BREXIT is putting the brakes on the Scottish art market, a leading auction house says.

Bonhams, one of the world’s oldest fine-art auctioneers, says uncertainty about the withdrawal deal and future relationship with Europe is deterring sales as collectors become more cautious.

Earlier this week pieces by Scots luminaries Joan Eardley and John Bellany were amongst those sold at its Edinburgh showroom during an event focused on 19th and 20th century artwork.

Items by Scottish Colourist Samuel John Peploe and national treasure Alasdair Gray also went under the hammer.

But while the event brought in a significant sum – with the Peploe alone making almost £300,000 – Chris Brickley, head of the picture department at Bonhams, says Brexit is making business more difficult.

“It’s getting harder to sell pictures and the reason would appear to be mostly the wider economy. The art market thrives on confidence and stable circumstances and we don’t really have that.”

He told the Sunday National the looming change is “serving to reduce people’s confidence” and “making them budget differently”, stating: “Two or three years ago, it was much easier than it is now.”

A total of 110 lots went under the hammer at the Tuesday sale, which included several landscapes by Aberdeen-born Alberto Morrocco, who died in 1998.

Girl Eating Melon, by Eardley, fetched £23,750.

Brickley said: “The very top end of the market is fantastic – there is plenty of money in certain circumstances. They only want the very best trophy pictures. The Scottish market has generally been fairly measured and consistent and the Colourists make the most money, but the supply is relatively short of these.

“More material is coming in of quality. The question is, can we keep finding new bidders?”

The Edinburgh auction came just one week after Sotheby’s held its Scottish art sale in London.

Last year almost £1.7 million had been spent by the time the gavel came down for the final time. This year, the total was £925,000.

However, in-house Scottish art specialist Thomas Podd says this may be due to the presentation of a large amount of Scots work to the market over the year, including the landmark Harrison Collection sale, which drew more than £4.5m.

That event, also handled by Sotheby’s in June, saw the private collection of Scottish Colourists patron Major Ion Harrison presented for the very first time.

Peploe, John Duncan Fergusson, Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell and George Leslie Hunter were all included.

While only around 60% of lots were purchased last week, Podd said: “Sotheby’s has had its most successful year for Scottish art sales in recent history.

“We have had a bumper year. We are really excited moving forward to next year. We’re feeling really confident.

“It’s really hard to judge at all whether the effect of Brexit might be on the art market. I don’t think so far that we have seen any quantifiable effect.

“There may be hesitation among individual buyers, but it hasn’t been communicated to me.”

Earlier this year art-auction search engine Barnebys, which lists around a million items from 3000 auction houses around the world each day, reported that the UK’s share of the art market was down 10% year-on-year.

Co-founder Pontus Silfverstolpe said the value dropped to $13.5 billion, and that while the UK retains a 21% share of the global market, China’s stake is now at 19%. He commented that the sector’s future “hangs in the balance” over Brexit, adding: “The right decisions on facilitating trade may just boost Britain’s position, the wrong decisions will see the global art market becoming a two base hub – New York and Hong Kong – with Britain’s once flourishing art market just another part of Britain’s colourful history.”

Another cache of Scottish work will be offered to collectors next week at Woolley & Wallis’s Salisbury saleroom. The Modern British & 20th Century Art catalogue includes pieces by Edinburgh-born painter Craigie Aitchison, whose oil painting of the crucifixion is valued at £20,000-£30,000.

Works by Anne Redpath and Peter Howson and John Bellany are also up for sale.

Paintings specialist Victor Fauvelle expects a “strong base of Scottish buyers” to drive the total to between £450,000 and £600,000. He said: “The art market is always changing. The very best things that come up in all categories are very, very popular, but the middle market is a bit more tricky. Things do still sell but the specialists have to make sure they get the estimates right.

“It may be that there is a general hesitancy in the whole economy that is linked to Brexit across the board.”