Published: December 8, 2015
American Art Nov. 18, 2015 at 2 pm.
120 lots (2 were withdrawn)
Grand Total: $4,694,750
Low estimate total: $7,767,000
Sold by Lot: 59.1%
Sold by Value: 60.43%
American Art: The Collection of A. Alfred Taubman (lots 1-31) Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015 at 6:30 pm
Grand Total: $13,036,750
Sold by Lot: 74.19%
Sale estimated at ($15,175,000/22,735,000)
Sold by Value: 85.90%
American Art Nov. 19, 2015 at 10 am
135 Lots (one was withdrawn)
Low estimate total: $44,520,000
Sold by Lot: 71.11%
Sold by Value: 100.03%
Highlights At Bonhams
Review by Carol Sims
Photos Courtesy of Bonhams
NEW YORK CITY — On Wednesday, November 18, Bonhams offered 120 lots of Nineteenth and Twentieth Century American art. The sale was a mix of Modernism, Western (mostly Charles Marion Russell, but a few others, too), a little bit of Hudson River School, with American impressionism, Social Realism and illustration.
“Two works with Cuban subject matter performed well,” said Kayla Carlsen, director of American art, who attributed the interest to recent political changes. The impressionistic painting by Childe Hassam of palm trees blowing in a stiff island breeze came up in the middle of the auction and started at $200,000. It quickly went to $425,000, the winning bid coming over the phone, well within the $300/500,000 estimate. Later, a Stuart Davis watercolor from the John Driscoll collection with hot Cuban colors of yellow, red and orange dated from 1920 while the artist was in Cuba and was estimated at $12/18,000. It sold via the phone for a price of $32,500 against a bidder in the room.
Another firmly contested lot was “Habitation” by Marvin D. Cone, a 1938–39 oil on canvas with a surrealistic feel of a dark interior and a crescent moon outside. Estimated at $80/120,000, dealer Jonathan Boos raised his paddle, securing the painting for $185,000. An absentee bidder claimed Henrietta Shore’s abstract “Green Figure Tulip” for a price of $125,000, also within estimate.
Western art from the Patrick A. Doheny Trust featured “Scouting Party” by Charles Marion Russell. Strong early bidding took it to $293,000, where it was knocked down by a bidder in the room, brushing against the low estimate of $300,000. Russell’s “Women of the Plains” fared well, too, with a bidder in the room taking it for $350,000. A charming little Russell drawing of a horse head was only expected to bring $5/7,000, but online and phone bidders drove it to $21,250 where it was lassoed by the phone bidder. Starting at $90,000, Russell’s “Buffalo on the Move” stampeded to $185,000, where the herd came to a standstill, refusing to cross the low estimate of $200,000. From a different consignor, Edward Borein’s watercolor, gouache and pencil on paper “Indian Chiefs Carrying Ceremonial Standard, Riding Past Wigwams” charged past the high estimate of $50,000 to a bidder in the room for $106,250.
While Kayla Carlsen said, “the market is not really focused on impressionism right now,” a good price of $365,000 from a phone bidder secured a beautiful seashore painting by Childe Hassam titled “The Cove, Isles of Shoals.” The painting came from the estate of Michael St Clair and was estimated at $400/600,000. When Hassam’s “Royal Palms, Melena, Cuba” came up a little later in the sale from a North Carolina consignor, it started at $200,000 and seemed to float effortlessly to $425,000, making it the top lot of the sale.
A stellar oil on paper of Niagara Falls by Albert Bierstadt blew past the high estimate of $90,000 to a phone bidder for $125,000. “Seated Nude” by Richard Miller nudged to $118,750, an absentee bidder claiming the prize. Fierce bidding took Guy Pene Du Bois’s “Jane” from an opening of $12,000 to $48,750, going to a man in the room, against a high estimate of $30,000. Marsden Hartley’s “Calla Lilies in a Vase” was an impressive still life with bold reds and greens. From the collection of John Driscoll, it sold to a bidder in the room for $305,000, just nosing over the low estimate of $300,000.
The cover lot of the sale was a nocturne by George Luks of Copley Square, Boston. From the collection of John Driscoll, it started at $180,000 and got snatched by a phone bidder for $275,000, failing to reach the $300,000 low estimate.
