DYLAN THOMAS CELEBRATED IN ROGERS JONES CO
Boathouse garden gate and last portrait in sale on September 6
To the uninitiated, it’s an old rusty iron gate. When a young actor Michael Sheen and his friends Charley and John Uzzell Edwards spotted it on the beach below the iconic Laugharne Boathouse where Dylan Thomas spent the last four years of his tragically short life, they knew it was special.
Said Charley: “My dad had a photo of Dylan Thomas standing in front of the gate outside the Boathouse, so we knew it was the actual one.”
After wrestling it out of the mud, the gate became a feature of the Uzell Edwards’ Carmarthenshire garden. Now it is one of the more unusual lots in a sale at Rogers Jones Co, South Wales’s leading auctioneer of fine art and antiques. It is estimated at £400-800.
The sale on Saturday September 6 is one of a series of international events to mark the centenary of Dylan Thomas’s birth. The Swansea-born poet died in New York in 1953, aged just 39.
Mr Uzell Edwards said he and his late father and Michael Sheen (pictured) were walking along the top of the hillside “on a jolly boys’ day. We were looking down and saw the gate a fling’s distance away from the Boathouse.
“We weren’t really dressed for it and Michael and I got pretty muddy salvaging it. I can only assume that when it was replaced sometime, the old one was simply discarded on the beach. We got it home in the car, cleaned it up and put it in the garden with a mirror behind it.
"It would be nice if it went to a collector who would appreciate its history – in my dreams an American will see it and think it’s just the thing he needs,” he said.
Now the gate is mounted on a board for display as an artwork. Mr Uzzell Ewdards is the owner of the Pure Evil Gallery of graffiti art in London’s Shoreditch. His late artist father John, who died in April, was one of Wales’s leading contemporary artists.
In May, Michael Sheen starred in a new BBC Wales TV adaptation of Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood.
Importantly, the Dylan Thomas Centenary Auction also features a bust said to be the only one sculpted when Dylan Thomas was alive and also the last oil portrait of the poet painted from life.
The former is a cold-cast resin sculpture by Hugh Oloff de Wet (1912-1975). A member of Dylan Thomas`s social circle, de Wet made a small number of busts of the poet, a bronze example of which was selected to decorate the Royal Festival People`s Palace in 1950s.
The vendor of the present example took it to a BBC Antiques Roadshow in 2005 and it was subsequently featured as an item of major interest in Vintage Antique Roadshow, screened last year. Art expert Philip Mould described the piece as “...the most significant bust of Dylan Thomas ever produced”. It is estimated at £3,000-5,000.
The portrait, an oil on board by Gordon Stuart (born Canada, 1924) is being sold by the artist himself. Stuart stayed with Dylan Thomas and Caitlin at the Laugharne Boathouse in September 1953, a few weeks before the poet left for his final fateful tour of America.
Stuart painted four portraits during the time Dylan Thomas sat for him, two of which were purchased by universities in the USA. The third is in the National Portrait Gallery.
The fourth, a more complete work and arguably his most important painting, was retained by the artist and has remained in his Swansea home until now. Academics believe that the four works are the last official portraits of the poet and with the others from the sitting now in public collections, this auction is the only opportunity to acquire the fourth. It is estimated at £30,000-40,000.
Another highlight is an exceptionally rare and desirable manuscript final draft on card of Dylan Thomas`s last completed poem, “Author`s Prologue” written for Collected Poems, 1934-1952.
The autographed rendition of this remarkable poem was given to the American poet Archibald MacLeish, probably in 1951 during Thomas’s first American trip.
The work is an acrostic poem in which Thomas chose to rhyme the first line with the very last line, the second with the second to last and so on, continuing inward to a middle couplet. Written in the poet`s best handwriting in black ink, the poem is on stiff card. Throughout his life he often used shirt packaging and shoe boxes for the purpose. It is estimated at £8,000-12,000.
The Dylan Thomas Centenary Auction comprises some 60 lots, which will be sold immediately following the auctioneers’ Welsh Sale comprising almost 300 lots of Welsh art and artists.
Viewing for both sales is on Friday September 5 from 1 to 8pm and on the morning of the sale from 9 to 10.30. The sale starts at 11am. For further information, please contact the auctioneer, telephone 02920 708125 firstname.lastname@example.org.