Auction sale of work by city-born recluse

William Arthur Toplis painting,sale number : 5065
William Arthur Toplis painting,sale number : 5065
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Few people would turn their back on South Yorkshire and go to live on a windswept island without electricity or running water.

But that is exactly what Sheffield-born artist William Toplis did when he went to live on Sark, the tiny Channel Island 80 miles off the south coast of England where, amazingly, he and wife Eleanor raised eight children.

How Toplis made a living from painting and managed to support such a large family, cut off from the rest of the world, is a mystery.

But he must have been happy and contented - he remained on Sark for more than half a century, until his death there on November 27, 1942.

Now, nearly 70 years on, an oil painting Toplis produced while living on Sark is up for sale and expected to fetch between £800 and £1,200 at auction at Christie’s South Kensington in London next Tuesday.

The 26 x 36ins work - The Gouliot Channel, Sark - was produced by Toplis in 1895, when he was in his late 30s.

It is one of 250 watercolours and drawings, mostly from the 19th century, which belonged to millionaire Jersey art dealer John Appleby, and which have been put up for sale following his death in 2009.

Three months ago, in November 2010, another Toplis picture of Sark sold at Christie’s South Kensington for £8,125, setting a new world record for his work. Before the auction the picture was expected to sell for £700.

William Arthur Toplis, the son of carver and gilder William Toplis senior, was born in Sheffield in March, 1857. In 1861 he and his family were living at 79 Wellington Street, Ecclesall, and by 1871 they had moved to 21 Bow Street.