Published: October 30, 2018
Review and Onsite Photos by Madelia Hickman Ring
DOWNINGTOWN, PENN. – Paul and Rita Flack have been such esteemed collectors that news that they would be selling more of the collection brought buyers to Pook & Pook, Inc, from near and far. Approximately 120 bidders registered for the sale through Pook & Pook, with another nearly 350 bidders registered online. With 96 percent of the approximately 250-lot sale sold at press time, and totaling $759,042, the sale was a success.
This sale was the sixth edition of sales – and the third conducted by Pook & Pook – that the Flacks have offered in the span of more than 40 years. Hanging in the doorway to the salesroom were framed catalog covers from the past five sales: two conducted by Pennypacker in 1976 and 1985, one at Christie’s in 1997 and two previously offered at Pook’s in 2000 and 2012. Like their other sales, this sale was concentrated heavily in Pennsylvania German folk art, a favorite of both Paul and Rita. The sale catalog was stunning, particularly with the presentation of many of the better fraktur, where graphic details from the fraktur were floated on the white space of the pages. Like the previous Flack collection auction catalogs, this catalog will be one to keep in your library.
Pook & Pook’s founder, Ron Pook, wrote the introductory essay to the Flack’s catalog. In it, Pook notes that Paul had had his entire fraktur collection reproduced so that he and Rita could enjoy the imagery after the collection had sold. That speaks volumes about the Flacks’ passion for the material.
Fraktur and quilts were the predominant categories on offer and perhaps as a way to appeal to potential buyers, the preview party on Friday, October 12, featured a walk-through of the quilts by expert Stella Rubin and an informal informational session on fraktur with fraktur scholar, Lisa Minardi. Minardi had arranged a long table with numerous examples from the sale that demonstrated variations in regional decoration of standard forms, or artistic interpretations. In her walk-through of the quilts in the sale, Rubin discussed interesting or unique elements about each particular quilt, addressed regional or stylistic characteristics and answered questions from attendees.
Both Paul and Rita Flack attended the preview party and were pleased at both the reception and the response to the sale. The couple still occasionally buys works, but they said they buy them for their children. As it happened, Paul had a small wrapped package with him that he said was going to his son, a work he had acquired in an earlier Pook sale. It is unlikely there will be a future sale of objects from the Flack’s collection.
The top price reached in the sale was $39,040 and it was reached by three lots. The first, the cover lot, was an ink and watercolor full-length and full-page drawing of a gentleman holding a bouquet of tulips by Conrad Gilbert. It easily surpassed its estimate ($20/30,000) and went to a phone bidder. The next lot to match the top price also had the strongest estimate in the sale. A phone bidder also won the watercolor landscape titled “Hospital and Poorhouse & Lunatick House of Northampton County” by Charles Hoffman. The third of the trifecta of lots to hit the top dollar was an ink and watercolor on paper fraktur drawing done by the Oley Township Artist. With provenance to both Christie’s and the Dietrich collection, the work made nearly ten times its low estimate ($4/5,000), going to a trade buyer in the room.
It was announced before the sale started that lots were being sold without reserves. This did not mean, however, that auctioneers would undersell a lot. In most cases, the small number of lots that did not sell – a total of nine by the time the final lot was sold – had not found buyers at half of the published low estimates. It was disappointing when auctioneer Jamie Shearer passed the first lot of the sale – a birth and baptismal certificate from Arnold Hoevelmann – but things picked up quickly when the next three lots – all Hattie Brunner winter landscape scenes – all sold within estimates.
Most of the lots sold relatively close to, or within estimates, a testament to Pook & Pook’s expertise with the material, so it was fun to see things considerably exceed their estimates. One of the first lots to do so was a vibrant landscape of Cedar Spring Farm in Juniata County by William Sherlock. It made the third highest price of the sale and more than double its low estimate when American folk art dealer David Schorsch won it over the phone for $19,520.
There were nearly 75 fraktur and related works in the sale, which comprised approximately one-fourth of the lots in the sale. Results were mixed, with most of the more highly valued ones bringing the higher prices. Those with provenance to noted collections or exhibition history also tended to outperform estimates, though that was not always the case. Particularly strong examples not previously mentioned include one Arnold Hoevelmann made for Johannes Beitemann that reached $12,200 ($6/10,000); a small award of merit by Philip Mumbaur, possibly depicting George Washington with a hatchet, which more than doubled its estimate ($3/4,000) to close at $8,540 to a phone bidder. A colorful example with birds and centering a large crown, attributed to Anthony Rehm of Montgomery and Berks County, almost reached its top estimate when it was bought in the room for $17,080 ($12/18,000). And selling late in the sale was Francis Portzline’s ink and watercolor birth and baptismal certificate for his son, George. It depicted colorful parrots and tulips and charmed buyers into taking it for $9,150, more than twice its low estimate.
