Published: August 25, 2020
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Barridoff Galleries
SOUTH PORTLAND, MAINE – Barridoff Galleries’ August 15 sale was chock full of Maine artists. “No surprise,” said the firm’s co-owner Bill Milliken. One of the leading pieces was Dahlov Ipcar’s (American, 1917-2017) “Zebra Wood,” 1968, with mesmerizing optics that shattered its $6/8,000 estimate to finish at $40,260. The oil on canvas from a private Maine collection was signed lower right with an artist’s label with title on verso, 24 by 36 inches. “Fantastic results,” said Milliken of the sale. “The Ipcars and the Drexler blew up our estimates.” The sale totaled $662,094, a figure that Milliken said could increase as the firm negotiates several postauction sales. “We set 22 records overall – that we were able to count, which means that there were a lot of surprises,” said Milliken.
An artist record was set for Ipcar, well-known among those acquainted with children’s literature. She was the younger child and only daughter of Marguerite (1887-1968) and William Zorach (1887-1966), both acclaimed artists of the early Twentieth Century. Author and illustrator of dozens of bestselling titles from the 1940s through the 1970s, she is one of Maine’s celebrity artists, a visionary, iconoclastic, ambitious and widely exhibited painter who died in February 2017 at age 99. “Zebra Wood” is emblematic of her colorful and kaleidoscopic images of animals, domestic and exotic, that reside in semi-Cubist landscapes.
Similarly, in Ipcar’s “Nightfall – Ngorogoro,” which settled at $30,500, triple its high estimate, a wild menagerie seemingly races through a bold, darkening landscape divided by shafts of sunlight. The oil on canvas, signed and dated lower right and with artist’s label with title and date on verso, 24 by 40 inches, came out of a Scarborough, Maine, collection.
Although Lynne Drexler (1928-1999) was born and raised in Newport News, Va., where she began painting as a child, as an adult, she and artist husband John Hultberg sought a relaxing environment off the coast of Maine on Monhegan Island, splitting their time between New York City and Maine by spending the summers at their island house. Later, Drexler became a year-round Maine resident permanently taking up residence near Lighthouse Hill on Monhegan Island, an artists’ haven off the coast of Maine.
She studied art under Robert Motherwell at Hunter College and Hans Hofmann, evident in the abstract expressionist “Recalled Green,” which was bid to $31,720, more than five times its high estimate and a record for the artist. The 1966 oil on canvas from the artist’s estate measured 36 by 30 inches, her name, title and date inscribed on the back.
Fetching $23,180 was Walt Kuhn’s (1877-1949) lush still life, “Pink Roses in Blue Vase,” 1938. The 30-by-25-inch oil on canvas was signed and dated lower right, titled and dated verso, sporting both Kennedy Galleries and Midtown Payson Galleries labels on verso. The American painter was one of the organizers of the famous Armory Show of 1913 that ushered European Modernism into America. Kuhn was a polymath artist, skilled as cartoonist, draughtsman, printmaker, sculptor and painter. Dyspeptic due to a stomach ulcer in his later years, he destroyed many of his early paintings, and works that remain today are included in major American art collections.
In the blue-hued abstract imagined Maine landscape “Two Pines,” 2005, Jon Imber (1950-2014) exhibits his later embrace of landscapes and abstraction over figurative painting. Reaching $21,080, a record for the artist, the oil on wood from a private Mount Desert Island, Maine, collection, was signed and dated lower right; signed, titled and dated verso; and measured 30 by 30 inches. Imber grew up on Long Island and attended Cornell University. He studied with painter Philip Guston at Boston University, where he received his MFA in 1977. His works are in numerous collections, including Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Danforth Museum, DeCordova Museum, Farnsworth Museum and Fogg Art Museum, among others.
Bidders liked Gertrude Fiske’s (1879-1961) depiction of Turbat’s Creek, a Kennebunkport scene, driving it past its $12/14,000 estimate to finish at $20,740. The oil on canvas listed the artist’s estate, Tom Veilleux Gallery and a private Michigan collection in its provenance. Signed on verso, it was 20¼ by 27-1/8 inches. Forging her own distinctive path, Fiske created artwork that was the subject of the exhibition “Gertrude Fiske: American Master,” in 2018 at Discover Portsmouth, Portsmouth, N.H., in a show organized by the Portsmouth Historical Society. Fiske’s works have been exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Academy of Design, the Corcoran Gallery, Cleveland Museum of Art, the Farnsworth Museum and the Rhode Island School of Design, among others.
Before the sale, Milliken noted that one of the pieces that was getting a lot of interest was Tom Crotty’s (1934-2015) “Owls Head,” which he believed exemplified the theme of the sale. “While the estimate is modest ($3/4,000), there has been a lot of interest in the Crotty and we expect it to go for well more than the high estimate. It will be fun to watch,” he predicted. The expectation was borne out by the final price of $12,200 for the scenic oil on Masonite from a private Maine collection. Like Imber, Crotty was represented by Greenhut Gallery, as attested by a gallery label on verso of the 17½-by-35½-inch painting.
