The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

April 29, 2017

April 29, 1931

Valerie Beston was a friend of the artist Frank Auerbach.  Auerbach, whose birthday was 
April 29, (1931), at one point did a cat sketch for her. 

In February 2006 Christie's sold the major works from Miss Beston's collection in a single-owner auction, which saw exceptional prices for works by Frank Auerbach and Francis Bacon. Arising from her collection, the works offered in this sale show not only Miss Beston’s artistic taste but many drawings or paintings presented here speak of her personal relationships with these artists. Auerbach’s charming sketch of cats, given as a gesture of thanks to Miss Beston, is one such souvenir of a close friendship.

When her estate came up for auction we learned the sketch was inscribed

'To V.B/with/love/from Frank'  and "Sold with the copy of a poster for the Tate Gallery's 1984 exhibition The Hard-Won Image, which features the present work."

The Pre-Lot Text sketches a lovely provenance:

Miss Valerie Beston dedicated her life to art in a range of ways. She helped to develop Marlborough Fine Art almost from its inception and supported many of the most prominent British artists of the twentieth century through her role as Director of the gallery, as well as being a private collector herself. She became an indispensable figure within the gallery, one that clients, artists and academics could rely on for absolute discretion, loyalty and support. It was her professionalism and strong but private character that secured the trust of many members of the art world, most notably Francis Bacon.

This sketch is Auerbach's gift to Beston.

The same source explains who Harriet Beston was:

By 1958, when Marlborough started representing Francis Bacon, Miss Beston had been in place there for just over a decade, having started as a typist in her twenties. Despite forming close working friendships with many prominent artists including Frank Auerbach, Lucian Freud, Henry Moore, Graham Sutherland and Ben Nicholson, who in turn for her support made her gifts of their works, her very particular relationship with Bacon was to be unique. It was her active role in this artist’s life that secured her status within international art circles, as without her approval any form of correspondences or working arrangements with Bacon would prove impossible. She was not merely his representative, but one of the key figures in organising almost all of the aspects of his life – from setting up his appointments and dealing with his bills to solving any of his day-to-day problems including lost keys or misplaced prescriptions. Though in many ways an introvert who tended to avoid large social occasions, Miss Beston made an exception for Bacon and avidly supported the artist at his events. Her office at Marlborough was a window into her interests as the vast amount of literature available within the room’s walls gave an insight into the breadth of artists she was most fascinated by. The rumours that she had been working on the ultimate catalogue raisonné of Bacon’s paintings for years could explain the sheer multitude of books on the artist around her desk.

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