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LONDON (Reuters) - British paintings from the collection of film director Richard Attenborough fetched 4.6 million pounds ($7.7 million) at an auction on Wednesday, well in excess of pre-sale estimates of 1.9-2.9 million pounds.
The 50 paintings, including one Attenborough sold to help finance his Oscar-winning movie "Gandhi" and which he bought back years later, formed part of his collection of British art from the middle decades of the 20th century.
Top lot on the night at Sotheby's in London was L.S. Lowry's "Old Houses" which raised around 881,000 pounds. The result was around double expectations, although the auction prices included buyer's premium whereas estimates did not.
Another highlight was 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.
It sold for 481,000 pounds, a new auction record for the artist. Other artist records included Keith Vaughan's "Theseus and The Minotaur (Interior at Minos)" (313,000 pounds) and Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson's "The Battlefields of Britain" (217,000 pounds).
"Since it was always our intention that we would only be temporary custodians of the collection, the enthusiasm for our collection is also a reassuring indication of the great appreciation that will continue to be shown for these artists and their works," said Attenborough and his wife Sheila Sim.
"We now wish the new owners as much enjoyment whilst they are caretakers of these tremendous works as we experienced ourselves," they added in a statement.
Also beating estimates, on a night where every lot sold, was Christopher Wood's "The Card Players," which raised 121,000 pounds versus expectations of 30-50,000 pounds.
The painting 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.