Reclusive painter’s work smashes sale estimate

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An oil painting by an eccentric Victorian artist who turned his back on Sheffield in favour of a remote, windswept island has sold for £7,500 – six times its pre-auction estimate in London.

Before the sale at Christie’s South Kensington, the picture, Gouliot Channel, Sark, painted by Sheffield-born William Toplis in 1895, had been expected to sell for between £800 and £1,200.

But, determined to bring the picture back home to the Channel Islands, the Guernsey Museums and Art Gallery bought it for £7,500.

The painting is now the second most valuable work by William Toplis sold at an auction.

The current world record for a Toplis painting is £8,125 – paid last year for a picture of Creux Harbour, Sark.

Toplis was living on Jersey when he holidayed on Sark – an island 80 miles off the south coast of England – and liked it so much that he decided to stay for life.

He and wife Eleanor managed to bring up their eight children there, without electricity, running water, or any other modern conveniences.

Toplis was born in Sheffield on March 24, 1857, and lived as a little boy at 79 Wellington Street in the city. Later in his childhood he moved to 21 Bow Street, Sheffield.