Collection of TS Eliot’s late wife fetches over £7 million

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Artwork collected by poet T.S. Eliot’s widow fetched more than £7 million in an auction at Christie’s, London on November 20.

The collection was borne from one of the greatest love affairs in literary history; that of T.S. Eliot (1888–1965), who is among the most important figures in 20th century literature, and his second wife Valerie Eliot (1926–2012).

Containing outstanding examples of Portrait Miniatures, Early British Drawings, Modern British Art, Victorian & British Impressionist Art, Modern Prints, Jewellery and English Furniture, the collection was largely amassed with proceeds from the musical Cats, which was based on  Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.

Orlando Rock, deputy chairman, Christie’s Europe, said: “Valerie’s devotion to her husband helped her form a particularly enlightened collection of British art which she knew he would have applauded and cherished.

“Compiled over 20 years, the collection encapsulates the history of British art from Hilliard to Freud via Gainsborough, Spencer, Moore and Bacon; and includes quintessentially English sea  and landscapes by Constable, Turner, Atkinson Grimshaw and Lowry.”

Among the items sold was a landscape by John Constable, Helmingham Dell, Suffolk, which fetched £662,500 — a record for the artist at auction.