Published: May 31, 2022
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy James Cox Gallery at Woodstock
WILLOW, N.Y. – James Cox Gallery at Woodstock conducted another of its popular online-only auctions on May 22, offering an eclectic group of more than 200 paintings, works on paper, sculpture and photographs in what gallerist James Cox described as “a remarkably diverse array of high-quality artwork.”
The sale totaled $128,283 and the sell-through was 95 percent with 1,175 bidders participating, including online via LiveAuctioneers and Invaluable. Woodstock art and photos from the collection of Marcuse “Cusie” Pfeifer (1936-2020) were the strongest performers, according to Cox.
The day was led by Tom Wesselmann’s (1931-2004) “Study for Bedroom Painting #69,” 1983, an oil on canvas, 23 by 21 inches, signed on verso and framed, which earned $25,000, selling to a gallery in Germany. Wesselmann was an American Pop artist best known for his collages, sculptures and screenprints that stylized the female figure. The aim is to catch the viewer’s attention, and here isolated segments of the female body seemingly viewed through a dynamic aperture fulfill that mission. “The prime mission of my art, in the beginning, and continuing still, is to make figurative art as exciting as abstract art,” he once said of his work. Wesselmann’s works are in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Tate Gallery in London and the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, among others.
The sale included more than 50 pieces from the estate of Pfeifer, whose Manhattan gallery featured some of the world’s finest photographers. Included in this group were such well-known names as Sasha Stone, Lilo Raymond, Heinz Hajek-Halke, Erwin Blumenfeld, Edward Curtis and Peter Hujar. Several important books from Pfeifer’s personal library also crossed the block. A draft cover design for Virginia Woolf’s The Years, circa 1935, from the Pfeifer estate sold for a surprising $6,875. The watercolor and graphite on paper by Vanessa Bell (1879-1961), who was Woolf’s sister, was unsigned, and measured 7¾ by 5¼ inches, framed under glass.
Also from the Pfeifer estate, Peter Hujar’s (1934-1987) “New York: Sixth Avenue (1),” 1976, a gelatin silver print, earned $2,125. Noted with the lot was the fact that this photograph is shown on page 76 of Peter Hujar: Speed of Life (2017), a book that was included with the lot.
It may have been difficult on one of the hottest weekends in May to relate to what Cox referred to as the sale’s “showstopper,” but nevertheless “January Thaw,” circa 1940, by Harvey Emrich (1884-1972), a late winter landscape, found favor, bringing $3,250 from a private collector. The oil on canvas, 24¼ by 36 inches, depicted a small herd of cattle huddled next to a barn set against a background of towering mountains and reflections of melting snow. A bird in flight silhouetted was a bright note against the grey barn.
A gelatin silver print of a partial female nude by Erwin Blumenfeld (1897-1969), “Wet Veil III,” 1937, printed circa 1960s, from the Pfeifer estate, went out at $4,063. The 10¼-by-13¼-inch print bore an estate stamp on verso.
American printmaker and painter Norma Morgan’s (1928-2017) work is found in major collections worldwide and she has been highly recognized for her etchings and engravings, many of which were inspired by time spent in Great Britain. Born in New Haven, Conn., the African American artist showed interest in art from childhood, In this sale, she was represented by “Wooded Twilight,” circa 1980, an acrylic on canvas mounted on Masonite, 10 by 6 inches, which was bid to $3,625.
In addition to the selection of photographs from the Pfeifer estate, prints and paintings from a prominent Woodstock collection were also offered. Two watercolor on paper works by Woodstock artist John Pike (1911-1979) – one a winter scene and the other a summer theme – were notable. “Winter Stream,” circa 1960, 22 by 29½ inches, took $3,375, while “The Old Swimming Hole – Big Deep, Woodstock, NY,” circa 1975, 28 by 20¾ inches, went out at $2,500. “The Old Swimming Hole” depicts children playing at a favorite swimming spot in Woodstock, now known as Big Deep. As small children frolic in a beautiful sylvan setting, their mother relaxes in the shade, reading a book. “This is a charming and unusual subject for Pike,” Cox noted.
Another Woodstock artist, Ethel Magafan (1916-1993), the daughter of a Greek immigrant father and a Polish immigrant mother, was represented in the sale by a palette knife painting featuring white bed sheets drying in the breeze, “an example of Magafan’s interest in simple, domestic subject matter,” Cox observed. Titled “Night Wind,” the circa 1960 oil on Masonite blew out of the gallery at $2,250.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. The next sale will take place in December, date to be announced. For more information, 845-679-7608 or www.jamescoxgallery.com.
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