Published: August 21, 2007
Barridoff Galleries hosted a sale of fine American and European art at the Holiday Inn by the Bay on August 3. Featuring a great selection of artwork, the sale totaled more than $4 million. Depending on the results of postauction sales, gallery owner Rob Elowitch characterized the auction as “one of our most successful sales, perhaps our most successful yet.” He said the saleroom at the Holiday Inn was packed, with many people standing.
“We got some amazing prices,” stated Elowitch. This despite a worrisome US stock market, whose wobbles tend to affect the performance of lower end and middle tier lots; however, the auctioneer said that the high end seemed to be running on all cylinders when it came to paintings by well-known and -regarded artists or works with extraordinary provenance.
A case in point was an important oil by Abbott Fuller Graves of a garden with two figures conversing near a fountain, the young girl almost certainly the artist’s daughter. The painting had initially been consigned for last year’s Barridoff sale from the artist’s family. It had been exhibited in 1923 at Babcock Galleries, at the artist’s first solo exhibition in New York City and then illustrated in Ladies’ Home Journal in an article on New England gardens by George Alfred Williams in May 1924. “The Fountain,” measuring 25 by 30 inches, appeared to be untouched and dirty, but otherwise in excellent condition.
A domestic squabble between the buyer and his wife †who, Elowitch related, berated her spouse for spending “too much money” on the painting, resulted in the Graves painting being returned to this year’s sale lineup. It sold to a “wonderful buyer this time,” said Elowitch, a California resident whose phone bid won the painting at $150,000.
Top lot of the sale was an oil on canvas painting, “Yellowstone National Park,” by Worthington Whittredge (American, 1820‱910), which soared above its $20/30,000 presale estimate to $216,000. The painting depicted a pair of deer foraging on the edge of a stream in the foreground with towering sunlit buff ridges in the background. “War happened,” said Elowitch, attempting to fathom a cause for the lot’s stellar performance. “It began with competition among one person on the floor and two phone bidders, and finally came down to a battle between the floor and the phone,” he said. The phone won.
Another robust performance was turned in by a glowing William Henry Buck (American, 1840‱888) oil on canvas titled “A Schooner at Sunset on Lake Pontchartrain.” Selling for $198,000, the consignment’s price was a “life-changing amount” for its owner Walter Haas, a Raymond, Maine resident. “He bought the painting when it was first offered at our gallery seven years ago,” said Elowitch. Barridoff this time put a $20/30,000 presale estimate on the 17¾-by-33¾-inch painting that was signed “Wm H Buck” lower right. Elowitch attributed a heightened interest in Southern paintings generally as a reason for the painting’s strong performance.
“We’ve done well in the past with [Rackstraw] Downes, and we’re seeing strength in contemporary art,” said Elowitch, speaking about the American artist’s depiction of “The Pulp Mills at Madison,” a 12½-by-40-inch oil on canvas that more than doubled its high presale estimate to bring $114,000. The painting was festooned with New York City gallery labels verso, including those of Kornblee, Hirschl & Adler and Hirschl & Adler Modern.
Another popular artist featured regularly at Barridoff sales, Anthony Thieme (American, 1888‱954), was represented by four works, the best performing of which was the glittering “Morning Sun, Nassau,” an island painting in oil on canvas measuring 30 by 36 inches. Consigned by a Greenfield Center, N.Y., couple, the painting depicting boats getting underway from an island dock was fresh to the market, and easily slipped out of its $40/60,00 presale mooring to achieve $96,000. A Thieme Rockport scene, “Afternoon in Rockport,” consigned by a Kennebunk, Maine, family, also did well, bringing $54,000.
Price-per-square-inch honors went to a “tiny, tiny, tiny” painting by Edward Potthast (American, 1857‱927) of a young girl wading at the edge of the seashore. The 5½-by-3½ inch oil on board, dwarfed but at the same time enhanced by its beautiful original gold frame, came out of a private collection in Vermont. It had a Salmagundi Club label verso and went out at $84,000.
Further highlights of the sale were a harbor scene by John Whorf (American, 1903‱959) that realized $78,000; and a brooding portrait of a “Country Girl” by Walt Kuhn (American, 1877‱919), which also sold for $78,000.
Prices reported include the 20 percent buyer’s premium. For information, www.barridoff.com or 207-772-5011.
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