MILFORD, CONN. — “All of the markets are back,” stated a jovial Gene Shannon after Shannon’s Fine Art Auctioneers sale on Thursday evening, October 24. The sale, showing 225 paintings as sold and grossing $2.4 million, saw very good action across the board, but especially in the middle market.
“All happy here,” reported the auction house principal, “We are seeing a burgeoning art market. There seems to be a lot of spare change with the less than one percenters,” he said.
The sale was filled with a good selection of artworks that appealed to all sorts of clientele, with works ranging from $500 to almost $200,000. It was the $30,000 to $60,000 range of works that showed the most diverse offering and the most strength, with artists from Wiggins to Warhol well represented.
A good-sized crowd was on hand for the auction, with the gallery about two-thirds filled with clients. The large bank of agents staffing the telephones were busy throughout the night, and Internet sales accounted for a good portion of the auction. Shannon’s reported that clients from 45 countries and almost all of the states were involved in the auction. Auctioneer Rosie DeStories, on the block at Shannon’s for the first time, kept the sale moving at a lively pace.
The star of the show was a Charles Courtney Curran oil on canvas measuring 22 by 18 inches and titled “Far Away Thoughts.” The stylish painting with blue-hued mountains in the distance featured Curran’s favorite model standing forefront in a field and his daughter seated in the background looking out into the dramatic vista. According to the catalog, the painting was executed in Cragsmoor, N.Y., in the summer of 1915, most likely in a field across the street from Curran’s property. Estimated at $120/180,000, the painting saw competitive bidding from several phones, with the lot opening up at $100,000 and progressing rapidly to a selling price of $192,000. The painting will be included in the catalogue raisonné on the artist being compiled by Kaycee Benton.
Another highlight of the auction was a Franz Kline oil on paper, untitled from 1957, measuring 8½ by 10½ inches. The painting was cataloged as “a compelling example of Kline’s use of collage and color, which he began to introduce to his works in 1956. This particular work had been part of an exhibit at the Guggenheim in 1976 titled Twentieth Century American Drawing: Three Avant-Garde Generations.” Opening at $80,000 against a $110/150,000 estimate, the painting finished at $120,000.
Paintings of New York City proved popular. Two New York City snow scenes by Guy Carlton Wiggins were offered, with an oil on canvas titled “St Patrick’s in Winter” selling at $60,000, while “Old Trinity Winter” went out at $20,400. Two Jane Peterson street scenes were termed “rare birds” by Shannon. A gouache, titled “Mott Street,” more than doubled estimate, bringing $31,200, while “The Ghetto, New York” realized $24,000.
Other New York City paintings included a Nineteenth Century work by Benjamin Chamberlain titled “Canal Street near Varick” that sold at twice the high estimate, bringing $13,200, and a “probable record price per square inch of canvas” for Shannon’s lone “breather,” Laurence Campbell. The artist’s oil on Masonite “View from Union Square (Broadway)” was another lot to sell well above estimate, finishing at $18,000.
One of the most talked about paintings in the auction was a work by Danish-born artist Ferdinand Richardt, who had painted for the king of Denmark, the Russian czar and British royalty before emigrating to New York in the 1850s. After gaining favor in the United States, he was commissioned by William Vanderbilt to paint Niagara Falls for a tidy sum of $14,000 and ultimately executed two similar views. The paintings were then gifted to the Niagara Club and hung on opposing walls — near a window that had a view of the scene.
The first of the paintings, somewhat brighter and more colorful, was estimated at $30/50,000 and opened to the floor for bidding at $28,000. Two museums and a private client were on the phones and they pushed the price to $66,000, going to one of the museums. The second scene, depicting a cloudy day, was darker, although more intricate, and was estimated at $20/30,000. It sold at $19,200. Shannon commented that he was disappointed with the prices realized and commented that they were “truly held back by name.”
Fernando Cueto Amorsolo, a “pretty famous Filipino artist whose works are sought after around the world,” according to the auction house, was represented by an oil on canvas titled “Lavenderas.” Depicting a nude bathing in a stream, the painting sold above estimate at $60,000.
A charming oil by John Koch titled “Christmas Tree” had an extensive exhibition history that lasted for almost 20 years. It was displayed at the Golden Gate Exposition in San Francisco in 1940 and around the country, including stops in New York in 1941 and 1951. It sold to a phone bidder for $42,000.
Nautical paintings were also popular, with two Antonio Jacobsen paintings featured. “They weren’t real early, but they were some of his best works,” said Shannon after the auction. The oil on board “Tidal Wave and Dreadnaught” went for $40,800, while a view of “Defender” brought $24,000.
Cape Ann and Rockport paintings saw renewed interest. “That is the one school that got hurt the worst in the crash of ‘08,” commented the auctioneer. Paintings by Mulhaupt, Hibbard and Gruppe all saw solid results, with Frederick Mulhaupt’s oil on board “Low Tide St Ives Harbor, Cornwall, England,” leading the group at $38,400. Aldro Hibbard’s “Bridge at Barnet, New Hampshire” sold for $26,400, and Emile Gruppe’s “Bright Day in Gloucester Harbor” realized $14,400.
A single-owner collection of Tonalist paintings included some 40 paintings by artists such as Emil Carlson, Dwight Tryon and Charles Warren Eaton. A Carlson painting led the way, with “Full Tide Coast of Maine” selling at $36,000. A dramatic oil on board, “Pittsburgh Steel Mills, Evening,” by Aaron Henry Gorson realized $36,000.
A 10-by-13-inch oil on paper by Michael Goldberg had been consigned from a private Connecticut collection and carried a $5/7,000 estimate. Intense bidding came from a bevy of telephone bidders, with numerous phones hitting the lot to about the $20,000 mark. From there, two people who “had to have it” battled for the lot, chasing it to $46,400. Shannon called the artist a “rising star.”
Several screen prints by Andy Warhol made up the majority of the Pop art in the sale. “Martha Graham: Letter To The World (The Kick),” sold to a persistent bidder in the back of the room for $38,400. Two other Warhol screen prints of Martha Graham included “Satyric Festival Song” at $15,600, and “Lamentation” at $12,000. Also sold was Warhol’s “Flowers” that realized $16,800.
“Crak!” by Roy Lichtenstein surpassed estimate on its way to a selling price of $26,400, and “Shipboard Girl” brought $24,000.
As “Woman in a Black Kimono” by Alexander Levy crossed the block, it provided Gene Shannon with a bittersweet moment. The painting had been in his inventory in 1991 at his private retail gallery and was among a group of paintings stolen by a professional burglary ring. Nothing had been heard of any of the works of art until this summer when the FBI called Shannon to report that the painting had appeared at another auction who checked the Art Loss Register and determined it to be stolen. The painting was returned to the insurance company that paid Shannon’s claim from ’91 and they agreed to let him auction it. “It brought about the same money,” said Shannon, with it selling at $18,000.
All prices include the buyer’s premium.
The next auction at Shannon’s is scheduled for April. Included will be more art from a corporate collection of Pop paintings that “will cause some fur to fly,” according to the auctioneer. Other consignments are actively being sought. For further information www.shannons.com or 203-877-1719.