Last paintings by Norfolk's 'forgotten' artist to go under hammer

painting by Gwyneth Johnstone

This painting called Provencale Market is coming under the auction hammer later this month, one of the remaining works for sale by Norfolk artist Gwyneth Johnstone. - Credit: Supplied

Nine remaining paintings from Coltishall's Gwyneth Johnstone, whose last work fetched a record-breaking £13,000, are to be auctioned.

Work by artist Gwyneth Johnstone. Pictured in her studio.

The remarkable late Gwyneth Johnstone at work in her studio in Coltishall. - Credit: Archant library

The pictures from the late artist's private collection, which were in her studio in Norfolk, include one of her largest paintings ever created called Provencale Market, estimated to fetch between £5,000-£8,000.

Portrait of Gwyneth Johnstone by Augustus John.Photo: SubmittedCopy: Steve SnellingFor: EDP Su

Portrait of Gwyneth Johnstone by her father, Augustus John. - Credit: Archant library

But with the resurgence in popularity of this artist, the painting could go for much more.

Last February one of Ms Johnstone's paintings called Living at Barnsbury Terrace fetched a record £13,000.

This oil painting, selling for more than twice the previous £5,500 record for a Ms Johnstone work, depicts the period when she and her mother owned a pair of houses in Islington during the 1950s.

 Gwyneth Johnstone's studio.Copy: Steve SnellingFor: EDP SundayEDP pics © 2007(01603) 772434

How Gwyneth Johnstone's studio in Coltishall used to look. The property has since been sold. - Credit: Archant library

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Also coming up in the sale at Cheffins in Cambridge later this month are a number of additional abstract landscapes by the artist which have estimates ranging from £200-£500 and an oil painting titled Mother and Daughter, guided at £400- £600. 

Gwyneth Johnstone painting

One of the paintings coming up for auction by Gwyneth Johnstone, called Trees with Moon. - Credit: Supplied

Ms Johnstone, born in Coltishall, died in 2010 at the age of 95 and is buried locally alongside her mother, with whom she had a particularly close relationship.

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It was said that when her mother, musician Nora Back, died, Ms Johnstone refused to let the funeral directors transport her coffin. Instead she strapped it onto the roof of her estate car and drove it herself from London to Norfolk.

Brett Tryner, director, Cheffins, said: “This is the final collection of pictures to come from Gwyneth Johnstone’s private studio and as such is completely fresh-to-the-market.

Johnstone’s work is growing in popularity as her energetic and romantic landscapes become synonymous with East Anglian post-war art. "It was from the 1980s onwards that she saw her most success with a series of solo exhibitions in both London and Norfolk.”

Gwyneth Johnstone painting

One of the paintings coming for sale at auction called Mother and Daughter. - Credit: Supplied

Norfolk's 'forgotten' artist

Gwyneth Johnstone was the illegitimate daughter of musician Nora Back and famous artist, Augustus John. But her mother gave her a random surname, taken from a tutor. The fact she was illegitimate would influence Ms Johnstone's life, as she was ridiculed for it in society. 

She was educated at St Felix in Southwold where she became inspired by the paintings of modernists of the era. From 1933 to 1938, she enrolled at the Slade School of Fine Art in London. She trained under Cubism artists in Paris but lived in Coltishall, where it is believed she resided in a converted barn in the grounds of a 17th century house, which was owned by her mother. She also travelled, having homes in the South of France, in Ramatuelle near St Tropez, and Spain.

painting by Gwyneth Johnstone

One of Gwyneth Johnstone's paintings coming up for auction called The Railway Bridge. - Credit: Supplied

Described as “a gentle, wayward poet of paint... unsullied by fashionable trends and pursuing a highly personal course', she called her paintings 'romantic modern landscapes.' They are said to convey an 'innocent happiness.' She never married but had a close companion in the professional pianist Francis Davies, whom she met in a nightclub in the late 1940s. He died in 2008. Ms Johnstone was working and exhibiting right up until she died. She is buried alongside her mother in a church nearby.

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