Joseph Leyendecker’s elaborate 1927 Christmas cover of Madonna and Child for The Saturday Evening Post was estimated at $100/150,000 and sold for $173,000 to a phone bidder in a battle between the Internet and at least one other phone bidder. “The Violinist and His Assistant,” also by Leyendecker, started at $30,000 and brought $112,500 from a different phone bidder.
Dr John Driscoll, PhD, of Driscoll Babcock Galleries, New York City’s oldest art gallery, had consigned 34 of the 122 artworks, including five Marsden Hartleys, six works by Stuart Davis, three Arthur Doves and a smattering of Charles Scheelers, Alfred Maurers and a few Hudson River paintings. At the opening gala of The American Art Fair, Antiques and The Arts Weekly asked Dr Driscoll why he was consigning so many pieces to the Bonhams sale, and he stated, “It isn’t necessary for dealers to carry so much inventory anymore.” Driscoll Babcock Galleries is located on West 25th Street in the Chelsea neighborhood favored by powerhouse contemporary dealers David Zwirner, Gagosian, Pace and others.
One source in the trade said that this was just the first of a larger group of about 100 Driscoll pieces which will be coming to the market, in which Bonhams has an interest, but Bonhams could not confirm. Indeed, each of the lots from Driscoll had a triangle symbol next to the lot number, explained in the catalog Buyer’s Guide terms as such:
“Auction House’s Interest in Property Offered at Auction. On occasion, Bonhams may offer property in which it has an ownership interest in whole or in part or otherwise has an economic interest. Such property, if any, is identified in the catalog with a (triangle) symbol next to the lot number(s).”
Of the Driscoll-consigned pieces, 18 failed to meet their reserves. Some of those were aesthetically pleasing, came with great provenance and were in excellent condition. They were estimated to bring big money, and yet the feeling in the room was flat. With a few exceptions, most of the bidding was uninspired and lots struggled to break past their reserves.
Some in the trade voiced opinions as to why the Driscoll lots did not fare better.
“I don’t think that the gallery association and dealer affiliation was helpful when bringing these works to market,” commented one dealer. “Bonhams might have done better with these pieces if they hadn’t played up that aspect.”
Another prominent dealer pointed out that a similar situation came up with the “disastrous Bernard Goldberg sale at Christie’s” a few years back. “He [Goldberg] was supposed to be retiring, but then he went back to dealing. People are suspicious of dealers’ things.”
There were several bargains to be had at Bonhams that had other consignors, including a fine John Singer Sargent portrait of Sir Charles Stewart Loch that sold below the $80/120,000 estimate to a phone bidder for $75,000. This masterful painting of a warm-hearted, dignified gentleman was cataloged as “Commissioned by the present owner, 1900” — a group formerly known as The Charity Organisation Society (renamed Family Action), and the sale of the painting went to support disadvantaged families. This was an exceptionally rare opportunity to buy a single-owner Sargent portrait. Wow.
“Bonhams has been getting better and better material all the time,” said Debra Force, an American art dealer from New York City, who frequently bids successfully at the American art auctions on behalf of clients. “They’ve always been strong in California art, but they still suffer from people not being aware of what they have to offer. They are getting significant works of American art.”
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For information, www.bonhams.com.
Taubman Collection Of American Art
Review by Carol Sims
Photos Courtesy of Sotheby’s
NEW YORK CITY — There was energy in the foyer of the 7th floor salesroom at Sotheby’s the evening of November 18, with two back-to-back American art sales slated to begin at 6:30 pm — commencing with the 31-lot collection of A. Alfred Taubman. Naturally, there were several American art dealers in the crowd sipping wine and sparkling water — there to see and be seen, as well as to bid.
All the Taubman lots were guaranteed a minimum price by Sotheby’s, one of the negotiating tools the auction house used to secure the collection of its former chairman. The Taubman family could be proud of the beautiful, oversize catalog, which included several pages of laudatory letters from prominent friends and a time-line of his life’s accomplishments.
Even with all this support, it was an uneven sale, with many lots selling below estimate and others soaring above their high estimates. Scattered throughout the sale, all seven Charles Burchfields found buyers. A world record auction price of $5.85 million was set by the top lot, a gorgeous Martin Johnson Heade landscape that was apparently over-estimated by the auction house ($7/10 million). Heade’s previous record was $2.8 million.
The sale opened with a Charles Burchfield estimated at $250/350,000 and was off to a good start when a bidder in the room signaled $394,000. The next Burchfield went over the high estimate of $80,000 to a phone bidder for $137,500. Milton Avery’s “Female Gamester” elicited heavy bidding among three different phone bidders, selling for $580,000 and taking the painting well above the $300,000 high estimate.
