The 16th annual USArtists glowed with the patina of success †a rich, glossy devotion to excellence. When the show opened October 18 to its patrons at 5 pm at the 33rd Street Armory, the Women’s Board of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) revealed that it had once again assembled some of the foremost galleries in the country, as well as well-known private art dealers. The art has tipped to the high end over the years with more and more six- and seven-figure works displayed by the 55 exhibitors.
Dealers brought a mélange of Eighteenth, Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century art, including early American portraiture, Hudson River School, American Impressionism, Modernism and contemporary realism and abstraction by living painters. The show reflects the trend of many American art galleries †known primarily for their expertise in the secondary market †opening divisions or separate galleries to exhibit living artists.
The new director of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Museum, Dr David R. Brigham, was an honored guest at the gala. Dr Brigham earned his doctorate in American civilization at the University of Pennsylvania, and was happy to be back in Philadelphia. Founded in 1805 by Charles Willson Peale, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is America’s oldest continually operating school of fine arts and museum. Coincidently, Dr Brigham’s doctoral dissertation was titled, “A World in Miniature: Charles Willson Peale’s Philadelphia Museum and Its Audience, 1786‱827.”
Although the Women’s Board has taken pains to ensure that USArtists is not pigeon-holed as a regional show, there is no better place to acquire some of the very best works of the Pennsylvania Impressionists and Modernists who painted in and around Bucks County, and who are gaining ground with collectors, no matter where they live.
Jim’s of Lambertville hung works by George Sotter, the Nunnamakers (Alfred and Kenneth), Daniel Garber, Walter Baum, Walter Schofield, Robert Spencer and Edward Redfield and others. Some of the most spectacular pieces came directly out of a private collection. Alterman displayed his hardcover catalog, Alexander Farnham Brought to Light: A Retrospective Exhibition of a Career Spanning Seven Decades, in support of the octogenarian’s upcoming opening at the gallery. “Frances in Braids,” a pastel portrait of Garber’s granddaughter, retained its original Harer frame. Measuring 24 by 18 inches, the pastel came through the sitter’s estate and was priced at $225,000.
Alterman sold several important pieces, including a Garber for $400,000, an M. Elizabeth Price (one of the “Philadelphia Ten” who actually came from New Hope, like Fern Coppedge) for $50,000, and a small Baum in the low teens. The pièce de résistance in his booth, a large Redfield, was priced at $1.75 million and had serious attention from at least three people, said Alterman.
Peter Clarke, Clarke Gallery, Newburyport, Mass., sold 14 paintings. The clients came from New York City, Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania outside of Philadelphia. Works sold include a large oil on canvas by Joseph Henry Hatfield titled “Helping Papa,” paintings by William Hart, Hermann Herzog, Xanthus Smith, Harrison Bird Brown, Leon Kelly and Stephen Etnier.
Carl David of David David Gallery, Philadelphia, said, “It was a great show for us and we did extremely well †mostly American Impressionism and some Hudson River. All went to different buyers.” In total, the gallery had sales in the high six figures. David noted that the buyers were not from Philadelphia. Some of the standouts at the booth included a monumental canvas by Robert Reid titled “Goldenrods” that was painted in 1910 of an ethereal young woman in a field of flowers holding a bouquet of cuttings, a stunning painting by Childe Hassam titled “A Summer’s Breeze” of a girl playing a violin on a sofa with a gentle breeze blowing the curtains behind her and a bright, intense landscape by Fern Coppedge.
Godel & Co. Fine Art, Inc, New York City, had a wonderful William Glackens portrait that was a focal point in its booth. One could easily see how Glackens got his reputation as “the American Renoir” viewing “Girl with a Teacup,” circa 1955. Ellery Kurtz said, “USArtists offers a very diversified grouping of American art. That is why people come. It is a very steady, reliable show for collectors.” In a corner of the Godel booth, a still life by Levi Wells Prentice (1851‱935), “Apples by a Tree,” demonstrated the artist’s homespun detail.
Two galleries were showing work by PAFA-trained artist Bo Bartlett: PPOW of New York City and Somerville Manning Gallery of Greenville, Del. PPOW is committed to supporting living artists †particularly representational painters such as Bartlett. Somerville Manning Gallery specializes in Twentieth and Twenty-First Century art, including the Brandywine School of illustrators.
Sadie Somerville said, “It was a really good show this year; it always is. N.C. Wyeth got a lot of attention.” Victoria Manning’s N.C. Wyeth talk was attended by 30 people who crowded into the Somerville Manning booth on Saturday afternoon. “It was a wild week,” said Somerville. Just 20 miles away at their Greenville, Del., gallery they opened a major exhibition of recent paintings by Bo Bartlett the night before USArtists opened. “We had a lot of people going back and forth between the gallery and USArtists. Bo’s work is stellar and people wanted to be sure to see everything.”