The redware in the sale was choice, with a small 4¾-inch seated spaniel attributed to John Bell Pottery closing at $4,148, almost double its high estimate. A stoneware bank, possibly from the Remmey Pottery that had been in the collection of Walter Himmelreich saw a lot of competition from buyers, closing at $8,750.
Painted furniture was also popular, with a Jonas or Jacob Weber painted dresser box going to a phone bidder at $5,124 ($3/4,000); a painted wall box for $3,904 ($3/4,000); a dresser box by Heinrich Bucher with provenance to the Machmer collection reached $4,392 ($3/5,000); a vibrant set of six painted chairs made $6,710 ($6/8,000); and a Berks County painted dower chest with striking red over ochre circles with provenance to the collection of Wayne Schultz tipped the low estimate to go out at $6,710 ($6/8,000).
Two cupboards featured good painted surfaces and did well; the first to cross the block had striking red and salmon paint and had descended in the Jacob Hoestedler family of Lancaster County and brought $18,300 ($10/15,000), while the second, towards the end of the sale, had red surface and delicately sponged blue-painted drawer fronts and upper door surrounds, made $16,250, well in advance of its estimate ($8/12,000).
Sculptural works continue to tempt buyers. A painted sheet iron Native American Indian archer weathervane with remnants of a red surface and provenance to the Kenneth Muth collection more than doubled its high estimate when it went out at $8,540 ($3/4,000); an American eagle plaque carved on both sides made $9,760, just shy of its high estimate ($5/10,000); and a Cushing and White “Ethan Allen” running horse weathervane with original oval tag and an old gilt and verdigris surface nearly doubled its low estimate when it sold for $3,904. Despite having a replaced base, which auctioneer Jamie Shearer noted from the podium, a painted bird on pedestal by the Virginville Carver more than tripled its low estimate ($10/15,000) when it went to a phone bidder for $31,720. Wilhelm Schimmel’s colorful figures are perennial favorites among Pennsylvania German folk art collectors and the ones in the Flack collection did not disappoint. An 11-inch wingspread eagle with provenance to the Harry Hartman collection finished at $7,320 ($4/6,000) while a 5½-inch eaglet that had been in the collection of James Grievo came in just under the high estimate, at $3,904 ($2/4,000).
With 35 examples, quilts comprised the next-largest category, and when they were hung on the saleroom walls, provided a visually arresting backdrop to the sale. All examples on offer sold, with the more colorful and dynamic examples tending to bring stronger prices. The top-selling quilt lot was a Pennsylvania applique and trapunto example that had been in the Dupont family collection. Perhaps the pumpkins in the border appealed to the spirit of the season, but it brought nearly four times its low estimate when it finished at $19,520 ($5/8,000).
Despite the draw of the Flack’s name, some lots sold with just one or two bids. This was particularly true of the more formal furniture in the sale, as evidenced when a Chippendale walnut chest on chest reached $2,440 ($4/6,000); a Pennsylvania inlaid Hepplewhite slant-front desk that graced the inside of the front cover made just $5,368 ($8/12,000) and a Chippendale walnut tall case clock from Reading County brought $1,830 ($3/4,000).
Despite offering online, absentee and phone bidding, Pook & Pook has a devoted following and draw a good crowd to its salesroom on sale day. This is in no small part to the great lengths the company goes to make buyers happy, from offering food and beverages throughout the sale to making collection and payment as easy as possible. The staff is helpful, friendly and accommodating and the auctioneers sell at a good clip, averaging between 80 and 100 lots an hour.
Speaking after the sale, Ron Pook said, “I think the sale went very well. Like anything else, if it’s a good thing, it does really well. If it’s not, it doesn’t.”
Pook was present for the preview party on Friday night but was not in attendance at the sale, leaving it in the more than capable hands of James Pook and the rest of the staff. He said he is working on other collections and would soon formally announce two collections he has just secured for Pook & Pook’s January sale: the first is from Middleburg, Va., and includes a lot of New England furniture and Kentucky rifles from Joe Kindig; another collection for January has lots from the Sussel collection and is more focused on Pennsylvania German things. Also coming up in January would be a line and berry inlaid spice chest, a carved Chippendale clock, probably from Redding, Penn., and a William and Mary shoefoot chair-table that had been with Titus Geesey. “It’s probably one of the best sales I’ve had in years,” Pook said.
For information, 610-269-4040 or www.pookandpook.com.
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