Published: August 22, 2017
EAST DENNIS, MASS. – Works by Harold Dunbar, Ralph E. Cahoon Jr and Anne Packard, all artists with ties to Cape Cod, were among the top sellers at Eldred’s summer Americana, paintings and sporting art auction August 2-4 at the firm’s headquarters here.
“Eldred’s is proud to be part of the vibrant and historic art community here on Cape Cod,” said Joshua Eldred, president of the company and director of the fine art department. “We are lucky to always have a few Cape Cod pieces in our sales, but this auction in particular had a number of exceptional examples, including what I consider Harold Dunbar’s masterpiece, which shattered the record for the artist.”
A phone bidder and a floor bidder chased the Dunbar scene of a young woman and a captain on an evening stroll to $78,000, far outpacing its $3/5,000 estimate and vastly surpassing the $5,750 previous record for the artist, also held by Eldred’s. In the captivating painting, the woman, dressed in a vibrant red cloak, is looking directly at the viewer while she walks alongside the older captain, who is carrying an oar over his shoulder. The shoreline is most likely Chatham, Mass., where Dunbar lived for a number of years while serving as editor of the Cape Cod Beacon and teaching summer art classes.
“It’s easy to see its appeal – it’s an enchanting painting,” Eldred said. “A number of bidders were very active through $20,000, with people slowly dropping out until it was just the two who seemed to truly have fallen in love with it. We spend a lot of time analyzing estimates, hammer prices, recent results and auction records, but sometimes it just comes down to a purely emotional response to a piece of art.”
A trio of works by another Cape Cod artist, Ralph Eugene Cahoon, Jr, all sold within estimate for $16,800, $19,200 and $21,600. All featured Cahoon’s trademark whimsical mermaids, though one had a unique Scottish theme that included a mermaid riding the back of the Loch Ness Monster. Three small works by Martha Farham Cahoon, Ralph’s wife, also sold within estimate for a total sale price of $1,860.
“Truro Beach,” a 24-by-48-inch oil on canvas by contemporary Provincetown painter Anne Packard, attained $21,600, besting the artist’s previous auction record of $19,200, set at Eldred’s last spring. As typical for the artist, the work featured vast expanses of sky, ocean and land.
Other standout paintings included “Sunday at Rancho de Taos” by Nils Hogner, which soared over its $5/7,000 estimate to achieve $19,200, a yacht racing scene by Clifford Warren Ashley that sold within estimate for $18,000 and a Nineteenth Century oil on canvas after Thomas Cole’s “Mount Etna from Taormina, Sicily,” which also brought $18,000, more than four times over estimate.
The auction included a number of illustration art pieces, most notably a study of a young boy by Joseph Christian Leyendecker, which sold over estimate for $12,000, and an en grisaille oil on canvas of a steel worker by Gerrit Albertus Beneker, which also sold over estimate for $10,800. A gouache by Theodor Geisel (better known as Dr Seuss) depicting a butler carrying a beer stein, believed to have been painted when Geisel was a student at Central High School in Springfield, Mass., sold for $6,600 on a $46,000 estimate.
Louisiana decoys with a Jimmy Hannemann collection provenance were the top sellers in the sporting art category, with a circa 1917 blue-winged teal hen by Mark Whipple of Bourg, La., selling for $19,200 on a $1,5/2,500 estimate, and an early Twentieth Century mallard hen decoy by Nicole Vidacovitch of Sunrise, La., bringing $13,200 on a $3,5/5,500 estimate.
“The Louisiana birds were a pleasant surprise,” said Eric Mulak, head of the firm’s sporting art department. “In general, Louisiana decoys are rare because not a lot survived a big hurricane in the 1930s or 1940s, but the Hannemann collection stamp on those were very important.”
This auction was the first time Eldred’s has offered decoys following its recently formed strategic partnership with Ted and Judy Harmon of Decoys Unlimited, Inc. Mulak said he was pleased with the overall results of the auction and the success of the partnership. “The George Boyd Canada goose did well, as did all the New England birds,” Mulak said. “We had a lot of Crowell minis but they sold well. We’re pleased with the prices on the modern decoratives. There was a good crowd in the audience and a lot of people on the phone.”
The Boyd goose mentioned above was circa 1920 and sold within estimate for $6,000. Other highlights included an A.E. Crowell greater yellowlegs in hanging position, which brought $10,800, a 1980 decorative grebe decoy by Eldridge Arnold, which brought $2,520 on a $700-$1,000 estimate, and a circa 1910 Joseph Lincoln widgeon drake decoy, which sold over estimate for $7,200.
A flurry of bidding pushed an early Nineteenth Century Kentucky-style rifle way over its $500/800 estimate, finally selling for $7,800. “Another pleasant surprise, especially for a gun in that condition,” Mulak remarked. “We had “a small group of guns from an old collection that all did really well.” A Colt First Generation revolver also soared past its conservative $300/500 estimate, selling for $4,062.
Other top earners from the auction’s first session, which saw sporting art, collectible firearms and militaria crossing the block, include a rare George Washington inaugural button in the “Linked States” pattern, going within estimate for $5,937, and a Civil War presentation Bowie knife that was illustrated in E. Norman Flayderman’s book, The Bowie Knife: Unsheathing an American Legend, fetching $12,000 to stay within estimate. A rare wood engraving, “The Taking of the City of Washington in America,” published London, 1814, earned $7,200; a copy exists in the Library of Congress but the firm was unable to find other examples on the market.
The auction’s second session featured silver, jewelry and folk art. Highlights include a Reed & Barton silverplated hot water pot with extensive firefighter motifs, selling for $2,040, almost double its estimate, a Jules Jurgensen 18K gold pocket watch, which sold for $8,125, and a tramp art cabinet that brought $4,500 on a $700-$1,000 estimate.
Although no other pieces of furniture sold substantially over estimate, Bill Bourne, the firm’s vice president and head of its Americana department, was pleased with the overall results for furniture. “About 85 percent of the furniture lots sold, and most sold within estimate, which is great in today’s market,” he said. “We’ve been getting really good prices lately for period reproductions by Eldred Wheeler, D.R. Dimes and Warren Chair works, this sale included, but some period pieces also did well.” An Eldred Wheeler queen-size Sheraton-style bed and a Federal gilt mirror with reverse-painted upper tablet depicting the battle between the Constitution and the Guerriere sold far over estimate for $2,400 and $2,520, while a Queen Anne highboy, attributed to the Dunlap family, and a pair of transitional Queen Anne side chairs, attributed to Nathaniel Gould, sold just under estimate for $7,800 and $4,200.
A tobacconist figure from a private Cape Cod collection sold within estimate for $9,000 and a J. Alden Weir portrait, “Woman in White,” from the same collection, sold for $11,400 against a $4/6,000 estimate. Both were among the first lots offered in the auction’s third session August 4 during which the majority of the paintings and furniture lots were sold.
“Going into it, this sale didn’t have many big-ticket, headlining items, but it was almost entirely good, fresh-to-market pieces from across many collecting areas. We were anticipating solid results and we were not disappointed,” Josh Eldred said. “I was particularly excited about the number of bidders – 750, which includes live, phone, absentee and successful online bidders – and how many of them were not only new customers with Eldred’s, but were first-time auction buyers.”
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For more information, www.eldreds.com or 508-385-3116.
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