AN oil painting by a Sunderland artist who once had a book dedicated to him by Charles Dickens is set to fetch between £10,000 and £15,000 at auction.
The 28ins by 48in picture – Prison Hulks Lying In The Estuary In A Stiff Breeze – was painted by Clarkson Stanfield in 1836 and will go under the hammer at Christie’s South Kensington in London next Wednesday.
Charles Dickens was so fond of Stanfield that he dedicated his 1857 novel Little Dorrit to him.
In a letter from Italy on August 24, 1844, Dickens wrote: “My dear Stanfield, I love you so truly and have such pride and joy of heart in your friendship that I don’t know how to begin writing to you.”
When Stanfield died on May 18, 1867, Dickens described him as “the soul of frankness, generosity and simplicity. The most genial, the most affectionate and the most lovable of men.”
In her 2011 book Charles Dickens, A Life, author Claire Tomalin said: “Dickens always felt comfortable with artists – none of them was rich, most had struggled to educate themselves and all of them worked hard.
“Stanfield had started life as a child actor, been apprenticed to a coach painter, pressed in to the Navy and sailed halfway around the world before he got to work as a London scene painter and at last found his metier as a marine artist.”
When he was younger, Stanfield briefly worked on a South Shields collier. His importance as an artist was officially confirmed on February 10, 1835 – the year before he painted the picture now coming up for sale at Christie’s- when he became the first Sunderland-born artist to be elected to the prestigious Royal Academy in London, which entitled him to place the letters “RA” after his name.
Since the Academy was founded in 1768, there have been only about six hundred Royal Academicians. Other RAs have included Turner, Constable, Gainsborough and Reynolds.
Prison hulks were decommissioned ships used as floating prisons in the 18th and 19th centuries, often holding convicts before their transportation to Australia.
The current world auction record for a Clarkson Stanfield work is £35,850, for his oil painting Castle Cornet, Guernsey.