Published: November 15, 2016
Review by W.A. Demers; Photos Courtesy Barridoff Galleries
PORTLAND, MAINE — Gaetano Chierici’s (Italian, 1838?-1920) “The Mask,” a Nineteenth Century scene characteristically rich in the “picture seller” style of the artist, achieved $118,200, becoming the top lot at Barridoff Galleries’ international fine art auction on October 28 at the Abromson Center on the Portland campus of the University of Southern Maine.
Signed and dated “Chierici Gaetano [sic] 1871” lower left, the 31-by-41-inch oil on canvas, property of the Georgetown, Maine, estate of William F. Herman, had been purchased by the consignor’s great grandmother in Italy around 1874 and had never since been for sale privately or at auction. A copy of a letter written in Italian by the artist in which he refers to the painting’s purchase accompanied the lot.
Chierici was one of the leading artists of the Italian School during the Nineteenth Century. His subjects, here as everywhere, gave freshness to old themes. The Magazine of Art wrote in 1881: “We owe much to a painter who gives us homely subjects treated with sincerity and directness. He has made poor Italian interiors his own, and paints the peasant and his children with an intimate sympathy and cordiality. Chierici has lived among his subjects, and paints people and things with a sincere and intense reality.”
That kind of description is rarely ascribed to a Nineteenth Century masterpiece. In “The Mask,” however, the artist masterfully demonstrates how hand, paint and brush can work together with intuition to create illusion of what today we would call photographic. This particular image proved to be extremely popular and it was reproduced several times both by the artist himself and by competent followers. Several of these images have appeared on the market, and prices realized have ranged from $2,000 to nearly $300,000, according to Barridoff. The image offered by the auctioneer on October 28 is dated 1871, most likely the earliest known of unquestionable authenticity. It further stands as unique because it was purchased in Italy by the great grandparents of the Maine family that consigned it to auction.
A luxurious nude by Waldo Peirce (American, 1884–1970) titled “Ruby’s Siesta” and depicting the Peirce family’s housemaid Ruby more than doubled its high estimate to bring $14,400. Inscribed “Merry Xmas, Ruth” signed “W. Peirce” and dated ‘45 lower left, the 30-by-42-inch oil on canvas was property of Colin T. Taylor, Birmingham, Ala. It had previously been sold at Julia’s in January 2004 and February 2012.
Bringing the same amount as the Peirce, the very next lot was an autumnal landscape with house and barn by Wolf Kahn (American, b 1927) titled “Golden Sunlight.” The 42½-by-52-inch oil oncanvas was signed “W. Kahn” lower center and numbered and dated #28 1978 in script on the canvas verso.
Maine art collectors get enthused by the broad strokes and bright colors Eric Hopkins (b 1951) employs to capture the natural world and its geography of earth, water and sky. A native of North Haven Island, Maine, Hopkins graduated from of the Rhode Island School of Design and has exhibited at institutions and galleries nationally. In this sale, his aerial view “Flying Over the End of the Point Again” sold for $9,600. The oil on canvas work was signed “Eric Hopkins” lower right, titled lower left and measured 36 by 48 inches.
Two works by Charles Fromuth (1866–1937), an American painter born in Philadelphia and who learned painting at the School of Fine Arts in Philadelphia under the direction of Thomas Eakins, commanded $9,600 and $9,000, respectively. The first was “Winter, Harbor of Concarneau,” 1929, a chilly tryptich view of the sardine port where, with the exception of a trip back to the United States in 1910, he spent the rest of his life after discovering it on a trip to Europe in 1889. The pastel tryptich was signed, numbered and dated, with artist’s stamp “Ch. Fromuth, No.929.CC, 1929” on center panel lower right, and it measured 27 by 59¾ inches. A more harmonious harbor scene was “A Dock Harmony, Fishing Boats,” 1899, also a pastel, measuring 51 by 38¼ inches. In 1904, the work had been part of the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition, with a label verso and a price of $1,000. A plaque on the frame reads: “Universal Exhibition 1904, Commemorating the acquisition of the Louisiana Territory, Awarded a Gold Medal by the International Jury.”
The rawness of winter by the harbor reasserts itself in an Emile Gruppe (American, 1896–1978) oil on canvas titled “Winter Fog, Gloucester” showing a lone worker removing snow from an icy pier. Measuring 30 by 36 inches and signed “Emile A. Gruppe” lower right, the painting was bid to $5,280.
Two consecutive lots by Jeff Koons (American, b 1955) celebrated man’s best friend in completely different ways. “Balloon Dog (Blue),” his trademark metallicized canine on a porcelain plate, 10¼ by 10¼ by 4½ inches, went out at $8,400, as did “Puppy,” a porcelain sculpture, signed, dated ‘98 and numbered 1825/3000. Both lots came with their original boxes and packaging.
Worth mentioning, although it sold post-auction for $30,000, its low estimate, was a brightly executed still life/landscape by Bernard Cathelin (French, 1919–2004), “Bouquet de Collines,” 1962, an oil on canvas, 51 by 76½ inches, bearing a Kennedy Galleries New York label verso.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For information, www.barridoff.com or 207-772-5011.
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