Major work by leading 20th century artist goes to auction in North Yorkshire

Dame Elizabeth Blackadder, who died on August 23 just a month short of her 90th birthday, was one of Scotland’s most loved artists, best known for delicate, beautifully observed flower paintings and her place as the first woman to be elected to both the Royal Academy and the Royal Scottish Academy.

Tuesday, 28th September 2021, 11:22 am

Now, an important work by the artist is coming up for auction in the Modern and Contemporary Art Sale at Tennants Auctioneers, North Yorkshire, on October 9.

‘Flower Studies’ (estimate: £18,000-25,000 plus buyer’s premium) was commissioned in 2012 by the then First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond to be reproduced on his charity Christmas card to mark the Year of Natural Scotland in 2013. The painting was unveiled by the first minister at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh, and was subsequently sold at auction to raise money for Breakthrough Breast Cancer, Dyslexia Scotland, the Scottish Steelworkers Memorial Fund, and the Sick Kids Friends Foundation.

Born in Falkirk in 1931, Blackadder developed a deep love of flowers from childhood, collecting specimens which she would catalogue and label meticulously with their Latin names. Flowers remained a central theme throughout Blackadder’s life, from her childhood collecting to a lifetime as an avid gardener.

Her flower paintings, such as the present example, go over and above the traditional composition of flowers arranged in a jug or vase. She carefully arranged her flowers as individual specimens against a flat white background, at once lending an air of modernity and bringing her subjects to the fore and harking back to botanical specimen illustrations of an earlier era.

Blackadder herself once remarked that “The space between flowers is as important as the flowers themselves”. She continually returned to her favourite species – tulips, irises, poppies, lilies, orchids, and anemones, painting each once with a combination of scientific observation and a delicate lyricism reflecting her deep knowledge and love of her subject. Elizabeth Blackadder was awarded the OBE in 1982, the DBE in 2003, and in 2001 was appointed Her Majesty’s Painter and Limner in Scotland.

Northern Art will also be on offer at the October 9 sale. Northern art continues to be in demand at auction, with the profile of Northern artists rising across the country.

Highlights of the works on offer include ‘Come Back’ by Liverpool-born Brian ‘Braaq’ Shields. He acquired this nickname (a corruption of Georges Braque - the French Cubist painter) at school because of his artistic talents. Known for his paintings of industrial scenes in Northern Britain, Braaq is one of the most successful of the artists inspired by L.S. Lowry and his matchstick men. ‘Come Back’ depicts a cricket match against an industrial townscape, and it is being offered with and estimate of £12,000-18,000 plus buyer’s premium.

Further works by the artist are also on offer in the same auction.

Also up for sale is Norman Cornish’s ‘Street with Horse and Cart’ (estimate: £5,000-8,000). Characteristic of the mining artist’s work, the painting depicts one of Cornish’s most favoured Spennymoor views – looking up Edward Street to St Paul’s Church, with its distinctive bronze topped tower. The painting is sold with provenance from University Gallery at the University of Northumbria.

Two paintings by Pennine artist Peter Brook are also coming up – ‘Winter Monday’ (estimate: £4,000-6,000) and ‘Pennine Afternoon’ (estimate: £2,000-3,000). Other Northern artists represented in the sale include the likes of Harold Riley, Alexander Millar, Mackenzie Thorpe, Arthur Delaney and Steven Scholes as well as a collection of works by South Yorkshire mining artist Eric Hill.

The paintings will be on public view from October 7, and the online catalogue is available at