Gerald Peters Gallery, New York City, brought works by Georgia O’Keeffe, John Marin, Milton Avery, Max Weber, Marguerite Zorach, William Glackens, Ernest Lawson and F. Luis Mora. The Mora was an oil on canvas painting titled “The American Gladiators,” which measured 70 by 50½ inches. A figurative piece showing two pale, muscled young men in a casual pose of stretching and putting on sandals, the contrast of their pale bodies and the dark background made it a dramatic focal point of the Gerald Peters booth.
Daphne Alazraki brought a pastel on paper of pink and white petunias by Laura Coombs Hills, works by Martin Johnson Heade, Hugh Bolton Jones, Martha Walter and others. Her pride and joy was a Daniel Ridgway Knight oil of a country woman looking into the distance titled “Far Away Thought.” Priced in the mid-six figures, the painting measures 46¼ by 33 inches. Alazraki, known primarily for Dutch and French Nineteenth and Twentieth Century paintings, has acquired and sold American art for about four years. This was her second exhibiting at the show.
Cooley Gallery, Old Lyme, Conn., devoted a wall to three contemporary realists: Sean Beavers, Walker Rane and Ralph Feyl. Also in Cooley’s booth were a pastoral scene by Guy Wiggins, “September in Lyme,” two pencil on paper nudes by Egbert Cadmus (father of Paul Cadmus), circa 1890, and a tonal painting in subtle blues by Edward Redfield titled “Winter’s Eve.”
Blake Benton Fine Art, Cragsmoor, N.Y., offered a jazzy booth with colorful Twentieth Century works by Rolph Scarlett, Joan Mitchell, Konrad Cramer, Richard Anuszkiewicz, Hilla Rebay, Seymour Fogel and Ezin Martinelli, among others.
Adelson Galleries had a circa 1793 portrait of George Washington by John Trumbull on the outer wall leading into its booth. The dealer brought works by all of the Wyeths (N.C., Andrew and Jamie), an oil painting and other media by Mary Cassatt, a charcoal drawing by John Singer Sargent and inks by Whistler. “The Throwback” was a lively illustration of a man in a sombrero busting a bronco in the Arizona sun by N.C. Wyeth. It was painted in 1905 for a publisher that later went bankrupt. According to Warren Adelson, the painting fell into the hands of a law firm, where it remained for decades.
Schwarz Gallery was mobbed on opening night. It spotlighted an unusual modern landscape from 1944 by Arthur Meltzer titled “Rain-Spring.” Also displayed was a John Neagle (1796‱865) portrait of James Cowles Fisher, a philanthropist and businessman of Philadelphia. The portrait was part of the Mutual Assurance Company of Philadelphia collection. Fisher was elected the sixth chairman of the company in 1834 and the trustees commissioned his portrait for a sum of $180 in 1839.
“In 30 years of selling Moran, that’s quite a masterpiece,” said Michael Florio of Quester Gallery, Rowayton, Conn. He was referring to the golden-hued Edward Moran (Anglo American, 1929‱907) painting of “Yacht Racing off New York Harbor,” that took front and center at the booth. Hanging over the painting was an anonymous carving of a stern-board eagle that was created for a schooner yacht, $75,000. Quester also displayed oversized ceramic shells by Betsy Rice that were selling on opening night.
Martha Richardson, Boston, made an interesting pairing of a Marsden Hartley still life of mushrooms that was anything but still, and a portrait of a young woman named Rosalie Hook by Alexander Brook painted in loose brushwork with hues that complemented the Hartley. “Mushrooms” was painted in 1929 and was exhibited at the Detroit Art Institute at the Scarab Club in 1931.
Acme Fine Art, Boston, showed the work of octogenarian Panos Ghikas (b 1924). “Solo Archaic” by Ghikas is an ink and tempera on panel that was priced at $24,000. According to dealer David Cowan, Ghikas’s work has, for the most part, been sequestered away for decades. The Acme booth was devoted to mid-Twentieth Century Modern art with particular interest in figural and geometric abstraction.
Questroyal Fine Art, New York City, brought “After the Storm” a 30-by-40-inch circa 1916‱9 painting by Charles Courtney Curran. A winter scene by Walter Launt Palmer titled “Winter Haze” was getting lots of attention, as were a fine pair of William Mason Brown landscapes.
Debra Force brought an Orientalist painting by Louis Comfort Tiffany, “Algiers,” painted in 1876, and “Cluster of Roses in a Glass” by Martin Johnson Heade, painted circa 1885‹5. There was quite a bit of interest in her Henry Ossawa Tanner, as well as the oil by B.J.O. Nordfeldt of fishermen.
Jennifer Hawk of PAFA said that the attendance for the show was typical of past years, 6,000 visitors over the course of the show. The gala benefit preview attracted 573 guests. In all, the Women’s Board raised $145,000 for PAFA programs and scholarships.