Devon man nets �48,000 in Canadian art sale

Lucky find at Devon auction scoops shy owner thousands at Toronto sale

A MYSTERY Devon man is nearly �50,000 better off this week after selling a painting of totem poles he bought at a regional auction.

The man, who is understood to live on the edge of East Devon, bought the picture, by English-born Canadian artist Walter J Phillips, for a few pounds for the frame.

Now the watercolour has returned to its roots after being sold for $78,000 Canadian dollars in Toronto on Monday night at Bonhams’ Canadian art sale.

Bonhams said the owner had carried out some research on the watercolour artist and thought it might be more interesting than he had first realised.

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He refused to tell them which auction rooms he purchased the picture from, said Charles Lanning, Bonhams’ regional director in Exeter, who said he understood the picture was among a box of items bought at the Devon auction rooms - understood not to be in Sidmouth.

Mr Lanning first saw the picture, entitled The Hoh-Hok Houseposts at Karlukwees, three months ago.

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He said: “It looked interesting because it was of totem poles and you don’t get many North American totem poles.”

He spoke with Bonhams’ London department and American colleagues and it was returned to Canada to be sold.

“It made more money in Canada because that is where the collectors are,” said Mr Lanning, who added: “The client is delighted with the result, especially as he only paid a few pounds for something priced to sell for its frame. He never did get the frame!”

* Writing in Wet Paint, his unpublished manuscript on watercolour technique, Phillips was taken with the village Karlukwees: “...never have I seen a more delectable sketching ground....I regretted leaving the coast, and I long to return.”

Painted in the late 1920’s, while travelling on the Pacific Coast, this watercolour would be translated into the second wood engraving in his 1930 portfolio, An Essay in Woodcuts.

The picture was used on the front cover of the Bonhams catalogue for the Canadian Art Sale.

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