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Monday, 21 July 2014

Newlyn School's finest - Walter Langley's Knitting up for sale

A Newlyn School painting which was the subject of an abortive grab by bailiffs two years ago, is to be sold at auction. ‘Knitting’, by Walter Langley is generally regarded as the finest work on paper by Walter Langley (1852-1922). 

Knitting by Walter Langley 1890

 “Not only is it a ‘must have’ for serious collectors but it is also a perfect example of his work,” said Barnes Thomas of Barnes Thomas County Auctioneers in Penzance. Langley is known for his ‘social realist’ scenes of struggling fishermen and women going about their daily lives of unrelenting hardship, and Knitting (1890) is a delicate and evocative watercolour, showing a young girl knitting while the sun sets over Mousehole harbour. 

A man from a working class background, Langley has been credited with being the earliest ‘pioneer’ of the Newlyn ‘colony’ of artists. By the end of the 19th century, Langley had become a major figure with international followers including the acclaimed Russian writer, philosopher and political thinker Leo Tolstoy. In 1895 the artist was invited by the Uffizi Gallery in Florence to donate a self-portrait to hang alongside those of Raphael, Rubens and Rembrandt. 

However Knitting has more recently been through a dramatic adventure. In August 2012, The Cornishman reported on how bailiffs tried to seize the painting from Penlee House Gallery and Museum where it was on loan. The police were then called when gallery staff refused to hand over the artwork until they were given permission to do so by the painting’s owners. It was later discovered that the bailiffs had the wrong information and the wrong paperwork. Knitting, which is to be offered for sale at Barnes Thomas on September 9, has a conservative presale estimate of £70-100,000 and there is already interest from American collectors and institutions. 

Two years ago another work by Langley made £120,000 at Sotheby’s in London. Mr Thomas believes that such a price still represents good value. “It was not too long ago that the artists of the Newlyn School were mentioned in the same breath as the leading lights of the Modern British art market, such as LS Lowry and Stanley Spencer,” he said. “Fashion has today has slightly shifted, which makes the work of Langley and other Newlyn artists, seem good value and all the more desirable by comparison.”  
For further information, contact Barnes Thomas County Auctioneers, 53 Chapel Street, Penzance, visit or call 01736 368203. 

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