Just when you thought it was safe to go into the water, bidders swam away from Winslow Homer’s “Yacht in a Cove, Gloucester,” a placid watercolor that was expected to bring $400/600,000 but was passed at $220,000. It was back to Modernism with the next lot, another Milton Avery, this one sold at $56,250. “Cold June Evening” by Burchfield sold to the phone after some stiff competition from the trade in the room. It was knocked down at $298,000, $148,000 more than its high estimate.
“Merry-Go-Round” by Reginald Marsh was a large painting of fleshy people riding a carousel, expected to bring $1/1.5 million. The crowd was only mildly earnest and bidding stopped at $650,000, when the lot was passed. Stuart Davis’s smart “New York Street” ($250/450,000) had a good exhibition history and kept both specialist Elizabeth Pisano and senior vice president Jennifer Biederbeck of Sotheby’s very busy on the phones, until Pisano’s caller took the lot for $490,000.
A few lots later, Martin Johnson Heade’s masterpiece “The Great Florida Sunset” came up. Estimated at $7/10 million, the bidding opened at $4.2 million. Taubman had owned the painting for 27 years, a nice long time for it to have been off the market. The monumental canvas measures 54¼ inches by 96 inches — eight feet in length, and is one of a pair of paintings commissioned by Henry Morrison Flagler, a Florida developer and hotelier and also founder of Standard Oil. Its companion, “View From Fern-Tree Walk, Jamaica” was acquired through the efforts of Driscoll Babcock Galleries for the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in 2013. Bidding from Sotheby’s auction hall, dealer John Driscoll secured “The Great Florida Sunset” for the Minnesota Marine Art Museum. It was the top lot in the sale, bringing $5,850,000. The painting will be reunited with its sibling in Winona, Minn., where they will hang together again for the first time in 60 years.
The following lot, a Charles Demuth watercolor of roses passed at $180,000 ($400/600,000), but then the Heade was a tough act to follow. A Burchfield of a violet nestled under some ferns broke the ice again, reaching $225,000 ($250/350,000). Someone in the room without a paddle made a successful bid on Reginald Marsh’s “Three Girls at Entrance to Central Park,” paying $37,500. It was a bit surprising to see it go for that price, as it was estimated at $70/90,000. Later in the sale, Marsh’s “Metropolitan Opera” reached $200,000 from the phone ($200/300,000).
“The Red Admiral (Butterfly)” was the fifth Burchfield to come up, and it reached $490,000 from a bidder in the room, falling short of the $600,000 low estimate.
“People were going for the B.I.’s,” said fine art dealer Howard Godel, New York City, after the sale, referring to buy-ins. Bidding from the back of the room, Godel was somewhat surprised to win William McGregor Paxton’s “The Other Door” for a price of $187,000 ($200/300,000).
John Singer Sargent’s portrait of a young boy was expected to reach at least $800,000 but was sold to a phone bidder for $490,000. “Beach Lizards” of people lazing around on the sand by Milton Avery revved up the bidding with online bidders challenging the successful $322,000 phone bidder ($150/250,000). Elizabeth Pisano of Sotheby’s took the winning price of $250,000 on “Lightning at Twilight,” the next Burchfield ($300/500,000). Then, head of department Elizabeth Goldberg had the action on the next phone sale, a colorful Stanton MacDonald-Wright abstract; a price of $175,000 took the lot ($150/250,000). A 62-inch bronze by Paul Manship of a girl carrying a duck reached $298,000 in the room ($200/400,000). Starting at $100,000, bidding for Mary Cassatt’s oil sketch of a woman’s head brought a price of $162,500 ($150/250,000).
Another highlight of the sale was “The Summer Cloud” by Winslow Homer, which quickly sold for $1.81 million ($1.5/2.5 million). “Cicada Song in September” was the last of the Taubman Burchfields to be sold, getting a very respectable price of $466,000 ($300/500,000).
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For information, www.sothebys.com.
Wyeth Leads At Sotheby’s Regular Sale
Of American Art
Review by Carol Sims
Photos Courtesy of Sotheby’s
NEW YORK CITY — Following directly after the Taubman collection was the regular sale of American art, 56 lots which hummed along nicely, mostly within estimate, with some fireworks. The grand total of both sales was $39.6 million.
