

  • These Laid the World Away estimated at £10,000-15,000, a powerful and symbolic image by Anna Zinkeisen (1901-1976), one of the discoveries of last year’s sale.
  • Man came out to see the Blossom by Mary Newcomb (1922-2008)estimated at £6,000-8,000.
  • Girl with Ukulele by Mary Potter (1900-1981)also at £6,000-8,000

New names for the 2022 sale include Dora Holzandler (Autumn Lovers £1,000-1,500)Audrey Cruddas (Artist with a Seagull £2,000-3,000) and the contemporary ceramic artist Kate Malone who is represented by the spectacular and intriguing Wide Mouthed Snap Dragon Vase (£1,000-1,500).

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