Artist J C Harrison's paintings set to be auctioned at Bonhams
For many years, this beautiful collection of paintings represented the mutual admiration of two friends who shared an artistic eye for the natural world.
Because both collector and creator were among Norfolk’s very best at capturing the essence of wildlife – although one used a camera and the other, a paintbrush.
Now this hoard of more than 100 paintings by J C Harrison, collected by his good friend Terry Andrewartha, is expected to fetch up to £300,000 when it is auctioned in London.
The sale at Bonhams on January 25 has been initiated by the family of the late Mr Andrewartha, a cameraman who worked on Anglia TV’s pioneering natural history series Survival for 20 years.
He met the acclaimed ornithological artist in the 1970s. They both lived and worked in Norfolk and remained friends until the artist’s death in 1985.
J C Harrison was particularly renowned for his depictions of birds in flight, and the auction lots range from his sketchbooks, with estimates of £400-£600, to some of his finest works.
Among the highlights are a painting called Grouse in Snowy Landscape, which is valued at between £8,000 and £12,000.
Although the artist’s work has appeared at auctions before, the size of the collection amassed by Mr Andrewartha makes January’s auction unprecedented.
Helena Walker, of Bonhams’ 19th-century paintings department, said the sale had already generated plenty of interest, with much of it coming from J C Harrison’s Norfolk homeland.
“We have not seen a collection of this size come onto the market, so it is untested. We have just started to publicise it and the response has been really strong, especially from the Norfolk area from people who knew Mr Andrewartha and his pedigree as a wildlife photographer.
“J C Harrison was predominantly known as a bird painter. This collection has such a broad spectrum of avian breeds, with everything from eagles to ptarmigans.
“There is a particularly beautiful one of grouse in a snowy landscape. That one is superb and there is a really beautiful snowy owl as well. The fineness of the detail and the technical ability is second to none.”
John Cyril Harrison, born in 1898, was a keen supporter of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and practised taxidermy in order to improve his knowledge of bird anatomy.
The collection includes watercolours of golden eagles, snipe, herons, curlews, grouse, swans, geese, owls, partridges and golden plovers.
He was one of the most popular artists at the major sporting galleries including the Tryon Gallery, whose founder Aylmer Tryon suggested his paintings of birds in flight surpassed even those of Archibald Thorburn, the widely-reproduced artist with whom J C Harrison studied.
For more information, see www.bonhams.com/19thcentury.