David Fergus, art valuer at Richard Winterton Auctioneers, with some of Graham Benton’s work.

The Walsall artist whose St Ives paintings captured the essence of Cornwall

HUNDREDS of works by a Walsall artist who devoted much of his life to painting the Cornish coast are coming up for auction.

Graham Benton RBSA died last year aged 88.

The contents of his studio go under the hammer in Richard Winterton Auctioneers’ Fine Art Sale on Wednesday, February 15, starting at 9.30am at The Lichfield Auction Centre.

The collection is mostly abstract paintings, many unmistakably inspired by the seascapes of Cornwall – a quintessential subject for Benton, despite his landlocked background.

'Kernow', an abstract composition by Graham Benton dated 2010 depicting a Cornish seascape, mixed media on canvas.
‘Kernow’, an abstract composition by Graham Benton dated 2010 depicting a Cornish seascape, mixed media on canvas.

There are also sketchbooks with figurative works, pen, watercolour and pencil sketches and mixed media on paper and card.

The number of individual pieces of art tally at around 300.

Born in Birmingham, Benton studied painting at Walsall School of Art, Wolverhampton Collage of Art and St Peter’s Loft, St Ives.

An untitled abstract work by Graham Benton, oil on board, dated 1999.
An untitled abstract work by Graham Benton, oil on board, dated 1999.

The artist is quoted as saying: “The movement of the sea against rock and shore has often been the backbone of the free brushwork in my paintings.”

It was as a Walsall student in 1956 that he first travelled to St Ives – the start of a lifelong love of the landscapes, sea and the artistic communities which have been drawn to Cornwall for 200 years.

David Fergus, art valuer at Richard Winterton Auctioneers, said: “Benton was well-known within the St Ives art community and exhibited at local galleries.

From the studio of Graham Benton, four sketch pads and loose sketches.
From the studio of Graham Benton, four sketch pads and loose sketches.

“A member of Walsall Society of Artists, he also rubbed shoulders with some major British artists including Sir Terry Frost, Albert Irvin and John Hoyland.

“Travelling from Walsall to St Ives several times a year throughout his life, it was the dramatic Cornish landscapes which provided the genesis for Benton’s work.

“Starting with paintings and drawings made in St Ives, Benton would return to Walsall where his work would distil into something more abstract – although unmistakably influenced by the landscape of West Penrith.”

David Fergus, art valuer at Richard Winterton Auctioneers, with some of Graham Benton’s work.
David Fergus, art valuer at Richard Winterton Auctioneers, with some of Graham Benton’s work.

Richard Winterton Auctioneers’ Fine Art Sale takes place on Wednesday, February 15, at The Lichfield Auction Centre, Fradley Park, WS13 8NF.

The sale starts at 9.30am and the digital catalogue can be viewed online now at www.richardwinterton.co.uk/auction-dates.

For viewing or valuation enquiries, telephone 01543 251081 or email office@richardwinterton.co.uk.

The same sale features nine signed drawings by Royal fashion designer Norman Hartnell discovered in the Barton area, including concepts for dresses for Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother, an archive of personal correspondence from poet and novelist Philip Larkin to his cousin in Lichfield, and a cup and saucer discovered in Sutton Coldfield which are expected to sail to a Titanic price.

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