Orange Dahlias in a Vase is a 58 x 44 cm watercolour and pastel painting, dating from October 1961. It is signed and dated ‘R. Barrett / Oct. 1961’ (at the lower left side).
Syd painted it at Cambridgeshire High School for Boys, also known as the County, at the age of fifteen. He gave the painting as a parting gift to his art teacher Gerald Arthur Clement Harden, before entering the Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology (where he would meet David Gilmour).
The County is described in Mark Blake’s Pigs Might Fly as ‘a grammar school that thought it was a public school, with masters, mortarboards and sadism’. It was hated by a rebellious Roger Waters who later ventilated his frustration in The Wall.
The regime at school was a very oppressive one. It was being run on pre-war lines, where you bloody well did as you were told, and there was nothing to do for us but to rebel against it. (…) Most of the teachers were absolute swine.
Syd Barrett, who was a pretty average student, had a more positive impression of the school and was liked by his art teacher. He believed that ‘Barrett was a conspicuous and prodigious talent’. Rob Chapman:
Syd was a fantastic artist and was the pride and joy of the art teacher, G.A.C. Harden, or “Gach” as he was known,’ remembers classmate Chris Rayner. ‘Gach used to leave Syd’s stuff out on display all the time for everyone to see. He did some superb stuff in oils. Most of us weren’t allowed anywhere near the oil paints. You had to be really good before Gach would allow you to work in oils.
Gach’s son, Philip Harden, remembers the Floydian Maffia well (taken from the Planet Radio website: School days painting Syd Barrett gifted to his art teacher goes to auction):
I used to go and visit Roger on a regular basis and I even remember playing cowboys and Indians and watching the first Doctor Who shows with him and Roger Waters back in the 1960s. They both went off to art college and disappeared from my life and the next time I saw them they were Pink Floyd.
Roger Barrett was a kind and thoughtful person, with a joyful and almost childlike wit and humour. He was a great fun person to be around in those early days and he was incredibly creative, and would often be seen painting for hours on end.
I remember my father bringing this picture back home after Roger had given it to him, it had been put up on the wall in the classroom and my father kept it as part of his portfolio. It has something incredibly special about it and I would recognise it immediately as his style at the time, he was a very gifted artist.
The auction takes place on May 27th at the Cheffins Art & Design Sale. Orange Dahlias in a Vase has an estimated value of around £3000 - £5000.
Meanwhile, Syd Barrett fans all over the world are wondering if the vase on the painting contains a deliberately drawn human face or if this is just a case of pareidolia. Much bigger picture of the painting at our Tumblr: Orange Dahlias in a Vase.
Cheffins confirmed today that the painting was sold for a whopping £22,000 ($31,258 or €25,615) or £28,270 with taxes and stuff. Apparently some collectors really wanted this piece and it appears that an Italian fan got the final bid.
Philip Harden, who sold the picture, says on Planet Radio:
We couldn’t be more thrilled with this result. The picture has always been incredibly special to me and has an energy to it which is quite unlike anything else.
I am sure that Roger would be completely amazed if he knew a picture from his schooldays could have made this type of money. He was a great friend when we were children, a kind and thoughtful person and I am so pleased that there is a buyer out there who will treasure this picture as he stood for so many things in different people’s minds.
♥ Libby ♥ Iggy ♥
More to read about this painting:
Cheffins : Cheffins Auction Page
Clash Music : Rare Syd Barrett Painting To Go Up For Auction
Neptune Pink Floyd: Unseen Syd Barrett Painting up for Auction
Planet Radio: School days painting Syd Barrett gifted to his art teacher goes to auction
The Guardian: Hey teacher … how Syd Barrett’s artistic genius flowered at school
Planet Radio: Rare painting Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett created aged 15 smashes auction estimate
Sources (others than the links above):
Blake, Mark: Pigs Might Fly, Aurum Press Limited, London, 2013, p. 15-16.
Chapman, Rob: A Very Irregular Head, Faber and Faber, London, 2010, p. 13.