Published: May 10, 2022
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Shannon’s
MILFORD, CONN. – American artist Charles Burchfield (1893-1967) dominated the top selling lots at Shannon’s fine art auction on April 28. “Nighthawks and the Moon,” a 1966 watercolor on paper, achieved a celestial $587,500 against a $200/300,000 estimate, and another watercolor on joined paper, “Fires of Spring in Big Woods,” 1951, sold for a within-estimate $275,000. Also by Burchfield and from one of his most productive periods was “Raindrops, May 1917,” which brought $156,250. “Nighthawks and the Moon” is considered a masterwork by the artist. Catalog notes state, “Burchfield absorbs the viewer in his reality of nature. The composition vibrates with the sound of rustling leaves, birds and wind. In the sky, the moon is full of life casting a silver glow over the whole scene.”
Burchfield grew up in a lower middle-class neighborhood in Salem, Ohio, one of five children. Catalog notes relate how he would walk home during his lunch breaks from the Mullins Company to work on his watercolors and paint in the evening and on the weekends. Shy and introverted, he drew inspiration from his surroundings, the factories, houses, gardens, churches and personalities in his community. He would roam the countryside and paint farmhouses in his idiosyncratic style with expressionistic light and bold colors giving the scenes a mythical appearance.
The sale totaled $3.5 million, with a sell-through rate of 82 percent. Shannons.com and invaluable.com registered 5,000 online bidders and more than 400 telephone bids were fielded. Commented Sandra Germain, the firm’s managing partner, “We are thrilled with the results of the sale. Our last two sales have been the highest grossing sales in the past decade. Our outstanding results and personalized service have attracted stronger consignments. We treat our clients and their artworks with respect, integrity and professionalism. We love what we do and enjoy sharing our enthusiasm and knowledge with our buyers and sellers.”
Fetching $187,500, two and a half times its high estimate, was a watercolor and pastel on paper by Maurice Prendergast (American, 1858-1924), “Picnic” 15-3/8 by 22¼ inches, which the catalog notes is “a tour-de-force of Prendergast’s creativity and spirit,” brought to mind the representations of daily life and themes that have attracted artists for generations.
A transitional figure, Prendergast’s works bridge the styles of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, blending late American Impressionism with an Ashcan-influenced urbanism. This is seen in “Picnic,” which both vivid and juxtaposes bold spots of color with more fluid and rhythmic curving lines, the artist overlapping watercolor, pencil and pastel.
American artist John Fulton Folinsbee (1892-1972) was a landscape, marine and portrait painter, and a member of the art colony at New Hope, Penn. Best known for his impressionist scenes of New Hope and Lambertville, N.J., particularly the factories, quarries and canals along the Delaware River, he was represented in this sale by “Huckster’s Cart,” 1922-24, selling for $162,500. The 32-by-40-inch oil on canvas, signed lower left, depicts a common scene in small-town life in the early Twentieth Century. In catalog notes, author Kirsten M. Jensen observes, “The huckster and his cart were regular fixtures…bringing fruit, vegetables and other necessities to the doors of their customers. They also provided interesting subject matter for artists like Folinsbee and Robert Spencer, who depicted a huckster’s visit to New Hope in 1913.”
A plein-air portrait of Marin Island, Small Point, Maine, by John Marin (American, 1870-1953), rose from a $25/30,000 estimate to bring $131,250. The 1928 watercolor on paper, 16 by 20¾ inches, depicts Marin Island, an island purchased by Marin shortly after his wedding. The island proved to be inhospitable for the family, but it provided Marin with a subject he would return to on numerous occasions. A sticker from the back of the painting indicates that this work was exhibited at An American Place which was Alfred Stieglitz’s last gallery. There, Stieglitz hosted annual exhibitions of works by Marin, O’Keeffe and Arthur Dove.
Winfred Rembert’s (American, 1945-2021) “Red Note Chain Gang,” 2007, rendered with dye on carved and tooled leather, bettered its $20/30,000 valuation and reached $118,750. “I’ve painted a lot of pictures of the chain gang,” Rembert was quoted in the catalog notes. “I believed that many people in the free world thought bad of the chain gang. They looked at the workers on the chain gang, working on the highways and in the ditches, and I believe they thought that all the guys were killers. With the paintings, I was trying to show that it wasn’t that way.”
Rembert, born in Cuthbert, Ga., picked cotton as a child and as a teenager was arrested in the aftermath of a civil rights demonstration. He later broke out of jail, survived a near-lynching and spent seven more years in prison where he was forced to work on a chain gang. He was released in 1974 and settled in New Haven, Conn. When he was 51 years old, encouraged by his wife, he began carving and painting memories from his youth. He used leather and leather-tooling skills he had learned in prison to create his unique and colorful compositions, of which this 33-by-42½-inch composition is one.
Winter seasons come and go, but the depictions of New York City landmarks in winter’s snowy embrace by Guy Carlton Wiggins (American, 1883-1962) are forever. In this sale, going out at $112,500 was his oil on canvas view of “Broad St. and the Sub Treasury,” property from a distinguished American collection. It is deemed one of Wiggins most sought-after subjects, with the American flags waving in the foreground and the palpable energy of Wall Street. Bringing $75,000 was Wiggins’ “Fifth Avenue Snowstorm,” circa 1925. His legacy was preserved in the history of American Art and his works are included in numerous public and private collections, including the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Conn., the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Brooklyn Museum, the National Gallery in Washington DC and the Art Institute of Chicago.
A snowy scene with a completely different vibe was that of Andrew Wyeth’s (American, 1917-2009) “Gate Chain,” 1967, where the whiteness of the snow adds to the quietness of the scene – a fence post with a gate chain and in the distance, a farmhouse and evergreens visible against the bright white of the snow. Of his work in general, Wyeth commented, “I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape – the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.” The watercolor on paper, 20¾ by 13¼ inches, brought $112,500.
European art came to the fore with an oil on canvas by Jean Dufy (French, 1888-1964). “La Ville,” 18 by 21¾ inches, made $93,750, above its $60,000 high estimate. Here, Dufy paints a bright blue sky that casts a shadow of blue over the red and yellow buildings and the street. The spontaneous and quick brushstrokes capture the hustle and bustle of the busy street and the movement of the people.
In Lennart Anderson’s (American, 1928-2015) “Still Life with Popcorn Maker I,” 1981, the viewer sees an array of ordinary objects on a kitchen table, including a lemon, pastry and a pitcher, with the whimsical additions of an overturned berry container and a Jiffy Pop pan with its cover fully puffed out. Exhibited at Davis and Langdale Co. in New York City in “Lennart Anderson: Paintings,” February 16-March 16, 1985, the painting’s framed dimensions were 20½ by 29½ by 1½ inches.
Lovell Birge Harrison’s (American, 1854-1929) “Madison Square Looking Toward the Flatiron Building,” circa 1910, was bid to $87,500. The oil on canvas, 25 by 30 inches, is a masterwork by the artist, synthesizing his understanding of Tonalism and Impressionism. In it, the catalog notes, “he captures a rare moment of quiet in the city. The cool serene scene is brought to life with the warm glow from the streetlights reflecting on the wet pavement.”
Additional highlights in the sale included “Peonies,” 1927, by Edmund Charles Tarbell (American, 1862-1938), which realized $81,250; and, each finishing at $68,750, Arthur Wesley Dow’ (American, 1857-1922) “Haystack” and Dale Nichols’ (American, 1904-1995) “Evening Chores.”
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house.
The next sale is an online-only event set for June 23. A full catalog sale is planned for October 27.
For information, 203-877-1711 or www.shannons.com.
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