Published: February 13, 2001
From Chagall to Clowns in eWolf’s ‘150 Years of Style’
How does one describe an art and antiques auction that includes prints by Marc Chagall, pottery by Picasso and…35 paintings of clowns? Not to mention 47 lots of pottery from a large collection assembled by a husband and wife team in the mid-Twentieth Century?
Ewolfs called its first auction of the new millennium – or 2001, for those who go by Times Square rather than mathematics – “150 Years of Art and Design,” and even this big tent of a title had difficulty accommodating the breadth of the wares amassed in the 761 lots.
“Fine examples of Art Nouveau glass, Art Deco furniture, and ceramics, furniture and decorations inspired by the International Style – both ‘high brow’ and ‘kitsch’ – are among the notable genres of this sale,” bragged the presale publicity.
The something-for-everyone approach seems to be working for ewolfs. Although we did not browse every one of the 23 categories in checking the results of this auction, every lot that we did check was registered as having been sold.
Of those 23 categories, two jumped out as immediately obvious sales of personal collections: the Lietzke pottery and the depictions of clowns.
According to ewolfs’ catalogue entry by Marianne Berardi, “The husband and wife team of Luke (Lucille) and Rolland Lietzke produced a strikingly original body of ceramic ware during the middle decades of the Twentieth Century” and were often mentioned in the magazines Ceramics Monthly and Craft Horizons during the 1960s and 1970s. This couple, who lived and worked in Mogadore, Ohio, produced a wide range of tableware porcelains “with the clean lines and thin, elegant walls of the finest bone china.”
The rdf_Descriptions auctioned sported a variety of patterns and colors, from bold, geometric black-and-white pieces to bright reds to subtle yellows and greens. A set of four hanging cachepots, two white and two blue, seemed straight out of Martha Stewart Living magazine and a steal at $51.75 (est $100/200). The next lot of four identically shaped but different colored pots (white, pea green, cowan style oriental red and a textured matte blue glaze) sold for even less – $46.
Dr. Berardi also writes, “Stylistically and technically the Lietzke Porcelains bridge the gap between production pottery and art pottery in an attention to highly refined vessel shape, artful combinations of interior and exterior glazing, and in some cases, textural surface treatments such as sgraffito.” These characteristics are apparent in a lot of assorted tableware, distinctively shaped and glazed with a matte blue exterior and glossy white interior. The lot, comprising a decanter, three cups, three saucers and four bowls, sold for an astonishingly reasonable $75.90 (est $75/150).
In this auction’s other standout category – clown paintings from the collection of Edward Bloomberg – a curious rule of artwork pricing seemed to make itself known: paint a clown with the same techniques that you would use for any other portrait, and it will sell for a fraction of the price. Needless to say, some buyers garnered fanciful, colorful images for a song. A “Pair of Happy Clowns,” each a 24-by-18-inch oil on canvas, by the American P. Delso, sold for $23 (est $100/200).
Some in this category did draw significant interest, of course. A likeness of Pierrot by the French painter Armand Henrion (Francois Joseph, b. 1875) brought $1,035 (est $½,000), and a 1924 lithograph, “Le Pitre,” stamped “profedruck” (artist’s proof) by the French Georges Rouault (1871-1958) sold for $736 (est $800/1,200).
As for those Picassos and Chagalls, they performed as expected on the auction block. Picasso’s “Chevalier et Cheval” ceramic water jug, possibly meant as a depiction of Don Quixote, brought in $3,507.50 (est $1,5/3,000); his “Quatre Visages” ceramic face jug in black and brown enamels with interlocking stylized faces sold for $1,840 (est $1,5/3,000); and a Picasso Geometric Motif Jug garnered $1,150 ($½,000).
As for Chagall, his ephemerally beautiful “Tribute to the Eiffel Tower” signed lithograph sold for $12,650 (est $10/15,000) and his “Paysan de l’Horloge” (peasant with a clock) brought $5,060 (est $½,000).
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