Published: May 16, 2023
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Rockport Art Association & Museum
ROCKPORT, MASS. — The Rockport Art Association & Museum’s (RAA&M) annual art auction was conducted live online only on May 6, featuring masterworks by historic Cape Ann artists. Paul Strisik’s (1918-1998) “Rockport Harbor,” an oil on canvas, 24 by 30 inches, led the auction, selling for $13,530. The tranquil yet shimmering harbor scene with moored fishing boats, figures on the dock and cerulean Cape sky utilized the painted light and color that Strisik is famous for. From his artist’s website: “There is luminosity in Strisik’s skies that glimmers off the earth, glosses the surface of the water, and reveals his excitement and emotional involvement in the subject.”
Over the years, the annual art auction, a major fundraiser for the RAA&M, has attracted serious collectors throughout the United States as well as those just starting an art collection. Now in its 38th year, the auction began with a bequest by founding RAA&M member Antonio Cirino (1888-1983). Cirino left his artwork to the association with the stipulation that the art be auctioned to help support the organization. The auction quickly evolved to include other historic Cape Ann artists and has been the association’s major annual fundraising event ever since.
Fittingly, just behind the Paul Strisik painting was Cirino’s “Fall Stroll,” an oil on board, 8 by 10 inches, going out at $9,840. Signed lower right, the painting with jewel-like fall colors featured figures walking along a village path.
Works by master Cape Ann artists of the past, like Cirino, Emile Gruppé, Anthony Thieme and Max Kuehne, as well as works by numerous other prominent historic American artists were the main draw.
Anthony Thieme’s (1888-1954) “Autumn Leaves, Pigeon Cove,” an oil on canvas is a fall view in this small, but well protected harbor on the north side of Sandy Bay, about two miles northwest of Rockport Harbor, was bid to $6,150. It was signed lower right and measured 30 by 36 inches.
Emile Albert Gruppe (1896-1978), an American painter, known for impressionistic landscapes and Massachusetts coastal and marine paintings, is a perennial favorite in this sale as well regional auctions throughout New England. In this sale, he was represented by “The Birches,” an oil on canvas, 30 by 25 inches, an autumnal portrait of the quintessential New England trees beside a stream. It realized $7,380.
“Spinnakers” by Max Kuehne (1880-1968) got blood racing as two vessels, sails fully unfurled skimmed over choppy waves. The oil on board, 25 by 33 inches, made $7,380.
Cirino and Strisik returned among the sale’s top performers, Cirino with “Rainy Day,” an oil on canvas, 20 by 24 inches, which sold for $6,490, and Strisik with “Summer Bouquet,” an oil on board, 16 by 12 inches, leaving the gallery at $3,075.
And while the Rockport homeboys certainly dominated the sale, attention must be paid to James Milton Sessions (1882-1962), a preeminent watercolorist and commercial illustrator best known for his depictions of maritime subject matter and modern wartime technologies. His tranquil “Morning, Gloucester Harbor,” watercolor, 13½ by 17 inches, realized $615, Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house For information, www.rockportartassn.org/auction or 978-546-6604.
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