September 24, 2009 / 1:56 PM / 8 years ago

Richard Attenborough sells part of art collection

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Film director Richard Attenborough is auctioning part of his collection of British paintings, including one he sold to help finance Oscar-winning movie "Gandhi" and which he bought back years later.

The 51 lots, representing a cross section of British art from the middle decades of the 20th century, are expected to fetch more than 2 million pounds ($3.2 million) at the November 11 London auction, Sotheby's said at a press preview on Thursday.

"Lord and Lady Attenborough have been collecting for over 60 years, and started out just after the war," said James Rawlin, head of 20th century British art at Sotheby's.

"They were avid collectors and very enthusiastic collectors and, as with every enthusiastic collector, they ended up with more stuff than they had space for," he told Reuters.

In an introduction to the catalog, Attenborough added: "In all truth ... art belongs to no one, some of us are simply its temporary, fortunate and delighted custodians. Now these beautiful images will ravish the senses of their new owners."

In terms of value, "Old Houses" by L.S. Lowry is expected to be the top lot on the night, with a pre-sale estimate of 300-500,000 pounds for the urban realist's 1948 work.

LEGACIES COME AND GO

Another highlight is Graham Sutherland's "Thorn Head" from 1947, which Sotheby's said was arguably the finest work by the artist to come to market since the same painting was sold by the same auctioneer in 1984.

Rawlin said the work dated from a time when Sutherland had a close working relationship with Francis Bacon, a contemporary who has gone on to become a "demi-god" of the art world whose pictures can command tens of millions of dollars.

But in the 1940s Sutherland's reputation was ahead of that of Bacon, underlining how artists' legacies can change. Thorn Head, which relates to the Crucifixion, is expected to fetch 150-250,000 pounds.

Christopher Wood's "Card Players" was originally sold by Attenborough to raise finances for his 1982 Indian epic Gandhi, which went on to win eight Oscars including best director and best film.

"I desperately needed to raise money -- in fact for my long cherished film of 'Gandhi'," said Attenborough, who is 86. "So I sold my beloved 'Card Players' by Christopher Wood, inspired by Cezanne and one of the first paintings I ever bought.

"As soon as it became available again and I could afford it, I bought it back!"

The hammer prize at the 1985 auction was 8,000 pounds and its estimate stands at 30-50,000.

Among other highlights is a series of prints by Christopher Nevinson which portray the life of soldiers fighting on the frontline during World War One.

"The Road from Arras to Bapaume," completed in 1918 and the result of Nevison's later visits to the Western Front in 1917 as official war artist, depicts a long, straight road passing through a charred and blasted empty landscape.

Editing by Paul Casciato

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