Bookies’ equestrian paintings fetch £14 million at auction

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The pre-auction estimate for The Vagabonds, by Sir Alfred Munnings, was between £700,000 and £1 million; it sold for £1,942,500.
The pre-auction estimate for The Vagabonds, by Sir Alfred Munnings, was between £700,000 and £1 million; it sold for £1,942,500. © Christie’s

A collection of equestrian and sporting art owned by late bookmaker Barney Eastwood has fetched more than £14 million ($US19m; $NZ27m) at an auction at Christie’s in London.

Three works by Sir Alfred Munnings fetched more than £1 million in “The B.J. Eastwood Collection: Important Sporting and Irish Pictures”.

The 28 works sold also featured artists such as Jack Butler Yeats, John Frederick Herring Sen, Walter Frederick Osborne, Sir William Orpen, Roderic O’Conor, Paul Henry, Sir John Lavery, and Gerard Dillon.

Topping the sale, at double its pre-auction estimate, is Munnings’ The Vagabonds, which sold for £1,942,500. It was the most extensively planned of his early compositions; the 1.28m x 2.04m oil work was completed in 1902. Munnings had sold it for £30.

Barney Eastwood, known to his friends and family as ‘BJ’, was born in Northern Ireland in 1932, and his dedication to sport began at an early age. Eastwood was a talented Gaelic football player and was a member of the Co. Tyrone team that won the All Ireland Minor Championship in 1948. He later became a boxing promoter in Ireland and managed five world champion boxers, including Barry McGuigan.

Both horse and greyhound racing were also significant sporting passions throughout his lifetime, and together with his great friend and erstwhile business partner Alfie McLean, he had many successful runners over the years.

B.J. Eastwood started his collection in the mid-1970s, at a time when he was particularly drawn to collection and house sales. However, it was his abiding love of sport and his eye for quality and detail which translated into a fascination specifically with sporting and Irish artists.

The Coming Storm, by Sir Alfred Munnings, sold for £1,198,500.
The Coming Storm, by Sir Alfred Munnings, sold for £1,198,500.  It had been estimated to sell between £600,000 and £800,000. © Christie’s

He followed the great sales of the 1970s and 1980s, and over time built an outstanding collection of the genres’ greatest examples. Often seeking advice from leading experts, he personally curated a remarkable series of pictures while building a considerable level of expertise on the artists and works himself.

Eastwood sold his chain of 54 betting shops to Ladbrokes in 2008 for £135 million.

He died in Ulster Hospital, Dundonald, on the outskirts of Belfast on March 9, 2020, aged 87, after a short illness.

John J. Moubray, Master of Foxhounds, dismounted with his wife and two mounted figures with the Bedale hounds in a landscape
John J. Moubray, Master of Foxhounds, dismounted with his wife and two mounted figures with the Bedale hounds in a landscape, by Sir Alfred Munnings, sold for £1,198,500. © Christie’s

» Full sale results

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