Published: August 27, 2002
By David S. Smith
The auction, which grossed more than $3 million, attracted attention from a wide variety of dealers, collectors and numerous museums from around the country and internationally. The auctioneer commented that while many of the major galleries and institutions are generally represented by agents, or either bid by telephone or absentee, that due to the depth and quality of this most recent auction, all of the major players were in the gallery.
“This auction had no negatives,” stated Elowitch. “There were a few things that didn’t sell at the sale, but in almost every case they had been the subject of recent exposure. Remarkably,” he said, “the majority of those pieces sold within 24 hours of the auction.” An ecstatic Elowitch commented after the sale that it is “rare for an auction to do exactly what you dream it will do, but this one did.”
The auction featured an attractive selection of paintings with highlights including important works by Marsden Hartley, Maurice De Vlaminck, Walt Kuhn and the Wyeth family, all of which attracted substantial interest.
The auction got off to a brisk beginning with a John Bradley Hudson watercolor depicting panoramic view of local Casco Bay selling at the high end of the presale estimates for $17,250. Other lots offered early on in the sale included a stunning sunset view of a cod weathervane, an oil on canvas by Stephen Etnier that exceeded estimates at $10,350, an Andrew Winter fisherman scene at $23,000, and a Henri Joseph Harpigines oil in the original frame depicting a “Twilight River Landscape,” $13,800.
The first of the serious lots to test the waters was an Edward Emerson Simmons portrait entitled “Young Woman, Concarneau,” oil on canvas, 36½ by 25½ inches, that retained its original frame. The painting had been signed by Simmons in both the upper and lower left of the painting and was also inscribed on the verso with the artist’s name, title and the date 1885. Estimated at $60/90,000, the painting was the subject of much attention and sold at $137,000.
The top lot of the auction was a Maurice De Vlaminck (French 1876-1958) winter village scene, “Le hameay sus le neige” (Village Under Snow), measuring 23½ by 29 inches. The painting listed a provenance of G. Metthey, Paris, to Charles Duhamel, Paris, sold at Park Bernet, New York, Wally Findlay Galleries to Charles DuBois, from whose it estate it was consigned. The painting also had an extensive exhibition list including “Maurice De Vlaminck, A Comprehensive Exhibition Commemorating the Ninetieth Anniversary Year of Vlaminck’s Birth, Including Important Cubist, Blue, and Expressionist Paintings” at Wally Findlay Galleries in 1968. The painting, estimated at $150/250,000, sold between estimates at $192,000.
An important selection of Marsden Hartley paintings was highlighted by “Finnish – Yankee Wrestler,” an oil on board measuring 24 by 18 inches. The painting carried a provenance of Tananbaum Gallery and Graham Galleries and also sported an impressive exhibition record. Bidding on the desirable Hartley culminated at $183,200, selling just below presale estimates.
Another of the Hartley’s offered, a 12- by 16-inch oil on board entitled “Roses,” turned out to be the biggest surprise of the auction, according to the gallery. This painting was termed and “elegy” in that it was one of a “series of paintings executed in Nova Scotia and Maine between 1936 and 1938” that related to his time spent in Nova Scotia with the Mason family. The paintings reflected Hartley’s deep seeded emotions that surrounded the tragic drowning of the Mason boys during a fishing accident, according to the catalog. “‘Roses’ relates to the annual Fisherman’s Memorial Service” and in a 1936 correspondence Hartley mentions attending the service “which concluded with a wreath of flowers cast upon the water.” The painting, estimated at $40/60,000, was actively bid, selling at $181,000.
A Walt Kuhn painting entitled “Melinda, or Lady with Feathers” also attracted a great deal of attention as it nearly doubled presale estimates. This painting was also cataloged with an impressive provenance and exhibition listing and was sold as the property of John Payson, Hobe Sound, Fla. The graphic oil on canvas, measuring 36 by 29 inches and signed “Walt Kuhn 1946” in the lower left, sold at $148,000.
A selection of works from the Wyeth family were sold with a Newell Convers Wyeth painting leading the way. The painting, a 33- by 23-inch tempera on panel was executed as an illustration for Kenneth Robert’s Trending into Maine published in 1938. Once again a strong provenance was listed, including the Wyeth family and Judy Goffman Galleries. The unusual painting sold at $142,500.
An Andrew Wyeth watercolor, circa 1945, entitled “Picking Apples” sold between estimates at $115,000, while another work by Andrew, “Ships Clock,” sold immediately after the auction for $110,000. Another Newell Convers Wyeth illustrative work, an oil on canvas measuring 28 by 33 inches, published in a 1918 Scribner’s Magazine, did well selling at $100,000, while a James Wyeth watercolor, which passed during the auction but sold afterwards, realized $40,250.
Other paintings that did well included a Fairfield Porter sunrise over a bay scene selling at $97,750; a Lilli Martin Spencer interior scene entitled “The Young Wife: First Stew” also sold at more than twice the high estimate, bringing $74,750; and a Samuel Coleman oil on canvas entitled “Harbour of Seville” soared past the $9/12,000 estimates bringing $74,750.
Also sold was a Leon Kroll oil on masonite entitled “Street at Roundout” at $57,500, while a picture by Charles Hawthorne entitled “The Wife” went over estimates at $69,000.
One notable consignment of several paintings from a small Maine library attracted considerable attention. Elowitch commented that the paintings had been deaccessioned from the library’s collection due to their foreign nature to the institution.
“They just didn’t fit in,” said Elowitch of the Western “cowboy related” theme paintings. “Had they been local Maine scenes we would have recommended that they stay in the collection.”
The paintings had been on display in the library “up high” and received very little attention. They had been in place since the 1920s. Highlighting the selection was a William Hahn Western scene entitled “The Mission,” which sold well above the $20/30,000 presale estimates, bringing $80,500. A William Marple scenic entitled “Riding Through Yosemite” carried a presale estimate of $900/1,200; yet when the dust in the room had cleared the lot had hammered down for $19,550. A Thomas Hill oil depicting cattle at a river also exceeded estimates as it brought $18,400. Proceeds from the sale will allow the museum to complete some needed plumbing and building improvements, said Elowitch.
Not all of the paintings brought five or six figure prices, however, as there was also a good selection of art priced under $1,000. The most reasonable of the lots was a bright and colorful lighthouse scene that sold for $230, a nice Joel Babb silkscreen depicting a crowded beach $345, and Frederick Lynch acrylic on panel realized $460.
Prices include the buyer’s premium charged.
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