A rare painting by an Aberdonian artist, whose hugely promising career was cut short by a tragic accident, is expected to fetch a six-figure sum at auction.

Robert Brough died in 1905 aged 32 after suffering severe burns in a train crash while travelling from Scotland to London.

His prodigious talent was widely recognised in his short lifetime. 

His obituary recorded that he combined ‘the dash of Sargent and the beautiful refinement of Velazquez.’

Sweet Violets, painted in 1897 while still in his mid-twenties, is widely regarded as Brough's masterpiece.

It has only been displayed once in a public gallery – at Aberdeen Art Gallery in 1995 – and is expected to fetch between £100,000 and £150,000.

The Herald:

It will be sold live online by fine art auctioneers, Lyon & Turnbull, on Thursday in its Scottish Paintings & Sculpture auction.

From humble beginnings as the son of a single mother, who was a lady's maid to the Duchess of Hamilton, Brough was raised by relatives on a farm outside Aberdeen.

His artistic ability was spotted early by a neighbour, the artist George Reid, who later became president of the Royal Scottish Academy.

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American artist, John Singer Sargent, leading portrait painter of the era, became his mentor after the pair met at Chelsea Arts Club in London in the early twentieth century. 

Following the crash, Sargent rushed to be at his friend's bedside and was with Brough and his mother when his protégé died in hospital in Sheffield two days after the tragic train crash.

Brough’s star was in the ascendant at the time of his death as he had established a reputation as a successful London-based artist who painted sitters from notable families.

Sweet Violets features Barbara Staples, who was just 18 when Brough spotted her in Aberdeen’s Union Street and asked her father’s permission to paint her.

In the painting, she is holding a jar of violets and clad in the fashionable dress of the day.

Brough trained in Paris, where he shared lodgings with Scottish Colourist, S.J, Peploe (1871-1935).

He also spent painting in Brittany. Inspired by the French Post-Impressionist painter, Paul Gauguin, he was taken by the traditional way of life of the Breton people.

There is a second Brough painting in the sale, called Breton Women Sitting on a Beach.

The Herald:

Originally owned by the Staples family, Sweet Violets was bought by a famous surgeon, Sir Alexander Ogston, who hung it in his home, Ardoe House outside Aberdeen for many years.

The property is now a well-known luxury hotel and spa.

Ogston loved the painting so much he refused many offers he received for it, including those made by Barbara Staples’ husband, Andrew Faris.

The portrait was eventually sold back to the sitters' family, who bought it in a private gallery in Munich in the 1960s.

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It was later sold again to a private collector who expressed interest after seeing it in an exhibition of Brough’s work at Aberdeen Art Gallery in 1995.

Nick Curnow, Lyon & Turnbull’s Vice Chairman who is in charge of the sale said:“Brough was young, ambitious, precociously talented and on an impressive career trajectory when he met with a premature death.

"It was his untimely ending that prevented him from being fully admitted into the canon of great painters in the history of Scottish art.

"His obituary recorded that he combined ‘the dash of Sargent and the beautiful refinement of Velazquez.’

"Given his short lifespan, Brough wasn’t as prolific as he could have been which means it’s rare to come across one of his paintings in a sale. 

"Sweet Violets, which is a companion painting to Brough's Fantaisie en Folie, now in the Tate collectionis a tour-de-force and an extremely important painting by this forgotten genius.

"Both implement a similar palette and portray their sitter in profile against a plain background.

“We anticipate that news of his work being auctioned will generate great interest with bidding from far and wide.”