Published: August 31, 2010
An offering of a baker’s dozen of paintings by Frank W. Benson in the first hour of Copley’s sporting art auction July 22′3 at the Radisson Hotel set the tone for this annual event that brings decoy collectors and sporting art enthusiasts out in droves. The auction attained more than $4 million in sales.
Benson’s 1926 watercolor, “Two Duck Hunters,” which shows elements of his “Big Four” etchings, kicked the sale into high gear when it fetched $92,000, and was immediately followed by his watercolor, “Wood Ducks,” 1937, that was the featured work in William Brewster’s book Concord River . The painting of four ducks in flight fetched $69,000. A hundred-some lots later, Benson’s “The Punter” and “Flying Eddy” each scored $69,000.
Continuing the trend of strong results for sporting art was Roland H. Clark (1874‱957) whose “Dawn” achieved $37,375, nearly double its high estimate, and soon after a trifecta of solid performances by Carl Clemens Moritz Rungius.
A dozen paintings by Rungius crossed the block in succession, lots 93 to 104, and brought several of the top prices in the auction. First up was “Near Summit Lake, British Columbia,” 1947, which fetched $316,250.
The top lot of this grouping †and the overall auction †was Rungius’ “Humpback Grizzly” from the H. Wendell Endicott Collection that attained $460,000, followed immediately by “Bull Moose,” which had held pride of place in Endicott’s Gun Room Library and realized $373,750.
Other fine art standouts included Ogden M. Pleissner’s 1938 oil on canvas, “The Rapids,” that was estimated at $60/90,000 but soared to $345,000; Frank B. Hoffman’s “Duck Heaven” that fetched $40,250; and Arthur Burdett Frost’s “Taking Toll of the Covey †Prairie Chicken” at $63,250. Pleissner’s “Early Morning” brought $71,875, selling just above its high estimate, and his “Summer Evening” went out at $54,625.
Aiden Lassell Ripley was well represented in the auction, with “Grouse with Bearberries,” a standout among the artist’s upland game oils, which fetched $48,875; “Skating in the Woods,” which realized $43,125; and “The Rock in the River” at $46,000.
Decoys filled the second half of the sale, led by A. Elmer Crowell’s Hudsonian curlew, circa 1927, which was photographed in an article published that year on the carver in the Boston Globe . The curlew, with an alert stance and slightly turned head, fetched $57,500.
Selling shortly after the auction was a preening raised-wing black duck by upper-echelon carver Augustus “Gus” Aaron Wilson (1864‱950), one of only two Wilson black ducks of its kind, sold for $105,000, making it the top decoy of the sale.
Other Crowell carvings crossing the block included a pair of red-breasted mergansers that sold solidly within estimate at $40,250 and a rare example of a flying common tern that measured 21 inches from wing tip to wing tip.
Virginia carver Captain John Haff was represented in the sale with his reaching curlew that had bold features with full cheek carving and incised eyes. The shorebird fetched $34,500 and was followed immediately in the auction by a Nathan Cobb Jr curlew that was described as one of the finest Virginia curlews to come on the market recently. The circa 1870 shorebird also fetched $34,500.
Other standouts among decoys were a hissing Canada goose by Ira D. Hudson that fetched $29,900, Hudson’s flying pintail drake at $28,750 and a mallard hen by the Ward Brothers that sold above estimate at $19,550.
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
For more information, www.copleyart.com or 617-536-0030.
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