Published: June 26, 2007
In Look Homeward Angel , Thomas Wolfe described artist James William Pattison (1844‱915) as “a tall man&⁷ith long straight mustaches, waxen and emaciated as a mandarin. He painted pictures †impressionist blobs †sheep on a gorsey hill, fishboats at the piers, with a warm red jumble of brick buildings in the background.”
On May 19, at Brunk Auctions, 23 lots of Pattison’s works were sold, including 11 sketchbooks containing 350 drawings of yachts, schooners, pigs, cows and buildings, but nary a sheep, that brought $11,500. True to Wolfe’s observation, sheep drawings were included in the very next lot. Five of Pattison’s sheep studies brought $1,380.
Paintings, sculpture, watercolors and drawings dominated the sale and accounted for a third of the $1.28 million total.
The sale’s top lot was the painting featured on the back cover of the sale catalog. “Silence and Fleeting Light,” a 45-by-60-inch oil on canvas by George Gardner Symons (1863‱930) depicting a winter landscape in the Connecticut River Valley. The reserve of $32,000 was met on the opening bid. Bidding volleyed between the phones, in-house and absentee bidders, but after $60,000, it was all phones. The painting attained $149,500.
The Pattison consignor, a goddaughter of Patricia Pattison Shuttles, also included six paintings and three groups of sketches by Helen Searle (1830‱884), James Pattison’s second wife. Although each Searle lot carried a top estimate of $1,000, two left that figure in the dust. Her sketchbook, a collection of 150 works by her and various other artists dating from 1858 to 1871, sold for $17,250. Attesting to the strength of her reputation, her unsigned 7½-by-8¾-inch oil sketch still life of two plums on a twig brought $14,950 from a phone bidder.
Formal French pieces did well. Furniture led the way in this 26-lot category. A Louis XV-style salon suite consisting of two sofas, six open armchairs and a fire screen topped the category at $21,850, a figure just below its high estimate. All had fine scenic Aubusson tapestry upholstery. A three-piece Louis XVI-style salon suite from the same consignor and with similar upholstery also did well. The sofa and two open armchairs sold for $11,500, 25 percent above its high estimate.
At the sale’s conclusion, owner and auctioneer Bob Brunk said, “The market continues to be strong for the best examples in virtually every field, particularly pieces with good provenance and pieces new to the market.”
All prices reported include a 15 percent buyer’s premium. For more information, www.brunkauctions.com or 828-254-6846.
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