Published: November 17, 2015
Review And Onsite Photos by Laura Beach
Additional Photos Courtesy Shannon’s
MILFORD, CONN. — Shannon’s Fine Art Auctioneers’ fall catalog sale of American and European paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture was — by dollar value, at least — a tale of two prominent collectors. Rich in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century works of art, the October 29 event reflected the passion and perspicacity of these major players, one identified by name, the other not. Two lots from one collection alone added $684,000 to the session, which totaled a healthy $2.4 million.
Vera G. List died in 2002 at 94. She is still admired for her artistic acumen more than a decade later. According to New York Times art critic Roberta Smith, List was born Vera Glaser in Brookline, Mass., in 1908, attended Simmons College and, in 1930, married businessman Albert A. List, whose enterprises later included RKO Theaters. The Lists gave generously to many causes and founded art centers at MIT, Brown and Swarthmore.
“Vera List lived in Manhattan in the 1950s and 1960s and collected extremely good examples of Modern and Contemporary art,” said Shannon’s principal Sandra Germain. List sold much of her collection before she died, but not before giving some notable items to her family. A List granddaughter from Connecticut consigned two diminutive works on paper.
Illustrated on the back cover of the Shannon’s catalog, “Eyebrow Pencil,” a 6¼-by-73/8-inch pastel on paper by California artist Wayne Thiebaud, more than doubled low estimate to bring $420,000. Long affiliated with New York’s Allan Stone Gallery, Thiebaud was a prominent Pop artist who is best known for anodyne still lifes of cosmetics and pastries. A Thiebaud oil on canvas of two slot machines achieved $6.3 million at Christie’s in 2013.
Consigned too late to make the catalog, “Femme, Oiseau, Etoiles (Woman, Bird, Stars),” a pen, ink, watercolor and pencil on paper drawing by the Spanish modernist Joan Miro, also exceeded estimate, bringing $264,000. The lyrical work measuring 117/8 by 85/8 inches is dated 1942 and is inscribed on reverse “Palma Majorque.”
Shannon’s expected the Thiebaud and Miro drawings to do well. Germain said, “They were both from important periods from the artists’ careers; both were in original condition, which is extremely important at this price level; and both were well documented.” Shannon’s, which devoted considerable energy to alerting prospective buyers, had roughly ten phone bidders on the Thiebaud and 16 or more on the Miro.
A second group of paintings, American and European, came from a prominent collector who is well known to dealers and scholars of American art. Germain said the collector, with whom Shannon’s has worked with for years, is “downsizing and deaccessioning.” Shannon will include more pieces from the collection in its online-only sale in January.
The paintings bore the provenances of major New York auction houses and leading specialists such as Alexander Gallery and Jordan-Volpe. Many sold reasonably. As Germain explained, “The market has changed quite a bit since the 1990s and even since 2008. We priced things to sell.”
Cataloged as Property of an American Collection, the slew featured such Nineteenth Century canvases as “Elizabeth Thomas Bingham” by George Caleb Bingham, $16,800; “Young Fisherman by a Stream” by Hugh Bolton Jones, $16,800; still lifes of fruit by the Midwestern painter Carducius Plantagenet Ream, $13,200 and $12,000, and one by Albert Francis King, $20,400.
Among Twentieth Century works, “Provincetown” by Pauline Palmer, a good example by a well-loved artist, fetched $24,000. A still life by Hovsep Pushman, “His Golden Days,” earned $18,000.
Shannon’s cover lot was “Dawn of Hope,” a 2007 painting by contemporary artist Daniel F. Gerhartz that summons memories of John Singer Sargent’s masterpiece “Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose.” It brought $38,400, close to the $46,000 it earned at Sotheby’s in 2007, at the height of the market.
From a private collection in New Jersey came a 1922 North African village view, $60,000, by Jacques Majorelle, a French artist who was the son of furniture designer Louis Majorelle. A private collection in New York yielded “Nature Morte,” a 1957 painting by Seund Ja Rhee that, achieving $26,400, confirmed a near universal interest in Midcentury Modernism just now.
Characterizing today’s market overall, Germain said, “People are looking for quality work by listed artists. When they surface, buyers will keep their cards in the air until they get them.”
Germain was heartened to see competition across the board. She noted, “There were more people in the room and the energy level was up. We saw some new faces, plus returning ones.”
As Antiques and The Arts Weekly went to press, Shannon’s was negotiating private sales of remaining lots and was happy to report that “Realities: Three,” an acrylic on canvas of 2001 by Jules Olitski, had been acquired for $20,000.
After the January online sale, the auctioneer plans an April catalog sale. Germain hopes to offer more pieces of the caliber of the Thiebaud and Miro works. “We demonstrated that we can get as much money as our counterparts, if not more. Sometimes it pays to be a smaller, more nimble player,” she noted.
Shannon’s is at 354 Woodmont Road. For information, www.shannons.com or 203-877-1711.
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