Noël Coward’s Art Collection and Paintings Hit the Block at Christie’s

A canvas by Noël Coward

Christie’s London will sell a trove of artworks from the collection of beloved playwright Noël Coward this spring. The master of “cheek and chic, pose and poise,” as Time magazine described him, the London native is best known as a playwright (having authored over 50 plays), a songwriter, and an actor.

What you may not know about Coward is that he painted in watercolor and oil, and presented his canvases to friends as opening-night gifts and birthday presents, according to the auction house, as well as hung them in his homes. Some of the artworks included were presents to him from actors Elizabeth Taylor and David Niven.

Coward’s collection of 75 objects—including 18 of his portraits and landscapes painted near his Jamaican home— will be in the March 19 sale of modern British and Irish art. Among the other artwork in the collection are works by British artists Christopher Wood, John Nash, Edward Seago, and Derek Hill. The top-priced lot is Christopher Wood’s Fishing Village, Cornwall, which is estimated to fetch up to $150,000. Seago’s landscape Towards Westminster is expected to sell for up to $38,000, and Oliver Messel’s Portrait of Adrianne Allen is priced to bring in only $4,500, at the high end.

Among his best known works, Coward’s comedy Blithe Spirit was adapted for the big screen in 1945; the film stars Rex Harrison, Constance Cummings, and Kay Hammond, and depicts a widower whose first wife haunts the home he keeps with his new wife. His 1930 comedy of manners Private Lives is often revived for the stage, and centers on a divorced couple, each of whom has remarried, only to find on their honeymoons that they are staying next door to each other. It too was adapted into a film in 1931.

Coward was also an occasional art critic, having supposedly once observed that the “Mona Lisa looks as if she has just been sick, or is about to be.”

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