Published: November 5, 2015
Review by W.A. Demers; Photos Courtesy of Barridoff Galleries
PORTLAND, MAINE — Barridoff Galleries co-principal Rob Elowitch chuckled when checking record prices for James Fitzgerald (American, 1899–1971), whose “Saltin’ Mackerel aka Working Day, Monhegan” sold to a collector in the room on October 16 for $74,400. “It seems that the last auction record — $59,250 — was set by us in 2006,” said Elowitch. Signed “James Fitzgerald” lower left, the 30-by-40-inch oil on canvas is alive with workers and gulls amidst the rugged idyllic spot that has attracted artists, fisherman and visitors since the turn of the century. It was the top lot in a 237-lot auction conducted on the Portland campus of the University of Southern Maine.
The sale’s offering had been gleaned from a variety of standout collections, including a Richard Estes collection from a New York consignor, selections from the James Fitzgerald collection of Craig and Valerie Cooper of Washington, Conn., a Maine family collection and others.
An Edward Hopper (American, 1882–1967) charcoal study was the next highest selling lot in this sale, beating its $20/30,000 estimate to achieve $45,600. “Study for ‘The City,” circa 1927, listed provenance of Hopper’s widow, Jo Hopper, as well as Hirschl & Adler Galleries and a 2007 Christie’s auction. According to Gail Levin, author of the catalog raisonné on Hopper’s work, this drawing was a study for the 1927 painting “The City,” which is in the collection of University of Arizona Museum of Art, Tucson, Ariz.
Making for an arresting frontispiece illustration for Barridoff’s catalog for this sale was the hyperrealistic view of the interior and passengers of the “B Train” through a closed compartment door by Richard Estes (American, b 1932), in which the artist cleverly rendered his initials “RWE” as graffiti in the window. The 24 3⁄8-by-15 7⁄8-inch oil on board sold for $36,000 and had come from the artist to the owner. Estes has a home in Northeast Harbor, Maine, and his photorealistic works were the subject of an exhibition at the Portland Museum of Art in 2014.
“On the Strand” was painted by Joseph Israels (Dutch, 1824–1911) about 1860. It depicts a mother and child at the beach, the child being carried piggyback as they ponder a becalmed toy vessel in a tidal pool. Fetching $28,800, the oil on panel was signed by the artist lower left and measured 12 by 9 inches.
A finely painted playful image of a boy sitting on a traditional rope bed holding a bird on a stick was a heretofore unknown study executed by Orientalist master Edwin Lord Weeks (American, 1849–1903) The 20¼-by-14-inch oil on canvas had been authenticated for the gallery by catalog raisonné author Ellen K. Morris, PhD. In her letter, which accompanied the lot, Morris stated, “I have examined this painting based on digital photographs and I can state without reservation that it is a wholly authentic work by Edwin Lord Weeks, signed with the artist’s initials, rendered in 1883, with its subject painted in Delhi, India. The authentication sealed the deal, propelling the work from its $6/9,000 estimate to $24,000.
Late in the sale, an oil on canvas by Waldo Peirce (American, 1884–1970), “Interior of Manfred Schwartz’s Studio,” 1947, nearly doubled its high estimate, taking $22,800. In the 40-by-50-inch work, the Polish American artist can be seen fastening the canvas of a fresh work to its stretcher, the scene given a domestic touch with his wife and son interacting in the lower right of the painting.
“Flowers” by Japanese artist Kunishiro Mitsutani (Japanese, 1874–1936) with a pensive genre portrait of a kimono-clad woman with freshly gathered blooms in her lap went out at $21,600, just above its low estimate. The oil on canvas measured 32 by 22¾ inches and was signed by the artist lower right.
Stephen Etnier’s (American, 1903–1984) atmospheric portrayal of fishing buoys against a coastal landscape in “Camden Hills,” oil on canvas, 18 by 32 inches, came out of a Florida collection and was bid to a within-estimate $11,280.
Two works offered in the sale each realized $11,040. One was another Etnier oil, this one titled “View from the Ferry” and measured 34 by 25 inches. The other was another Estes — “Lower East Side,” signed and inscribed “For Francis 2002, Richard Estes” and again property of the New York consignor who had a obtained the oil from the artist.
A drapery study, $10,800, by John Singer Sargent, a 24-by-18¼-inch charcoal, rounded out the sale’s top ten highlights.
Elowitch said he was pleased with both the auction’s results and with the new venue, Hannaford Hall, which was “packed” for this sale and will be the site for the firm’s next international fine art auction in April 2016, exact date to be announced.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For more information, 207-772-5011 or www.barridoff.com.
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