A trio of works in the sale each commanded $11,590. They were C. Michael Lewis’ (b 1950) “Forty Years (Miss Portland Diner),” Amos Ferguson’s (Bahamian, 1920-2009) “Man in Sailboat, Woman Fishing” and Maurice Freedman’s (1904-1985) “Mountain Mist” from 1964. Lewis said of his iconic diner scene, “This painting depicts the Miss Portland Diner in its former spot across the street on Marginal Way, but includes such elements as the billboard from its original location on Forest Avenue near the United States Post Office. The locomotive in the painting is the train that delivered the diner from Worcester, Mass., in 1947. The milk truck is one that delivered the artist for a pre-dawn breakfast on his way to work as a special assistant to his father, the milkman, circa 1960.” Acrylic on wood, the painting was consigned from a private Florida collection and 36¼ by 80 inches.
Maine art collectors always line up for paintings by Alfred “Chip” Chadbourn (1921-1998). Born in Turkey and later becoming a US citizen, Alfred Chadbourn is recognized as one of Maine’s most popular painters. He had his first show in Paris in 1949 and his works are represented in numerous museums and in the private collections of many prominent collectors. His work was the subject of a retrospective exhibition in 2015 at the Ogunquit Museum of American Art. In this sale, his “Trees, South Bristol,” 1978, oil on canvas, 30¼ by 50 inches, went out at $9,150.
Maritime master Montague Dawson (British, 1890-1973) was represented in the sale by “Sailing Day,” a gouache on paper depicting the robust chop of water and wind with three figures enjoying it all and another sailboat in the distance. Sailing to $8,540, the work was from a South Portland collection and measured 16¼ by 25¾ inches.
American summer scenes transitioned to European wintry cityscapes with genre painter Eugene Galien-Laloue’s (French, 1854-1941) “Winter Scene,” which found a buyer at $7,620. A gouache on paper, framed under glass, the 7½-by-12½-inch work had descended in the family of the late Mary Duke Blouin, who divided her time between Naples, Fla., and Augusta and Hallowell, Maine.
A private Connecticut collection contributed a notable sculpture in the sale – again, by a well-known Maine artist, William Zorach (1897-1966). A study for “Gemini,” circa 1940s, was a cast bronze with natural patina depicting conjoined female nudes. Bid to $7,440, the sculpture was signed and numbered “5/6” lower right and stood 7 inches high. Zorach (original name Zorach Gorfinkel) was a Lithuanian-born American artist known for his landscape paintings and sculptures of nudes and animals. The Zorachs – William, his artist wife Marguerite and family lived on a farm on Georgetown Island, Maine, and William died in Bath in 1966.
An impressionistic evocation of Monhegan Island by Morris Shulman (1912-1978) earned $7,320. The 1966 oil on canvas was from a private Massachusetts collection and measured 34 by 44 inches. Although born in Savannah, Ga., and having spent most of his professional career in Manhattan, Shulman is considered a bright light of the Maine Coast painters. He studied with Hans Hofmann in 1948-49 and painted on Maine’s Monhegan Island from about 1947 to 1965, spending summers on the island at a cabin he nicknamed “Mosquito Notch.” His works can be found in the National Museum of American Art at the Smithsonian, the Metropolitan Museum, the Carnegie Museum and the Brooklyn Museum, among others.
Finishing at $7,320 each were three paintings: Frank Henry Shapleigh’s (1842-1906) country winter scene of sleigh-bound worshippers heading toward a church on the hill, “Sunday Morning,” 1878, an oil on canvas, 14 by 24 inches; a Warren Sheppard (1858-1937) coastal scene titled “Tranquil Sunrise,” oil on canvas, 22 by 36 inches; and Katherine Bradford’s (b 1943) “Sail Boat,” oil on canvas, 14¼ by 12¼ inches.
Additional highlights in the sale included Charles Frederick Kimball (1831-1903), “House on Stroudwater,” $6,765; Elena Jahn (1938-2014), “Moon, Water, Rocks – Monhegan,” $6,710; and Carl Sprinchorn (1887-1971), “Woodland Shore, Maine,” $6,710.
After the sale, Milliken said, “I think we went over a 90 percent sell-through rate, which was a surprise. A couple of months ago we did not even know if we were going to be able to have a sale, so having one at all, much less such a successful one, was a very pleasant surprise.
“Everything worked remarkably well. Conducting the auction in a tent for the first time, socially distanced with masks, doubling our online capabilities – including adding our own app and platform – presented innumerable ways for things to screw up. Given all that, it went incredibly smoothly and there were no major screw ups, and even the inconveniences were not that annoying. We are certainly happy and thankful – and relieved!”
Barridoff plans to have a discovery sale in early October and possibly another small photography sale later in the year. Its next fine art sale is tentatively scheduled for mid-February.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house.
For information, 207-772-5011 or www.barridoff.com.
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