Published: May 11, 2021
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Shannon’s Fine Art Auctioneers
MILFORD, CONN. – Shannon’s Fine Art Auctioneers kicked off the spring auction season with a sale of paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures on April 29. More than 200 artworks crossed the block, including American art, Modern and contemporary art, sculptures, Hudson River School paintings and works by female artists. Nearly 90 percent of the 201 lots offered were sold, realizing $2.4 million in total sales. Shannon’s reported an upbeat sale with busy chatter from a bank of 20 phone bidders and robust online participation.
Managing partner Sandra Germain, commented, “During our ten days of in-person previews, we welcomed many of our loyal clients as well as many new buyers. Even in the absence of a live audience, the pulse in the room was vibrant. It was a tremendous start to the year for us and the results are encouraging for the overall art market.”
Leading the sale was a painting by Charles Morgan McIlhenney (American, 1858-1904), “Summer Afternoon by the Shore,” an oil on canvas from a Connecticut collection, that rose to $100,000. Signed lower right “C. Morgan McIlhenney” and measuring 14 by 26¾ inches, the painting had provenance to a private collection offered by Sotheby’s in September 1992 and exhibition history at the New Britain Museum of American Art in the summer of 2005. When it was first offered in 1992, the painting set a world record price for the artist at $33,000. Buyers remembered this work, and aggressive bidding on the phones led to a new auction record for the artist. McIlhenney studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and established a studio in New York. He started as a figure painter, but found that he preferred to paint landscapes and animals. He won awards at the National Academy of Design and the 1901 Pan-American Exposition, and was a member of the American Water Color Society.
The same Connecticut collection contributed four oil paintings by Connecticut artist Fidelia Bridges (American, 1834-1923), and these performed well. “Red Breasted Grosbeak in a Thicket” had been estimated $12/18,000 but sold for $80,000, and “Gold Finches and Thistle” sold for $55,000, both results setting new world record high prices. Two smaller works included “Morning Glories” at $37,500, which met her previous auction record, while “Myrtle and Lilies” sold for $30,000. Bridges frequented the banks of the Housatonic River in Stratford, where she painted birds and wildlife along the river banks. She enjoyed a long and successful career as a painter of meticulous depictions of the natural world, particularly of birds and flowers. Steeped in the Pre-Raphaelite tradition, she spent time under the tutelage of William Trost Richards, and in her later works the influence of Japanese ukiyo-e prints, “prints of the floating world,” can be seen.
The sale’s cover lot was “Floral Still Life with Shells” by Paul Lacroix (American, 1827-1869). He was a painter of French or Swiss origin who was best known for his lush still life paintings, particularly florals. His realistic technique and allegorical elements hark back to the work of Dutch, German and French masters of the still life that were popular in midcentury America. This work, with Southern provenance, brought $71,500, far above its $6/8,000 estimate, and established a new auction record for the artist. Lacroix arranged a bouquet of flowers and two shells, evoking the themes of romance and love. Catalog notes describe the dominant Oriental Stargazer lily in the center as a traditional symbol of romance, wealth and prosperity, while the pink roses and fuchsia echo the theme of love. The forget-me-nots express a hope of enduring connection and partnering. The beautifully rendered shells in the lower right foreground depict the exotic purple-top tiger cowrie, a strong fertility reference, and a lettered olive shell widely found in Southern US waters.
Another Paul Lacroix painting in the auction, “Still Life with Chrysanthemums,” sold for $16,510.
The still life genre was further bolstered by a large Severin Roesen (American, 1815-1872), “Still Life of Fruit with Goblet of Flowers.” The oil on canvas, signed lower right “Roesen” and inscribed on the reverse “Purchased by Geo. W. Jones April 11th 1878 / of John W. Quincy / who bought it of / the Artist” was bid to $60,000. Other realized prices for still lifes included a Charles Ethan Porter work of colorful flowers selling for $25,000, a Marcel Dyf floral still life for $18,750, a large John Frederick Peto (American, 1854-1907) with a copper kettle for $22,500 and a small Peto, “Still Life with Pipe, Candlestick and Book,” circa 1890, oil on board, for $32,500.
Contemporary still lifes soared as well, with three works by Robert Kulicke tripling their high estimates – “Single Pear” sold for $11,430, “Flowers in a Glass” went out at $10,160, and “Fruit on a Tabletop” earned $9,375.
Strength was seen in Nineteenth Century American paintings. Alfred Thompson Bricher’s (American, 1837-1908) “Low Tide, Grand Manan Island,” sold for $60,000. The 15-by-33-inch oil on canvas from a private Connecticut collection was one of four views Bricher exhibited of low tide on Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick, at the National Academy between the years 1898 and 1901: Marlton’s Cove, Matthew’s Cove, Hetherington’s Cove (now in the collection of the San Antonio Museum of Art) and Castilla. In addition, J.F. Weir’s “Niagara Falls” realized $35,000 and Edward Moran’s “The Journey’s End” fetched $23,750.
Modernist Lyonel Feininger’s (American-German, 1871-1956) watercolor of “Three Sails,” one of the artist’s favorite topics, ink and watercolor on paper, signed and dated lower left “Feininger 1952,” knocked down for $47,500 against aggressive absentee bids. The 13¼-by-18¼-inch work had provenance that included Pace-Wildenstein, New York City, and a private Washington, DC collection. Feininger was born in New York City and moved to Germany with his parents in 1887. He started his artistic training when he was just 16 years old, studying in Hamburg, Berlin and Paris from 1887 to 1892. He was part of the German avant-garde in the early Twentieth Century and one of the first teachers at the influential Bauhaus school in Weimar, Germany, founded by Walter Gropius in 1919.
Modern art offerings included two abstract expressionist works by Milton Resnick (American, 1917-2004) from a private collection. An untitled oil on Masonite, signed and dated lower left “Resnick 60,” 32 by 20 inches, went out at $45,720 and another untitled work, this one an oil on paper on board, signed and dated lower left “Resnick 59,” 30 by 22 inches, fetched $30,000 – both after lively participation from the phones.
A member of the first generation of Abstract Expressionists, Resnick was a lifelong New Yorker after immigrating from Ukraine with his family as an infant in 1917. He was trained at the American Artists School and participated in the WPA artist project in the 1930s. During World War II, he served five years in the US Army, returning to New York in September 1945. He was also an original member of the artist group known as “The Club” in 1949 along with Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Ad Reinhardt and Jack Tworkov.
Ticking off both categories of American sculpture and women artists were two superb offerings. A presumed unique casting of “Young Girl Skipping Rope” by Abastenia St Leger Eberle (American, 1878-1942) sold to a museum collection for $32,500, and Janet Scudder’s “Young Diana” sold for $27,500. The St L. Eberle bronze with an extensive exhibition history was signed and dated “A St L Eberle 09,” stamped with foundry mark “S. Klaber & Co. / Founders New York” and measured 14½ inches high.
St Leger Eberle was born in Webster City, Iowa. At the age of 21, she moved to New York and enrolled in the Art Students League where she was taught by George Gray Barnard. Her breakthrough came as the art world began to take notice of her small figures portraying the street life of lower Manhattan, particularly the Lower East Side. One of her most well-known early works of this genre, “Roller Skating,” 1906, was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 1906.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. The next auction will be conducted online June 24 followed by the fall auction in October. For information, www.shannons.com or 203-877-1711.
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