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Painting by leading British abstract artist John Hoyland bought for £12 due to make thousands at auction

An oil by a celebrated British abstract painter comes up for sale at Sworders in Stansted in April.

The painting by John Hoyland, titled 'Little Dancer' and signed and dated 1982, was bought by the keen-eyed buyer at an auction house in Hertfordshire for £12.

Now fully attributed, it is expected to fetch between £3,000 and £5,000 as part of a sale of Modern and Contemporary Art at Sworders Fine Art Auctioneers in Cambridge Road, Stansted, on Tuesday April 25.

Little Dancer by John Hoyland was bought at a Herts auction house for just £12 including fees (63301186)
Little Dancer by John Hoyland was bought at a Herts auction house for just £12 including fees (63301186)

The seller of the painter is an amateur artist who is drawn to abstract compositions. He spotted the unframed canvas, stacked behind a mirror, when viewing a local sale. It received no other bids so he managed to buy it for £10 plus £2 fees.

When he got home he began removing a thick layer of dust with a vacuum cleaner and the artist’s name appeared.

Following internet research that revealed Hoyland’s importance to the Modern British movement, the owner took the picture to Sworders, where it was shown to specialist Amy Scanlon.

She is confident that, although a relatively small-scale work, 'Little Dancer' will fetch enough to buy the lucky vendor a holiday and some new artist materials.

John Hoyland, born to a working-class family in Sheffield in October 1934, became one of the country's leading abstract painters.

Educated at Sheffield School of Art and Crafts straight after the Second World War, he progressed to Sheffield College of Art and then, in 1956, the Royal Academy Schools in London.

His works are held in many public and private collections, including the Tate and Damien Hirst's Murderme Collection. Retrospectives of his paintings have been held at the Serpentine Gallery, the Royal Academy and Tate St Ives.

In 1999, eight years after being elected to the Royal Academy (RA), Hoyland was appointed Professor of Painting at the RA Schools – 40 years after Sir Charles Wheeler, then president of the RA, ordered that Hoyland's paintings, all abstracts, be removed from the walls of the Diploma Galleries. Peter Greenham, acting keeper of the schools, saved the day when he reminded the president that Hoyland had painted admired landscapes and figurative paintings – evidence that he could "paint properly".

Hoyland disliked the 'abstract' artist label, describing himself simply as 'a painter'. When asked why he disliked it, he answered: "It's just too abstract a word. It smacks always of geometry to me, of rational thought. There's no geometry, there's no rectangles in nature, no real straight lines. There's only the circle, the one really powerful form in nature I keep getting drawn back to."

He died on July 31, 2011, aged 76.

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