Art costing hundreds raises pounds 3m

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THE WOMAN who collected the pictures by Picasso, Braque and Bonnard sold in a charity auction at Christie's last night boasted that she never spent more than pounds 1,000 on a painting, writes Dalya Alberge.

Judging from the prices they paid for her 37 pictures, most of the new owners can boast that they never pay less than five-figure sums.

On the other hand, Illa Kodicek (1899-1990), a Czech emigre who came to London in 1938 virtually penniless and went on to found a flourishing corsetry business, was buying in the 1950s, when many of the artists were relatively unknown.

She bought extremely well. Her Picasso, Le Repos, a stunningly sensual, almost abstract image of a woman's head in profile lying on a pillow, sold for pounds 1.5m, against an estimate of pounds 700,000 to pounds 1m; her Braque, Nu Assis, a monumental pastel, made pounds 220,000 against an expected pounds 250,000 to pounds 350,000; and her Francis Bacon, Monkey, in which the artist saw the human head with animal characteristics, made pounds 90,000, although estimated to go for between pounds 140,000- pounds 180,000). A total of pounds 3.33m was raised.

The sale, in aid of the National Association of Boys' Clubs, has given the works their first public airing for decades. From 1962 until Ms Kodicek's death they filled every inch of wall space at her small flat in Green Park, London.

(Photograph omitted)