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Photograph fetches world record price at Bonham's auction - Signed photograph of novelist sells for ten times its estimated price
The photograph, which was taken by one of the great masters of 20th century photography, Yousuf Karsh (1908 - 2002), was snapped up by an anonymous telephone bidder against fierce competition from the room. Karsh was catapulted to international fame with his portraits of Winston Churchill in the 1940s, and this portrait of Greene, taken in 1964, was another of his most successful images.
This impression was given by Greene to his good friend, the fashion journalist Gillian Sutro. The photograph bears an inscription reading "The Third Man - for Gillian with love from Graham." Greene published 'The Third Man' in 1950, the year after the film starring Orson Welles, for which he wrote the script, was released.
The sale, which totalled in excess of half a million pounds, consisted entirely of a single-owner collection and was the first ever sale entirely devoted to portraits at an international auction house. Creative Encounters: Portraits of Writers, Artists and Musicians contained almost 300 portraits compiled by the noted manuscript expert and collector Roy Davids during the last 30 years.
Also generating a great deal of excitement and interest was a small pen and ink sketch of Ted Hughes by Sylvia Plath, given by the former poet laureate to his close friend Roy Davids. It is believed to be the only portrait drawn of him by her, drawn at Cambridge in the early days of their marriage. It sold in the room for 27,600 - almost 670 per square inch.
The sale's top lot, fetching 50,400, was a portrait of T.S. Eliot by Sir Gerald Kelly, hailed as one of the most important images of the leading poet of the 20th century in existence. A remarkable charcoal and chalk portrait of the eighteenth century poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge by Charles Robert Leslie also generated much interest, fetching 31,200.