World Record Price for Graham Greene Photograph Fetched at Auction

A
world record price was achieved at a Bonhams auction on 3 October
2005 when a signed photograph of the novelist Graham Greene
(1904 – 1991) fetched an astonishing £20,400 – some ten
times its lower estimate of £2,000. It is the most expensive
signed photograph of Greene ever sold at auction. It sold as
part of the most extensive private collections of portraits
to come to the market in recent years.

The photograph, which was taken by one of the great masters
of 20th century photography, Yousuf Karsh (1908 – 2002), was
snapped up by an anonymous telephone bidder against fierce competition
from the room. Karsh was catapulted to international fame with
his portraits of Winston Churchill in the 1940s, and this portrait
of Greene, taken in 1964, was another of his most successful
images. This impression was given by Greene to his good friend,
the fashion journalist Gillian Sutro – a woman hailed by Nancy
Mitford as ‘one of the ten best dressed women in England.’ The
photograph bears an inscription reading "The Third Man
– for Gillian with love from Graham." Greene published
‘The Third Man’ in 1950, the year after the film starring Orson
Welles, for which he wrote the script, was released.

The sale, which totalled in excess of half a million pounds,
consisted entirely of a single-owner collection and was the
first ever sale entirely devoted to portraits at an international
auction house. Creative Encounters: Portraits of Writers, Artists
and Musicians contained almost 300 portraits compiled by the
noted manuscript expert and collector Roy Davids during the
last 30 years.

Also generating a great deal of excitement and interest was
a small pen and ink sketch of Ted Hughes by Sylvia Plath, given
by the former poet laureate to his close friend Roy Davids.
It is believed to be the only portrait drawn of him by her,
drawn at Cambridge in the early days of their marriage. It sold
in the room for £27,600 – almost £670 per square
inch.

The sale’s top lot, fetching £50,400, was a portrait
of T.S. Eliot by Sir Gerald Kelly, hailed as one of the most
important images of the leading poet of the 20th century in
existence. It was bought by ‘Enigma’ author Robert
Harris. A remarkable charcoal and chalk portrait of the eighteenth
century poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge by Charles Robert Leslie
also generated much interest, fetching £31,200.

For more details visit the Bonhams
web site.


Leave a Reply