Published: November 15, 2016
MILFORD, CONN. – The American landscape and those who figure in it were running themes at Shannon’s Fine Art Auctioneers on October 27. The 250-lot session tallied roughly $1.8 million, demonstrating resilience in the middle market for Hudson River School through early Modernist American paintings, as well as a more rarified taste for historical portraiture. Most of the top lots went to private buyers, noted auction house founder Gene Shannon.
The market’s ongoing interest in artist-illustrators was underscored by the sale of “Sunset on the Farm” by Nebraska-born painter and illustrator Dale Nichols for $66,000. The record auction price for Nichols is $110,500, logged in 2014.
In the related category of sporting art, the watercolor “After the Hunt” by Edmund Henry Osthaus went for $20,400. The view depicts a seated hunter with two companionable hounds.
After accepting a consignment of an important pair of portrait miniatures of President George Washington and First Lady Martha Washington, Shannon’s reached out to the universe of collectors, curators and dealers most likely to be interested. The special pieces have well-documented histories of descent. Robert Field painted the portrait of George Washington in 1801 after a work by Gilbert Stuart. Early in the Twentieth Century collector Herbert L. Pratt attributed the portrait of Martha Washington to the French-born artist Henry Elouis. Contemporary scholars, however, believe it to be by Walter Robinson, an Irish artist who made presentation copies of Gilbert Stuart’s portraits.
It its catalog essay, the auction house states, “One year after Washington’s death (1799), Mrs. Washington selected Field for a commission of miniatures of her late husband to give to their family and a close friend. From November 1800 to the following year, Field completed several ‘remarkably beautiful and highly-prized miniatures of George Washington,’ and two portraits of Mrs. Washington. Eight are known, six depicting Washington as president in civilian dress and two in military attire.”
After the miniatures, estimated at $60/80,000 each, failed to meet reserve, Shannon’s successfully negotiated their private sale to a collector for a combined $70,000.
“The buyer is a very sophisticated person,” said Shannon.
Shannon’s takes a steady interest in Hudson River School painting, even as the market weathers ups and downs. This session, it was “Evening Glow,” a smoldering coastal view by Alfred Thompson Bricher that took top honors in the Nineteenth Century American landscape category, selling mid-estimate for $60,000. Another russet-toned canvas, Jasper Francis Cropsey’s “Farm Along the River,” was well received at $36,000.
“Overall, minor Hudson River school pictures did extremely well,” said Gene Shannon, citing as examples a small Adirondack view by Bricher, $15,600, and John Williamson’s “Luminist Vista,” $18,000.
Among other Nineteenth Century works, Robert Spear Dunning’s delectable “Still Life with Peaches, Pears and Grapes” ticked the boxes for bidders, exceeding high estimate to bring $45,600.
One great buy at $9,600 was “The Husking Bee” by Henry Mosler. The massive 10-foot-wide genre scene from a prominent corporate collection brought many times that figure when it last came to auction. Let us hope that it now finds its way to an institution.
The snowscapes of William Launt Palmer are a perennial favorite at Shannon’s, which has sold its share of the luminous winter views over the years. In 2014 the company got $132,000 for an especially fine view of a winter wood. This round, the more muscular oil on canvas “Upland Stream, Mohawk Valley” crossed the block at $55,200. A Palmer gouache, one of the best Shannon has handled, made $18,000.
Other solid successes included “Lengthening Shadows, No. 1 (Resting at the Haystack)” by Willard Leroy Metcalf, $43,200, and “Flower Market” by Everett Lloyd Bryant, $31,200. As subtle as a whisper, the beautiful pastel on paper “Woman in a Boat” by Julian Alder Weir reached $15,600.
Charles Courtney Curran was represented by seven works, each from a different consignor. The most appealing was Shannon’s cover lot, “Blue and Gold,” a sun-splashed summer frolic that fetched $50,400. The Cragsmoor view had belonged to the artist’s daughter, Emily.
Gene Shannon accurately anticipated interest in Chicago artist Pauline Lennards Palmer, whose blocky “Backstreet, Provincetown” of circa 1924 was a winner at $19,200, as well as in Alice L. Mattern, whose Modernist abstraction “Con Moto” tripled low estimate to sell for $31,200. Mattern died young in 1945. New York’s Museum of Non-Objective Art honored the artist with a posthumous display of her work in 1946.
“We had reasonably good luck with European art,” said Gene Shannon. By the Italian Luigi Belchi, “Sunday Visit,” a late Nineteenth or early Twentieth Century genre scene depicting a parish priest on his rounds, left the room at $31,980. Paintings by Le Pho, a Vietnamese painter who worked in France, are always of interest here. “Composition 33828,” a semi-abstact portrait of two women in a spring landscape, made $36,000.
“We were happy with the outcome. We sold a vast amount of the good stuff. The internet was very active,” said Shannon.
Prices include buyer’s premium.
