Published: January 17, 2023
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Sarasota Estate Auction
SARASOTA, FLA. — “Sarasota Estate Auction continues to increase its reach globally, expanding its online footprint inviting new bidders with each auction,” said owner Andrew Ford following his firm’s weekend sale, January 7-8. The sale totaled in excess of $550,000 and counted more than 10,000 registered bidders between online, phone, absentee and in-house participants.
On the second day of the sale, a charcoal on paper portrait of Elizabeth Mills Reid by John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) took off, surpassing its $10/20,000 estimate to bring $69,300. This piece came from consignors in Sausalito, Calif. It ended up selling to a phone bidder located in Virginia.
Elizabeth Mills and John Singer Sargent were both confirmed at Holy Trinity in 1874. As the two became more prominent in their respective fields the two united once again in the creation of this iconic charcoal. According to the Reid Hall archives, the original 1912 charcoal portrait sketch of Elizabeth Mills Reid is yet to be found. The archive’s image of the 9¾-by-7½-inch charcoal (a photograph) on its website appears to be the same as the lot offered in this sale. Sargent’s subject, Elizabeth Mills Reid, was one of the leading female philanthropists of the early Twentieth Century, the daughter of Darius Ogden Mills, one of the wealthiest men in America.
Another bidder acquired a perfect piece and at a discount from its $50/70,000 estimate. It was a massive (107 by 108 inches) oil on canvas by Hunt Slonem (American, b 1951) titled “Toco Toucans,” and it went out at $37,800. The monumental oil on canvas was rife with multiple, colorful toucans. The back was signed and titled.
Slonem, born in Kittery, Maine, had a fascination with exotica that was imprinted during his childhood in Hawaii and experience as a foreign exchange student in Managua, Nicaragua. Since 1973, the artist has lived and worked in New York City in his loft with the 70 pet birds that are his models, symbolizing the soul and spiritual liberation. Catalog notes explain that the symbolic birds evolved from Slonem’s early paintings of saints as well as inspiration from the pioneers of bird imagery in painting, including Martin Johnson Heade and John James Audubon.
Attributed to Gilbert Stuart (American, 1755-1828) and also underperforming its estimate was the portrait of George Washington depicting America’s first president in a black velvet suit with a white lace jabot at his neck and powdered hair. Dating to the first quarter of the 1800s, this unsigned oil on canvas is attributed to Gilbert Stuart, who painted approximately 75 “Athenaeum-type” portraits of Washington. It was estimated $40/80,000 and sold for $26,460. Catalog notes said it was purchased in 1991 from a Geneva, N.Y., auction house and had previously been in a private collection in Auburn, N.Y., the home of an ambassador in the Foreign Service. After 1991, the portrait hung for many years at the consignor’s bed and breakfast in Chincoteague, Va. In a walnut frame, the portrait measured 35½ by 30½ inches.
Fans of abstract art chased a chalk pastel on paper attributed to Joan Mitchell (American, 1925-1992) to $17,010. The untitled 15½-by-11½-inch work incorporated vivid blue and red abstract imagery. It was pencil-signed lower right and bore provenance to the Andre Emmerich Gallery, New York, via a label on reverse. One of the most prominent members of the second generation of Abstract Expressionists. Mitchell painted highly structured, large-scale compositions featuring vibrant, violent bursts of color and light, often influenced by landscape painting and informed by her emotional understanding of the world around her.
A Pop art highlight was an original acrylic on canvas “Gramaphone” by Peter Max (b 1937), one of the foremost leaders of the Pop art movement of the last half of the Twentieth Century. It brought $12,600 and measured 26½ by 24 inches.
Among a run of eight lots by Jorge Blanco (Venezuelan-American, b 1945) that were featured on the sale’s first day, a sculpture, “Thinker,” took $11,340. It consisted of a blue painted acrylic “man” held together with bolts, on a clear acrylic cube with two open sides. It was signed Jorge Blanco ‘22 on the left leg. Blanco is an international artist who, utilizing his background as an industrial designer, has created a distinctive sculptural language in his use of hardware as intrinsic parts of his sculpture. “Jorge Blanco continues to impress us with his local and international interest,” said Ford. “His large sculptures can be found in 12 countries around the world.”
Sarasota Estate Auction has made a market in works by Florida Highwaymen, a group of about two dozen African American artists who in the early 1950s through the 1980s created a body of work that employs vivid colors to evoke the untouched Florida landscape. One of the group’s founding members, Harold Newton (1934-1994), was represented in the sale by an oil on board painting depicting waves crashing on the shore and two birds flying in the sky in oranges, blues and whites. At 29¼ by 53¼ inches overall, it sold for $9,135.
Fetching $8,820 was an Impressionist oil on canvas described as in the manner of Fern Coppedge (American, 1883-1951), a well-known New Hope, Penn., Impressionist painter who used myriad contrasting colors to create beautiful landscapes. Titled “View of a Village through the Trees and Across the River,” the oil on canvas was signed in red in the lower mid-margin. Overall size was 23½ by 27 inches.
“We were very surprised with our Fernando Botero sculpture,” commented Ford following the sale. “It had a starting price of $300 and an estimate of $600/900. Prior to auction day, there was an internet bid of $550. When all was said and done, this piece brought $5,040.”
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. Literary works at auction comprise Sarasota Estate Auction’s next sale on February 12, a one-owner collection. The next normal fine art, Modern design and antiques auction is March 4-5. For information, 941-359-8700 or www.sarasotaestateauction.com.
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