A Stuart Davis black and white drawing of the word “champion” ($1/1.5 million) brought $1.03 million from a bidder in the room. A John Frederick Peto “Oranges Wrapped” brought $162,500, well past the $50,000 high estimate.
From film star Charlton Heston’s collection came a major Andrew Wyeth picture titled “Flood Plain” estimated at $2/3 million. Starting at $1.6 million, several bidders in the room battled it out with phone bidders until a price of $5.178 million was reached by phone. Andrew Wyeth’s “Ice Pool” went to a room bidder for $298,000 ($150/250,000). A stark, precisionist painting of “Daylight at Russell’s Corners” showed a snowfall on a grouping of rural buildings. Estimated at $250/350,000 it resonated with bidders to the tune of $514,000. A painting of a boy and his dog by Thomas Hart Benton went beyond the high estimate of $2.5 million when a phone bidder claimed it for $3.13 million. “Lost Penny” by Benton came up a little later and went to $298,000 to the phone ($100/150,000). Sotheby’s head of department Elizabeth Goldberg took the winning phone bid on N.C. Wyeth’s “The Boy Columbus on the Wharf at Genoa,” bringing $850,000 ($500/700,000).
Norman Rockwell’s dispirited “Cheerleaders” jumped to a $4.506 million, surpassing the $3.5 million high estimate. An impressionistic painting by Frederick Carl Frieseke of a woman at a garden pool also beat its high estimate to land at $2.29 million ($1.4/1.8 million).
“Sea Birds” by Jamie Wyeth earned a respectable $442,000 ($300/500,000). Milton Avery’s “Red Sofa” concluded with a $550,000 phone price ($500/700,000). John Marin’s “Yellow Sun, New York City” finished at $5634,000 from the room, going to the American trade. Debra Force bid successfully on behalf of a client for Otto Henry Bacher’s painting of an Ohio street scene — $430,000 ($250/450,000). Scraping the low estimate of $250,000, Winslow Homer’s “Customs House, Santiago, Cuba” reached $250,000 by phone. A superb Paul Manship bronze of a leaping Diana and her hound was claimed by an absentee bidder for $970,000, well above the $600,000 high estimate.
A painting of four dogs playing poker by Cassius Coolidge sold for $658,000 ($400/600,000), and it set a record for the artist. Thomas Moran’s spectacular “Sunset, Amagansett” was purchased for $538,000 by New York City dealer Lou Salerno ($500/700,000). A woman in the room won the 32-by-40-inch Edward Redfield impressionistic landscape of the Delaware River from the Pennsylvania side. Starting at $180,000, the painting quickly passed the high estimate of $350,000, ending at $730,000. “New York Yacht Club Racing Boats in New York Harbor” by James Gale Tyler went to the phone for $162,500 ($70/90/000), and an absentee bidder took a charming Grandma Moses painting past the high estimate of $70,000 to $237,500.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For information, www.sothebys.com.
Christie’s Wraps Up American Art Week
Review by Carol Sims
Photos Courtesy of Christie’s
NEW YORK CITY—Wrapping up American Art Week was Christie’s Thursday, November 19, auction with 135 lots. It was an ambitiously large sale that presented nine Georgia O’Keeffe artworks, which all found new owners, save one. The top lot was “Norman Rockwell Visits a Country Editor,” 1946, oil on canvas by Norman Rockwell. It sold for $11.589 million against an estimate of $10/15 million.
Getting the auction started was a small Arthur Dove watercolor that sold easily within estimate. Charles Sheeler’s “Ore into Iron” got bidders above the high estimate of $250,000, with a price of $311,000. The auctioneer eased into the first of the O’Keeffes, “Brooklyn Bride,” a drawing that achieved $269,000 ($250/350,000). This was followed by the first O’Keeffe oil, the 9-by-61/8-inch “Leaves Under Water,” which beat the high estimate of $500,000 to land at $725,000.
Next up was the cover lot, “Ways & Means” by Stuart Davis. Fierce competition took the oil painting past its $3 million high estimate to $3.189 million — the first of several Davis pieces to sell for good money in this auction. Two more O’Keeffes followed; “Drawing 1” garnered twice the high estimate of $80,000 to finish at $197,000. Marsden Hartley’s “Camden Hills from Baker’s Island” was the next picture to significantly break through the high estimate, bringing $2.741 million — more than a cool million beyond the high estimate of $1.5 million.