Looking ahead to 2017, Shannon’s Fine Art Auctioneers is planning an online-only discovery sale for January 19. Its next cataloged live sale will be in April.
Shannon’s galleries are at 354 Woodmont Road in Milford. For further information, 203-877-1711 or www.shannons.com.
The Meredith-Moreau-Pratt miniature of President George Washington by Robert Field (British, 1769–1829), 1801, $35,000 ($60/80,000).
Gene Shannon holds the George Washington portrait miniature that made $35,000, the same price paid for a companion portrait of Martha Washington.
Shannon’s reserves a portion of each sale for work by lesser-known artists. Top left, “Le Voilier” by Andre Brasilier (French, b 1929), made $15,600, while “Abstraction,” bottom left, by E.E. Cummings fetched $3,075. Paintings by Rolph Scarlett, Arun Bose and Rodolfo Nieto did not meet reserve.
Works by two artists associated with Litchfield County, Conn., included a handful of paintings by the contemporary Realist Peter Poskas (b 1939), whose “Winter Morning, North Cornwall,” left, passed at $10/$15,000. “Rocks in Water (Small),” an acrylic on canvas by Cleve Gray (1918–2004, brought $7,200.
Auction house principals Sandra Germain and Gene Shannon with highlights from their October 27 sale. Clockwise from upper left, “A Winter Idyll,” gouache and tempera painting by Walter Launt Palmer, $18,000; the sale’s cover lot, “Blue and Gold” by Charles Courtney Curran, $50,400; Palmer’s oil on canvas “Upland Stream, Mohawk Valley,” $55,200; and “Sunset on the Farm” by Dale Nichols, $66,000.
From a corporate collection, “The Husking Bee” by Henry Mosler (1841–1920) made $37,500 when Sotheby’s auctioned it in 2008. The oversized canvas was a bargain this time at $9,600. Skirball Museum featured the work in the 1996 exhibition “Henry Mosler Rediscovered: A Nineteenth Century Jewish American Artist.”
“Evening Glow” by Alfred Thompson Bricher (1837–1908), oil on canvas, 15 by 32 inches, $60,000 ($50/70,000).
“After the Hunt” by Edmund Henry Osthaus (1858–1928), watercolor on paper on board, 28- by 19¾ inches, $20,400 ($10/15,000).
Visible clockwise from top left, “Backstreet, Provincetown” by Pauline Lennards Palmer (1867–1938), circa 1924, oil on board, $19,200 ($20/30,000), and two paintings by Charles Courtney Curran, “Maternal Cares” and “Heirlooms,” both unsold.
“Portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson” by Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848–1907), bronze, 11¾ inches in diameter, $35,000 ($12/18,000).
“Winged Cupid” by Chauncey Bradley Ives (1810–1894), white marble, height 42½ inches, $18,000 ($20/30,000).
From the collection of casino magnate William Harrah, a collector of antique cars, 25 original illustrations of vintage automobiles by Thomas M. Hoyne (1924–1989) brought $32,400 ($10/15,000).
“Autumn in the Adirondacks “ by Alexander Helwig Wyant (1836–1892), oil on canvas, 20 by 30 inches, $33,600 ($20/30,000).
“Still Life with Peaches, Pears and Grapes” by Robert Spear Dunning (1829–1905), 1891, oil on canvas, 13 by 17 inches, $45,600 ($25/35,000).
“Composition 33828” by Le Pho (French Vietnamese,(1907–2001), oil on canvas, 39½ by 28¾ inches, $36,000($25/35,000).
“Con Moto” by Alice L. Mattern (1909–1945), oil on canvas, 42 by 35 inches, $31,200 ($10/15,000).
“Lengthening Shadows, No. 1 (Resting at the Haystack)” by Willard Leroy Metcalf (1858–1925), 1888, oil on panel, 12- by 16¼ inches, $43,200.
“Blue and Gold” by Charles Courtney Curran (1861–1942), 1929, oil on canvas mounted on board, 30 by 40 inches, $50,400 ($40/60,000).
“Flower Market” by Everett Lloyd Bryant (1864–1945), oil on canvas, 30 by 36 inches, $31,200 ($8/12,000).
“Sunset on the Farm” by Dale Nichols (1904–1995), oil on canvas, 24 by 30 inches, $66,000 ($50/75,000).
Portrait of Martha Washington by Walter Robertson (Irish, active in America 1793–1796), watercolor, $35,000 ($60/80,000).
“Upland Stream, Mohawk Valley” by Walter Launt Palmer (1854–1932), oil on canvas, 25½ by 30 inches, $55,200 ($30/50,000.
“Woman in a Boat” by Julian Alden Weir (1852–1919), pastel on paper, 6½ by 9½ inches, $15,600 ($8/12,000).
“Farm Along the River” by Jasper Francis Cropsey (1823–1900), 1889, oil on canvas, 13¾ by 23¾ inches, $36,000 ($30/50,000).
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