Published: December 1, 2020
Review by Greg Smith, Catalog Photos Courtesy Nathan Auctions & Real Estate
MANCHESTER VILLAGE, VT. – A boutique sale of 32 works from the estate of Barbara Riley was held online by Nathan Auctions & Real Estate on November 21.
Riley was a fixture in Manchester Village. “She was a great collector and philanthropist,” auctioneer Eric Nathan said. “In Manchester, there are significant buildings, both educational and recreational, that have her name on it. She helped a lot of people.”
The sale was originally scheduled to include live previewing and bidding at the Southern Vermont Art Center, though state restrictions on gatherings tightened in the run-up to the auction and it moved entirely online.
“It was the first time I’ve ever done it that way,” Nathan said, “but it worked out. Prices were respectable and we got it done.”
Offered were many Vermont scenes – barn portraits, snowcovered landscapes, gently rising mountains and vast valleys that show off the natural beauty of the Green Mountain state.
Twenty-one of the 32 paintings on offer were by Vermont artist Arthur Jones (1928-2020), a market Nathan knew well following an auction he held from the artist’s estate on November 23, 2019, nearly a year to the day before Riley’s sale.
“Riley was a huge fan, friend and supporter of Arthur Jones,” Nathan said. “She would go in and buy one, two, three or four paintings at the time. He had wonderful relationship with her and she supported him for a long time.”
So close were the patron and artist that Jones laughingly called the gallery in his home “The Riley Wing.”
“Jones was a real Vermonter,” Nathan said. “He was a local guy with a good sense of humor, everyone that knew him, liked him. He lived to be 90, so he was at it a long time. The locals supported him, they want his paintings and many of the same buyers from the last sale came out – some new ones, too – and it worked out nicely.”
Jones’ top paintings were portraits of barns with a $5,781 result for a 19-by-29-inch oil on board of The Round Barn in Morrisville, Vt. An oil on board of the same proportions, depicting a hay wagon before a weathered red barn, sold for $4,920.
Also attracting attention were Jones’ paintings depicting robin’s nests. Two were found in the sale, with “Nest with Birch Bark,” an oil on board measuring 9½ by 11½ inches, selling for $4,797. Smaller in size was a similar image, “Robins Nest,” 7½ by 9½ inches, that went out at $3,567.
The sale found its lot leader in a Luigi Lucioni (1900-1988) barn scene depicting the Bostwick barns on Lake Champlain in Shelburne, Vt. A towering red grain silo abuts a barn that looks as if it has seen several expansions. The 10-by-14-inch oil on board sold for $10,455.
Two weathervanes were found in the sale, with a full-bodied gilded cow measuring 31 inches long selling highest for $6,150.
“This is the tip of the iceberg,” Nathan said, who plans to hold more voluminous sales from Riley’s estate in 2021. “This was not indicative of the style of the rest of her collection, it is extremely diverse.”
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