Published: May 15, 2012
“It was all about the art,” commented auctioneer Diana Onyshkewych of Brookfield Auction in regard to the firm’s most recent sale that featured a cache of works that had descended from an artist’s estate. “We had people flying in for the auction and also had substantial interest from galleries from New York to the Northwest Coast for all of the Darrel Austin art,” she said. The auction included 80-plus items of Austin art and works executed by his wife, Margot Hester Austin.
While furniture was often sold at ho-hum prices during the April 28 auction, the art work from Oregon transplant Austin (1907‱994) carried the day. The artist had settled in New Fairfield, Conn., in 1944, where he lived out the remainder of his days and the artwork had passed to friends and then descended in that family.
“A lot of people had followed Austin’s career and had tracked the paintings over the years, but they lost the trail as they moved around within the family that consigned the works,” said Onyshkewych. “It was a lot of fun networking with galleries, having people flying in for the auction, watching it all unfold and watching all of the art sell for substantial prices,” she said.
Austin paintings have been exhibited at numerous prominent institutions around the country and one painting featured a MoMA exhibition label.
One buyer flew in from Florida for the auction, accompanied by other family members from around the country, and as a group they bought 37 of the 80-plus paintings by Austin that were offered. “They came with a truck and they filled it,” commented the auctioneer.
The top lot of the Darrel Austin oils was “The Dream,” depicting a naked man playing a flute, a naked woman dancing and a dog and another woman looking on under a full-moon sky. The Modernist night scene, executed in 1939, sold for $10,925.
The “Holy Family” by Austin depicted a naked family enshrined in heavenly light. It attracted a great deal of interest, selling to a phone bidder at $6,325. “Moonlit Serenade” depicted a seated male playing a musical interest for a nude woman reclining in front of him. Another nocturnal image with full moon, the painting went out at $5,175.
Several of the paintings by Darrel Austin realized $3,450, including “Four Bathers,” “Family Kite” and “The Courtship.”
Among the other artwork offered in the sale was an attractive landscape by Belgian artist Valerius de Saedeleer that sold at $5,750.
A Chinese bronze bowl with foo dog handles did well. The auction house discovered it among debris in a local estate and did not quite know what to make of it †authentic or a later production piece? “Something about it felt right,” said the auctioneer. Active bidding on the lot pushed the piece well past the $50 opening bid to $1,775. Also offered was a small collection of Oriental carved snuff bottles that sold reasonably, ranging from $230 to $460.
Another highlight of the auction was an Eighteenth Century German marquetry folding game board in walnut, satinwood and olivewood. Delicate carved ivory chess pieces were included with the lot and the consignor told of folk lore that indicated the set had once been gifted to German President Theodore Heuss. Several telephone bidders competed for the lot, estimated at $1/1,500, with it selling to one of them for $4,025. “It’s going back across the pond,” stated Onyshkewych.
Furniture was soft according to the auctioneer, with one disappointment for the auction house coming as an assembled set of six country Nineteenth Century chairs in original bright yellow paint and vibrant stencil decoration sold at only $115. “That was a ‘great’ buy,” said Onyshkewych.
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
For additional information, www.brookfieldauction.com or 203-448-8652.
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