When Edward Seago’s Impressionist style paintings went on sale at Colnaghi, Old Bond St, in the mid 1940s, they were rationed to one per person. The Impressionist style depictions of Norfolk, Suffolk, London, France and Italy struck a chord with art collectors across Britain and his subsequent exhibitions were always a sell-out. Queues of collectors would form down Old Bond St, determined to secure a Seago before they became too expensive.
At the time Seago’s sold for 25 to 30 guineas ? now they sell for up to £90,000. But those who invested in the late 1940s and 1950s, when Seago’s relationship with Colnaghi first began, never regretted it. In fact, one 19-year old student, who invested his carefully saved £500 on two Seagos was able to pay for three years worth of public school fees in later life. ‘Seago’s paintings are certainly a recommended investment,’ says Jeremy Tayor of the Taylor Gallery.
Although there will be no queues down Bond St or rationing of pictures this year, a new exhibition of Seago’s work is still likely to sell-out. ‘The art market is bubbling at the moment,’ said Mr Taylor, ‘people are investing up to 10% of the earnings in art.’ The Tayor Gallery, which mainly specialises in works by Seago, is holding a selling exhibition back at Colnaghi ? where Seago’s canvases first sold more than 50 years ago. ‘The present exhibition can be seen as a continuation of this tradition, while at the same time offering a new generation of art lovers the opportunity of admitting Seago’s atmospheric Impressionist style,’ said Konrad Bernheimer of Colnaghi.
The 50 watercolour and oil paintings map the course of Seago’s interesting life ? in particular his fascination with skyscapes, the result of a childhood spent bedridden in his parents’ Norfolk home with acute heart problems. Seago taught himself how to paint although evidence of Constable, Cotman and Munnings can be seen in his early works.
In his early twenties, when he was up and walking, a love of horses led him to the circus. He spent several years with different circuses and ‘The Wild Beast Show’ (now in the Bristol City Art Gallery) and ‘Saddling the Grey’ (included in the current exhibition) illustrate this period of his life.
When he showed his work to Tom Baskett of Colnaghi and Co in 1946, he was fresh from acting as an unofficial war artist in Italy. Baskett was impressed by his work and two ensuing exhibitions ‘With the Allied Armies in Italy,’ and ‘Exhibition of Norfolk and Italian paintings’ proved an instant sell-out. ‘For the next 20 years Colnaghi’s annual shows of Seago’s pictures were almost infamous due to their popularity,’ said Mr Taylor.
A commission for several paintings from Swires chairman John Kidstone Swire took Seago to Hong Kong in 1962. The arrangement was that Swires would pay his costs but would keep the resulting eight oils and watercolours that were produced over the three months. On his return to England Seago used his sketchbook and virtually photographic memory to recreate a number of scenes from Hong Kong ? a selection of which are in the current exhibition.
Seago died in 1974 but the freshness of colour and lucidity of brushstrokes found in his repertoire ensures his paintings remain hugely popular ? and their price tags continue to rise. ‘Throughout his life he continued to pursue his objective of reproducing the ‘atmosphere and light’ that he saw all around him,’ says Mr Taylor. ‘The paintings that we have gathered for this exhibition are proof that he did indeed achieve his ambition.’
‘Atmosphere and Light’, an exhibition of works by Edward Seago (1910 – 1974) organised by the Taylor Gallery is being held at Colnaghi, Old Bond St until Saturday October 7 2006. For more information please telephone +44 (0) 207 4917408.