George Bellows’s “The Dock” portrayed bustling passengers in the process of boarding a ferry on a summer day, and the painting kept the auction rolling with a purchase price of $1.985 million. Another choice lot followed: Martin Johnson Heade’s exotic hummingbird painting that brought $1.745 million. The male bird’s plumage practically glowed with color, while the nesting female was more subdued. A still life of vegetables by James Peale Sr more than doubled its high estimate of $300,000 to land at $785,000, and an oil sketch of a smiling child by Mary Cassatt elicited a price of $869,000, just beating the $800,000 high estimate.
A charming painting of an owl by Milton Avery swept away the high estimate of $50,000 with a price of $323,000. Avery fever stayed hot with the next lot, “Seated Figure,” bringing $161,000 ($25/35,000). This was followed by more modernism from Hartley and Davis falling within estimate, but the appetite for Avery was still strong when “Mother and Child” achieved $1.445 million ($1.2/1.8 million).
Another wonderful Stuart Davis came up a little later in the sale: “Composition (June Jitterbug Jive),” which beat the $500,000 high estimate to land at $689,000. Momentum carried Davis’s “Autumn Landscape” to $905,000 ($300/500,000). The softly sketched “Antelope Horns” by O’Keeffe reached $209,000 ($60/80,000), but the crowd was just warming up for her “Grapes No. 2,” a sweet little oil painting that had a high estimate of $800,000. The final price was $1.565 million.
More Avery and Hartley kept the room warm, and then Christie’s presented two works by Thomas Hart Benton, the first mediocre, the second, “Texas Panhandle, Route #66” doubling its high estimate of $100,000, when it brought $209,000. The next lot to pull that off was “Snowy Ambush” by John Philip Falter, showing a business man headed down a suburban sidewalk toward a group of children armed with snowballs. It realized $221,000.
The crowd was ready for Norman Rockwell’s witty self-portrait, “Norman Rockwell Visits a Country Editor,” which was consigned by the National Press Club Journalism Institute, with the approval of the National Press Club. The $11.589 million price was within the $10/15 million estimate, and proceeds will benefit nonprofit organizations. It was the top lot in the auction. The large painting is 33 by 63 inches and was painted for The Saturday Evening Post. “By 1946, not only had Rockwell’s myriad covers of the Post captured the imagination of the nation, but the artist himself was becoming a celebrity in his own right,” commented Elizabeth Beaman, Christie’s head of American art. Unfortunately, the image of this artwork has copyright restrictions that prevent Christie’s from sharing it, but it may be searched online.
Beating the high estimate of $350,000, O’Keeffe’s “Small Lavender and Grey Green Hill” reached $461,000. Her “Misty Road” followed, bringing $329,000 on a high estimate of $250,000. Next up was Milton Avery’s richly hued landscape, “Shapes of Spring,” which continued Avery’s winning streak, achieving $653,000 on a $500,000 high estimate. Several lots later, “Alaska Impression” by Rockwell Kent sold for $106,250 on a high estimate of $35,000. Avery’s “Country Road” brought $389,000 ($200/300,000) and “Untitled (Kachina Doll)” by O’Keeffe sold for $185,000 ($60/80,000). “Going Home,” a beautiful painting of Native Americans walking on a path with rolling mountains in the background by Victor William Higgins, brought $773,000 against a high estimate of $600,000.
Whether auction-weary or unimpressed with “Jupiter Terrace, Yellowstone,” bidders failed to reach an acceptable price on the 20-by-30-inch painting by Thomas Moran. The estimate was $4.5/5.5 million. Maybe the room was gun-shy, because directly following the Moran was Frederic Remington’s very interesting nocturne of Indians sitting around a campfire estimated at $1.5/2.5 million. Titled “Ghost Stories,” it, too, was passed.
The auction came to life again with a Maxfield Parrish painting of a homestead surrounded by sublime mountains. “Getting Away from it All” beat the low estimate of $400,000 when it sold for $425,000. Later, Parrish’s “The Fountain of Pirene,” had a much darker palette and failed to sell ($800,000–$1.2 million).
Reviving the earlier enthusiasm for Norman Rockwell, were “Comfort in Safety” bringing $785,000 ($400/600,000) and “Mathew Brady Photographing Lincoln” selling for $965,000 ($700,000–$1 million). A stunning James Buttersworth titled “Racing Off Sandy Hook” brought $425,000 ($250/350,000).
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For information, www.christies.com.
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