PORTLAND, MAINE — Barridoff Galleries co-owner Rob Elowitch said he was pleasantly surprised by the results of his firm’s auction of fine American and European art on April 24. “The European art did really well,” he said, “a lot better than we had expected.” The sale of 170 or so lots, which grossed around $1 million, was “our best in years, and post-auction sales were also excellent. There is nothing significant left unsold,” said Elowitch.
To illustrate what he meant about the European material besting expectations, the auctioneer cited two successive lots — one a still life oil on canvas of seafood by a French painter, Denis Pierre Bergeret (1846–1910) and the other a watercolor country scene by Enrico Coleman (Italian, 1846–1911) of horses being led by another horse and rider. “They ended up doing really well,” he said. “We estimated both of them conservatively at $2/3,000, and the first brought $4,800 and the next was $3,360.” That pattern repeated itself consistently throughout the sale, contributing to the overall successful result.
Elowitch said there was robust Internet and phone participation on many of the lots offered — and, surprising in this day of long-distant bidding, a large crowd of about 150 filling the seats in the gallery.
The fireworks began with the very first lot, an important drawing by George Grosz, (German, 1893–1959), circa 1920, which had been consigned by Carl Schmalz, a Maine resident who was a professor of art at Harvard, Amherst and Bowdoin College. Schmalz consigned both the Grosz drawing and a later lot — a watercolor he had purchased by Fairfield Porter when both were at Amherst College. Schmalz also consigned an Old Master oil from the School of Bassano and several very fine small Old Master drawings, all purchased during the mid-Twentieth Century and now offered by his wife. Schmalz passed away shortly before the auction. Titled “Street Scene,” the ink on paper drawing measuring 22¾ by 17¼ inches was conservatively estimated by the auctioneer at $9/12,000. “There was much interest and wonderful provenance on this piece,” said Elowitch about the quintessential caricature of Berlin life in the 1920s., and robust phone bidding drove it to $42,000 as it went to the trade.
The top lot in the sale was an American painting, “Dockside” by Anthony Thieme (1888–1954),a typical of the artist; beautifully painted and showing a view of a fishing boat at dockside. It tied up within estimate at $43,200. The 25-by-30-inch oil on canvas was followed by a Bahamas view by the same artist that tipped past low estimate, bringing $31,200 from a dealer. “Thieme’s Bahamas works were on a hot streak before the recession,” said Elowitch. Although Barridoff sold a similar painting by Thieme, setting the second highest auction record for a painting by the artist, Elowitch said this painting was even better.
Following the two Thiemes, an oil on canvas riverscape by Reynolds Beal (American, 1885–1951) depicting the July 1914 win by the Columbia Boat Club in the Ivy League Rowing Regatta, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., nosed to $42,000, the colorful trophy painting won by a collector. The catalog notes stated that the Columbia Boat Club won the Varsity 8s at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association regatta at Poughkeepsie in 1895, 1914, 1927 and 1929.
Cincinnati native Edward Henry Potthast (1857–1927), known for his sun-filled paintings of Americans at the shore and the subject of an upcoming exhibition at the Cincinnati Art Museum, was represented in the sale by an 8-by-10-inch oil on panel of three small sailboats coasting past a rocky beach, which brought $30,000 from a collector. “It was beautiful, although tiny and with nobody on the beach,” said Elowitch.
A collector in Falmouth, Maine, consigned a Fairfield Porter (American, 1907–1975) painting that had first been sold by Barridoff Galleries in 2004, one of two versions in oil depicting a view of the Barred Islands. A chain of treeless islets near Penobscot Bay, Maine. Dated 1965, the 19-by-29-inch oil on Masonite went out at $24,000.
Another highlight of the auction was a 20-by-30-inch view of the US Capitol in the evening with figures in period dress out front and the arrival of what appears to be a Model T Ford. It was painted by Colin Campbell Cooper (American, 1856–1937) in 1908, and it had been purchased by the consignors, a Connecticut couple, in the mid-1960s from Sloan-Roman Gallery in New York. “It was a wonderful painting,” said Elowitch, “and one of those rare cases in which the owner thought it was less valuable than we did. I just loved it.” Perhaps the moodiness of the pastel contributed to its not making the low estimate of $30,000. It sold for $20,400.
Rounding out the sale’s top lots were John Sloan (American, 1871–1951), “Blue Granite Rocks, Gloucester,” 1915, oil on canvas, 20 by 24 inches, $18,000; a late addition to the sale, a Maine winterscape by Edward Willis Redfield (American, 1869–1965), oil on canvas, 18 by 24 inches, $12,600; Grau Sala (Spanish, 1911–1975), “Grapes,” oil on canvas, 26 by 21½ inches, $12,000; and a portrait of “Mona” by Walt Kuhn (American, 1877–1949), oil on canvas, 15 by 12 inches, $11,280.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For more information, 207-772-5011 or www.barridoff.com.