Published: July 1, 2003
The unsigned 20- by 25-inch watercolor portraits attracted the attention of all of the major folk art dealers and collectors, and according to auctioneer Sam Cottone “everyone was on the phones” to compete for the lots. Cottone used 12 cellular and land-line telephones to accommodate as many clients as possible — the rest were forced to bid absentee or make the trip to the remote western New York State auction house.
“Normally portraits of this size were done in oils while watercolor portraits are generally miniatures,” stated Cottone prior to the auction. A handful of the large watercolor portraits in a similar hand have surfaced with one of them signed “Mr. Wilson,” thus the loose attribution and along with it the belief that the sitters were from New Hampshire.
The watercolors had originally been discovered in a Lockport, N.Y., home and had been in the collection of Charles Rand Penny for quite a long period of time. Cottone opened the lot for bidding at $40,000 with two phone bidders competing with New York City toy and Americana dealer Steven Weiss who was amid the standing room only crowd. Weiss battled to the end with a final bid of $180,000, yet the lot ultimately hammered down to the telephone at $209,000 including the ten percent buyers premium, selling to Highland Park, Ill., and Sunapee, N.H., folk art specialist Barbara Pollack.
Pollack commented after the auction, “Since being in business, I have handled the good, better and best in regards to folk art paintings; as far as watercolors are concerned, these are the best of the best.” Pollack was overjoyed with the watercolor portraits and stated that they were purchased for stock. “I just hope I get to keep them long enough to enjoy them for a while,” she stated.
A complete review will appear in a future issue.
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