Top civil servant’s art collection set to go under the hammer

Former National Economic Development Office director-general Sir Ronald McIntosh sought out up-and-coming talent
Portrait of Sir Ronald "Ronnie" McIntosh by John Stanton Ward

By Jim Dunton

21 Sep 2020

A collection of 20th century British art amassed by a senior civil servant who championed up-and-coming artists is expected to sell for a sum well into five figures when it goes under the hammer next month.

Sir Ronald McIntosh was director general of the National Economic Development Office – known as “Neddy” – from the 1970s until it was abolished in 1992 and was closely involved in the industrial disputes and inflationary pressures faced by the British economy during the period.

McIntosh worked closely with prime ministers Edward Heath, Harold Wilson and James Callaghan, as well as with bankers and industrialists. He was also a close friend of former chancellor Roy Jenkins dating back to their time at Oxford University. He joined the civil service after serving in the Merchant Navy during the Second World War.

Outside of work, McIntosh and wife Doreen amassed a significant collection of work by members of the New English Art Club and other contemporary artists, including work by Donald McIntyre and John Stanton Ward. 

Additional lots include work from Jane Bond, Fred Cuming, Ronald Coleman, Thomas J. Coates, Gordon Bryce, Andrew Macara, Hubert Pragnell, Edward Ardizzone, Ernest Jonathan Trowell, Nicholas Cochrane and Celia Ward.

Normandy Street Scene by Donald McIntrye, part of the art collection of Sir Ronald McIntosh

Tony Pratt of the Canterbury Auction Galleries said the McIntosh collection was “significant” and that the house had been “honoured” to offer it for sale following Sir Ronald’s death last year, five months before his 100th birthday.

“Those paintings hung around the walls of Sir Ronald and Lady McIntosh’s London home in Ponsonby Terrace SW1 and latterly at The Thatched Cottage, near Faversham, Kent,” he said.

Doreen McIntosh died in 2009, prompting McIntosh to launch an annual art prize in her name.

The McIntosh collection will be auctioned in an online-only sale from 3-5 October.

Canterbury Auction Galleries said a work by Donald McIntrye depicting a bright Normandy street was expected to be the most valuable lot, with a guide price of £3,000 to £5,000. 

A 1989 portrait of McIntosh by his long-standing friend John Stanton Ward is expected to fetch £1,000-£1,500.

Other artworks in the sale have a guide range starting at £100. 

Sir Ronald McIntosh at a a Lancaster House meeting with prime minister James Callaghan in 1977. Photo: PA

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