The 15in x 12in (37 x 32cm) oil on board was part of the near sell-out 63-lot collection of items from the homes of MJ Long (1939-2018) and Colin ‘Sandy’ St John Wilson (1922-2007), the husband and wife team who designed the British Library.
The couple gave the cream of their collection of Mod Brit art to the Pallant House Gallery in Chichester in the 1990s.
Offered together with another unidentified Abstract work on January 28, the portrait sold for £3000 on thesaleroom.com, 10 times the top guide.
“In the end it came to two private buyers getting very excited [about a possible big-name attribution] as well as wanting a bit of the estate. It was also an appealing face – very strong, engaging and direct,” said John Black, director of 20th century decorative art and design at Sworders. He added that several artists were suggested including Keith Vaughan and David Carr but that it seemed more likely to have been the work of MJ Long’s husband.
St John Wilson appears to have imitated the styles of famous painters with pictures attributed to him in the sale after artists such as of Picasso and Miró.
The collection included work by two artists that contributed to the largest 20th century public building in Britain: Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005), whose 12ft bronze Newton After Blake sits in the piazza outside the British Library, and RB Kitaj (1932-2007), whose massive tapestry hangs in its entrance hall.
In the Sworders sale sold for £2800 (estimate £300- 500) was Paolozzi’s Study of a Figure, 1960, mixed media and collage, 14½x 10in (37 x 25cm).