The Collection of Brian Sewell, UK’s Most Controversial Art Critic, Goes Under the Hammer

Sewell worked at Christie’s London early in his career.

Brian Sewell in Christie’s warehouse, circa 1962. Courtesy Christie's London.
Brian Sewell in Christie’s warehouse, circa 1962. Courtesy Christie's London.

In September 2015, the UK lost its most famous and controversial critic, Brian Sewell. Art lovers and professionals mourned the loss of his acerbic prose and sharp tongue, which had outraged and delighted readers in equal measure for over 30 years.

Which is why the news that his art collection, assembled over many decades, would hit the auction block at Christie’s London on September 27 was met with great excitement and curiosity.

Brian Sewell’s much loved Old Master work by Matthias Stomer Blowing Hot, Blowing Cold (estimate £400,000 - £600,000). Courtesy Christie's London.

Brian Sewell’s much loved Old Master work by Matthias Stomer Blowing Hot, Blowing Cold (estimate £400,000 – £600,000). Courtesy Christie’s London.

The collection, whose sale is expected to hit a combined total of over £2 million (almost $3 million), will be divided into 200 lots, spanning Old Master paintings and drawings (Sewell’s greatest passion), as well as works of 19th and 20th century British art.

Crucially, with estimates ranging from under £1,000 to £600,000, the sale will appeal to serious collectors and less deep pocketed art lovers alike.

The auction­ has an air of resolution—or posthumous homecoming—as Sewell himself worked at Christie’s London right after graduating from the Courtauld Institute of Art and before becoming an established critic in his own right.

 A double-sided painting by Duncan Grant (estimate £20,000 - £30,000). Courtesy Christie's London.

A double-sided painting by Duncan Grant (estimate £20,000 – £30,000). Courtesy Christie’s London.

“Brian was a young man of 27 when he joined Christie’s. As his assistant, I got to admire him and to like him enormously. He evolved from a rather shy, cerebral art historian turned auction house expert into one of the most famous and widely read British art critics of our time,” Noël Annesley, Christie’s UK honorary chairman, said in a statement.

“Brian Sewell was, undoubtedly, one of Christie’s most colorful and learned former colleagues. What always motivated him was his love of great art and its power to move and inspire, combined with his characteristic and acerbic wit,” Orlando Rock, Christie’s UK chairman, added.

John Craxton, Portrait of Lucian Freud (1946) (estimate £50,000 – £80,000). Courtesy Christie's London.

John Craxton, Portrait of Lucian Freud (1946) (estimate £50,000 – £80,000). Courtesy Christie’s London.

Old Master highlights include Matthias Stomer’s Blowing Hot, Blowing Cold (estimate £400,000 – £600,000); a drawing by Andrea Sacchi (estimate £50,000-80,000); and Dido reclining, asleep by Daniele da Volterra (estimate £50,000-80,000).

Modern highlights include Portrait of Lucian Freud (1946) by John Craxton (estimate £50,000 – 80,000), and a double-sided painting by Duncan Grant (estimate £20,000- 30,000).


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