Published: December 20, 2022
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Freeman’s
PHILADELPHIA – In the course of three days, December 4-6, Freeman’s offered more than 275 lots of American art, highlighting works by Pennsylvania Impressionists and two collections, those of Charles and Virginia Bowden, and Mr and Mrs Arnold Rifkin. The third day of sales featured more modestly valued works, including those by emerging artists or those who have not yet enjoyed the limelight; “Collect: American Art,” which brought nearly 140 lots across the block with an 85 percent success rate.
Freeman’s chairman and head of fine art, Alasdair Nichol, said in a statement, “This week’s auctions broke a series of records for individual artists, from Susette Keast to Bo Bartlett. We’re honored to have brought important single-owner collections to market in these sales, and we continue to see the impressive results of bringing such focused, narrative-driven collections to market.”
The aggregate total for the three days of sales was $3,908,835.
American Art, Pennsylvania Impressionists Featuring the Collection of Charles and Virginia Bowden
One of a few artists with new auction records in the books was Bo Bartlett (American, b 1955), whose “The Promised Land” sailed to $352,800 and set the high bar for the December 4 sale of American Art and Pennsylvania Impressionists, which included nearly 30 lots from the Bowden collection. The result for the dynamic boat painting cruised past the previous record of $296,500, set in 2016, which was also for a painting of a boat. It had been consigned to Freeman’s by a collector who had acquired it directly from the artist.
Raphaël Chatroux, the specialist and head of sale for all three sales, noted that Bartlett’s work, while contemporary, is influenced by the art of Winslow Homer and Andrew Wyeth and resonates similarly with collectors. He confirmed that eight phone bidders, along the East Coast from Georgia to Maine, competed for the work, with it ultimately going to a private collector “up north.”
Earning an equally impressive $302,400 was “Grizzly Bear” by William Herbert Dunton (American, 1878-1936). The small 10-3/8-by-8-3/8-inch oil on board composition of a grizzly bear and two cubs is an exemplary example of Dunton’s highly decorative, highly sought-after late style that reinforces the artist’s preoccupation with grizzly bears. Being fresh to the market, cataloged as being of museum-caliber and to appear in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné on the artist, “Grizzly Bear” was also desirable for its original Newcomb-Macklin frame and attracted no fewer than 11 phone bidders, including the winner, a private collector.
Another sale highlight that will be included in a forthcoming catalogue raisonné is “Winter Brook” by Edward Willis Redfield (1869-1965), which sold within estimate for $151,200. Chatroux noted that few of Redfield’s works feature a brook or stream in a vertical format as this example was.
As they did in Freeman’s most recent spring sale, women artists more than held their own, with a few earning auction records. While Jane Peterson’s (1876-1965) “Venetian Canal (Ponte dei Bareteri)” did not reset any records, it was an unusual European scene for the artist known most for her Gloucester, Mass., harbor views. Online interest provided competition for the lot’s ultimate winner, a phone bidder who paid $107,100, more than the lot’s high estimate.
For the second sale in a row, Freeman’s has set a new auction record for Emma Fordyce MacRae (1887-1974), realizing $69,300 for “Stelka” and besting the previous record of $63,000 it obtained for “Melina in Green” on June 5. Chatroux was delighted to confirm that it had been purchased by the Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Penn.
Institutional interest from the Blowing Rock Art & History Museum in Blowing Rock, N.C., was sufficiently strong to set the new record of $35,280 for Isabel Parke Branson Cartwright (American, 1885-1966), “A Garden by the Sea (Mrs Starr Pierce’s Garden), which had provenance to the Wolf Museum of Music and Art in Lancaster, Penn.
A Beautiful Reality: The Fine Art Collection of Mr and Mrs Arnold Rifkin
Not quite 40 lots from the collection of Wilkes-Barre, Penn., collectors Mr and Mrs Arnold Rifkin were auctioned with a 94 percent sell-through rate.
“They were collecting in the 1980s-90s; it’s very telling of how collectors used to collect. They went for good Ashcan school names: Bellows, Sloan, then the heirs of that movement, like Burchfield and Marsh,” Chatroux said.
The Rifkin sale was led, at $119,700, by Charles Burchfield’s (1893-1967) “The Garden Path.” The 1917 watercolor, pen, crayon and pencil on paper example that Chatroux said combined a view of the artist’s childhood home with characteristics of later works, was in excellent condition and sold to a phone bidder for almost double its high estimate.
Another work by Burchfield was also in the Rifkin collection. “Country Church in June (Country Churchyard),” a 1918 watercolor and gouache on joined paper had what Chatroux called a “mystical allure to it,” and sold to a buyer in New York for $66,150.
Everett Shinn’s (American, 1876-1953) “Philadelphia Docks” is what Chatroux called “textbook Ashcan” and was the source of competition between two bidders, one in Philadelphia, the other in New York. It sold for $113,400 and will not be staying in Philadelphia.
Chatroux noted that the Rifkins were prescient in collecting artists whose work had not yet begun to fetch top prices. One of those artists was Carl Sprinchorn (American, 1887-1971), of which three works were on offer from the Rifkins. “The Blue Ice Forest,” a 1951 oil on canvas view of a hunter on snowshoes attracted only online interest but nevertheless was enough to close out at $37,800, a new record for the artist. The other works by Sprinchorn in the sale also sold: “Daisy Fields and Clouds” for $9,450 and, for $4,095, “Three Dahlias.”
A result that may have ridden the coattails of Dunton’s “Grizzly Bear” was Harry Jackson’s (1924-2011) “The Flag Bearer,” a dynamic 29-inch-tall bronze reminiscent of the works of Frederic Remington. Chatroux said it was purchased on an absentee bid, for $22,680, from a buyer in Montana.
Freeman’s next American Art sales will take place in early June.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. For information, www.freemansauction.com or 267-414-1261.
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