Norris works sold off for charity

A SALE of paintings by the late St Albans artist Alan Norris has proved a huge success, with 300 works being snapped up in almost two hours flat.

The beautifully vivid works by the former HVAF member Alan Norris attracted 28,000 web page views and queues around the block before the sale.

Prices ranged from £50 to £200, and more than £14,000 was raised, which has gone to four charities.

Steve Rogers, who helped organise the sale of works, writes about Alan Norris and the day of the sale.

Alan Norris trained at St Albans Art College and did his Art Teachers Training Certificate at Bournemouth. He taught art all his life and ended his career as head of Art and Design at Oaklands College.

When he died last year he left a large house in Manor Road, St Albans full of his work. Some had been created to be sold at his 2009 Open Studios exhibition, others represented a lifetime of making art including many personal favourites.

I was approached via his executors to sell all his work for charity. Four of us took up the challenge which had to be completed in less than a month as his house was in the process of being sold.

When artists die their work is often destroyed with them. We were aware of another St Albans artist whose work had gone into a skip on his death. There are more illustrious examples: on his death in Tahiti much of Gauguin’s work was either destroyed or sold to tourists. We knew that if we did not find good homes for the work it would go for house clearance. Our objectives were twofold: to find new homes for the work and to raise money for Alan’s charities.

I had photographed everything as part of making an archive of his work. We set up a website with all the works in the house in separate galleries such as “Abbey paintings”, “Verulamium Park paintings”. We set prices in £50 bands up to £200 according to what we thought of their saleability. We knew that the prices we were setting were very low compared to his previous price levels but we did not want any paintings left.

The weekend before the sale we had an article in the Herts Advertiser entitled “Artist’s legacy is put up for charity sale” which included the web address. By the following Monday we had 600 visitors and 7,000 page views. The Advertiser followed up with “High hopes in sale of artist’s legacy” in the edition just before the sale. We paid for two ads (in the Herts Advertiser) in successive weeks. We also told all the local art societies by email who, I know, helped to spread the word.

By the Friday night before the sale we had more than 2200 visitors to the website and over 28000 page views.

People started queuing outside Alan’s house about an hour before the sale. By 10.00am it extended a long way down Manor Road. When we let people in an extraordinary 'feeding frenzy' began. By midday almost everything had been stripped from the walls. Two of us took cheques and cash non stop until12.30pm by which time there was almost nothing left to sell.

We sold over fifteen thousand pounds worth of paintings and other works and made more than £14,500 for Alan’s four charities which were Macmillan Cancer Care, The RSPB, The National Trust and English Heritage. Even sales of tea and coffee made £66 which we gave to Grove House.

We kept a few paintings back as a donation to the newly refurbished Jubilee Centre. Had we not done so they would have been sold like everything else.

What surprised me was that the most expensive as well as some of the most difficult works were the first to be snapped up. I had always seen Alan’s more recent work as more accessible with its local themes and bright colours - I guessed that these St Albans paintings might find a ready audience. But the more difficult works done in the 50’s and 60’s which I believe incorporated Alan’s war experience and perhaps his reflections surviving Arnhem sold well too. I realised afterwards that many of our buyers had done their homework and had pretty good taste.

In any case the success of our sale of Alan’s work owes so much to the power of the internet supported by a good local newspaper.

Image: (Above) By Alan Norris