Published: October 29, 2019
Review and Onsite Photos by Rick Russack, Additional Photos Courtesy of Barridoff Galleries
SOUTH PORTLAND, MAINE – On October 19, the new owners of Barridoff Galleries conducted the firm’s fourth sale in its new home in South Portland. The current ownership team bought the company from Rob and Annette Elowitch. Each had worked with the Elowitches for several years and had varied backgrounds in the business. Their intent was to build upon the solid reputation the previous owners had built over four decades. They invested in a spacious gallery and remodeled it to fit their needs. They’ve invested in additional qualified staff to meet the needs of the changing auction landscape in northern New England and believe that the reorganizing of Northeast Auctions and the retirement of Jim Julia will create additional opportunities for their company.
The company plans to conduct two cataloged fine arts sale a year, plus additional estate sales, such as the most recent one. In addition, there have been, and will continue to be, online-only sales. The owners have decided to utilize the services of a professional auctioneer, and Peter Coccoluto, Concord Hill Auctions, Georgetown, Mass., called the October 19 sale. This sale was advertised as an estate and discovery auction. Most of the material came from the estate of Sumner and Rosalyne Bernstein, long active in the fine arts community in the Portland, Maine, area. The couple was most interested in works by Maine artists and those relating to Maine subject matter, and they had started to collect in the 1970s. Many other items in their collection were donated to Portland Museum of Art. The sale was meant to be affordable for all, and many items could be bought under $5,000, and some were even under $1,000.
Leading the sale, selling for $8,540, was an egg tempera on Masonite, “Study for Old Man with Violin” a 1940 work by Jackson Lee Nesbitt (1913-2008). Nesbitt was friendly with Thomas Hart Benton, and the two often traveled and sketched together. Nesbitt’s works were included in an exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair, and some of his works are owned by the Boston Public Library and the Library of Congress. Bringing a little less than the Nesbitt was “Portrait of a Young Man” by Maurice Grosser (1903-1986), which earned $7,930. Grosser was known for his portraits, and although he graduated from Harvard with a degree in mathematics, he almost immediately took up painting. His works are in the Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian and other public collections.
Works relating to Maine, or by Maine artists, were well represented in the sale, and the first painting sold indicated the level of interest. It was an oil on Masonite, “Herve #1,” by John Laurent (1921-2015). It went to an active phone bidder for $4,575, nearly four times the estimate. The catalog indicated that works by Laurent are “on the rise.” He taught at the University of New Hampshire and eventually settled in Ogunquit, Maine, where he was active in the art colony there. Another oil on Masonite by Laurent, “Oyster Basins,” went for $5,795. Finishing well over the estimate was a group of 20 small watercolors by Maine artist William Thon (1906-2000). Each was framed and each bore a personal message to the Bernsteins. The group realized $2,745. Also popular with those interested in the Maine artists was an oil on canvas, “Three Islands,” a 1963 work by Stephen Etnier (1903-1984). An internet bidder paid $4,270 for it. Another painting by the same artist, a large oil on board, “Norfolk Harbor,” depicted a tugboat in the foreground with the Norfolk skyline in the distance. It sold for $3,965. A number of works by other local artists sold for less than $500.
Works by other artists often exceeded expectations. A circa 1940 oil on canvas by Joseph Gualtieri (1916-2015) earned $6,710, while an oil on canvas by Alfred Chadbourn (1921-1988), “Custom House at Boothbay Square,” also went for $6,710. Another work by the artist, “Handy Andy’s,” earned $2,440. A bronze, “Study for Gemini,” by William Zorach (1887-1966) reached $4,880. It bore a label on the base “Collection of the Zorach children.”
The Bernsteins also collected small bronzes and other three-dimensional works. One of the first to sell was a carved stone figure of a reclining woman, 32 inches long. It was done by Cabot Lyford (1925-2016) and sold to an absentee bidder for $2,440. Lyford is best known for his carvings of animals and, particularly, women. He taught for 23 years at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, N.H., and when he retired he and his wife moved to Pemaquid, Maine. His works are in several museums in Maine. His large, black granite sculpture of a whale is an iconic feature in Prescott Park, in Portsmouth, N.H. A marble carving of a seated figure by Ralph Hurst (1918-2003) sold for $732. A carved granite sculpture of a bird by Lisa Becou (Twentieth Century) went out for $1,464.
There were also several works on paper in the collection. A colored lithograph by Leonard Baskin, (1922-2000), “High Bear Standing Rock Sioux,” done in 1973, sold for $976 to a particularly active phone bidder. A bidder in the room paid $2,745 for “October Light,” a charcoal on paper by Mark Wehli (b 1949), while a double-sided graphite and watercolor on paper by Isabel Bishop (1912-1988) reached $1,342.
All in all, Bill Milliken, one of the owners, said after the sale, “it went really well for us. The bulk of the sale, coming from a single owner, worked well. We have another estate lined up, and we’re getting more calls. We didn’t pass many lots and some of those are continuing to sell after the auction. We finished up with a gross of about $150,000, which was more than we expected. I think going with an experienced auctioneer like Peter was a good move for us. We had several positive comments about the way he ran the sale, so we’ll be doing it that way in the future. Our next sale will be February 22 and 23 of next year. It will be a fine arts sale, and we have some nice things lined up.” Jeremy Fogg, another of the owners, said that he was pleasantly surprised by the portrait by Grosser and the results on the Chadburns. “The Maine artists did well, and we saw that with the first lot of the day, the painting by Laurent. I was also interested to see that portraits and paintings of children did well. This crowd wasn’t looking for nudes – either paintings or sculptures.”
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For information, 207-772-5011 or www.barridoff.com.
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