Rare Fabric Folk Art Pictures Sold At Yorkshire Auction House

A very rare pair of English Folk Art pictures sold for £5,500 (plus buyer’s premium) in Tennants Auctioneers’ Costume, Accessories & Textiles Sale on 18th November. The fabric pictures were made by George Smart (1774-1846), a tailor in Frant, Sussex, today much celebrated for his wonderfully naïve fabric collage pictures.

Smart, who styled himself Cat Manufacturer, Artist in Cloth & Velvet Figures and Professor of Peculiar Art, used clippings and remnants from his tailoring business to create animals and scenes from his village, depicting local characters whom he would have seen daily from his shop window. Two of his most popular figures are those depicted in the present pair – Old Bright, The Postman, and The Goosewoman. Whilst little is known of Smart’s life today, his charming pictures were popular souvenirs for early 19th century tourists; he was often featured in early guidebooks of the area and even secured the Duke of Sussex as a patron.

After being forgotten for many years, his pictures are once again much celebrated and in demand. Indeed, 21 of his works were included in the 2014 Folk Art exhibition at Tate Britain, and a selection are on display in Tunbridge Wells Museum. Only around 70-80 works by Smart are now known to still exist.

Elsewhere in the sale, good prices were achieved for two German Automata, possibly made in circa 1900 by Zinner & Söhne. One depicting a bisque head doll feeding a cat milk from a bottle sold for £900, and a cat’s choir sold for £850, both well above estimate. A further mechanical example, this time a doll made circa 1880 the Parisian clock maker Jules Steiner, sold well at £850. Further notable results were seen for a decorative Band Sampler made by Martha Hayter in 1741 (sold for £750), and a Late 19th Century French Fabric Sample Book, (sold for £650).

Amongst a varied offering of antique and vintage costume in the sale, a Late 19th Century Black and Purple Striped Lady’s Outfit sold for £350, a circa 1920s French Drop Waist Dress sold for £380, a circa 1885 Kashmir Dolman Cape by Lewis & Allenby sold for £400, and a circa 1860s cotton Cage Crinoline by Thompson’s sold for £600. Mid century and later dresses were much in demand, too, with a collection of 10 circa 1950s printed cotton day dresses selling for £300 and a group of seven circa 1960s and 1970s lady’s dresses sold for £320.

The sale achieved a total hammer price of £47,480 with a 93% sold rate for 267 lots.