More than 450 artworks from Hertfordshire County Council’s art collection have been snapped up in a series of three public auctions – for a total of £469,282.

The county council – which started to build-up the collection in 1949 – took the decision in 2017 to sell-off or give-away the bulk of the artworks.

The last of the pieces earmarked for sale went under the hammer at an auction last Thursday (May 23).

According to the county council the art, initially purchased to be loaned to schools, had become less relevant to an evolving curriculum.

And the council no longer had the resources to properly conserve the many pieces that were in storage.

Now the money raised through the three auctions will be used to improve the condition of remaining items and increase public visibility of the county council’s nationally significant sculptures.

Following the auctions, the council council’s executive member for education, libraries and localism, Cllr Terry Douris, said: “We have appreciated the interest that buyers have had in the sale of the artworks.

“Now that the auctions are over, we can look towards the restoration of our retained pieces, and improving accessibility for the public so that everyone can start enjoying these pieces.”

Overall the artwork to sell for the highest price was John Tunnard’s Brandis ’44.

This sold for for £37,000 – well over its estimate of £10,000 to £15,000 – at the first of the auctions at Cambridge-based Cheffins auction house, in March.

On the same day, Anne Redpath’s Blue Plate sold for £31,000 – three times its lower estimate of £10,000.

A pastel by Scottish artist Joan Eardley raised £31,000. And Keith Vaughan’s Grey Shore Seascape was sold for £27,000.

In later auctions estimates for the majority of artworks ranged between around £30 and £200 – and were seen as more “affordable”.

And following the third auction, last Thursday (May 23), associate at Cheffins Fine Art Brett Tryner said:  “We have been delighted with the way the selected works from the Hertfordshire County Council collection have sold and all lots offered found new homes.

“The final sale of the collection was the more affordable pictures in the collection, but demand was still strong on the whole.

“The highlight on the day was undoubtedly the Frances Richards  embroidered picture, Mother and Child, which made £1,300 despite not being in pristine condition.

“We would like to thank Hertfordshire County Council for entrusting us with the sale.”

Aside from the 450 pieces that have been sold at auction, the county council has retained a “manageable” collection of 167 works that are said to be “notable or local important works”.

This includes works by notable Hertfordshire artists, inducing John Akers, Rory J Browne, Barbara Hepworth, Mary Hoad, Henry Moore and David Stowe.

And it includes the four most valuable items in the council’s collection – with an estimated value of £21.86 million.

Meanwhile other pieces from the collection are being offered to schools, museums and other interested local organisations.