Published: November 29, 2022
Review by Z.G. Burnett, Photos Courtesy of John Moran Auctioneers
MONROVIA, CALIF. – John Moran Auctioneers conducted its Art of the American West sale on November 16, the last of this kind for the 2022 season. The auction’s 358 lots featured numerous collections, such as the estates of George David Sturges and Melinda Wayne Munoz, as well as private collections from Utah, Arizona and California, among others. The bidding pool was almost entirely private domestic buyers, as well as participants from Canada. With an 89 percent buy-through rate by lot and 92 percent by value, the sale totaled $462,343.
Fine art was a prominent category in the auction, with the top lot across the listings being “Dry Air” by contemporary Los Angeles artist Logan Maxwell Hagege (b 1980), which rose to $22,500. The oil on linen canvas shows a Native American man wrapped in a blanket, bathed either in the rising sun of dawn or the golden light of sunset. This use of light is a hallmark of Hagege’s work, which is described on his website as “stylized realism.” His paintings can be found in prominent American institutions such as the Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles; the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, Okla.; and Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Indianapolis, Ind.
Landscapes also reached the top lots, showcasing the color and unique imagery of the American West. Known for his desert scenes in Arizona, Southern California and New Mexico, a large canvas by Harry B. Wagoner (American, 1889-1950) showing a mountain range against a cloud head that achieved $8,125. This tied in price with a Pueblo cooking scene by Waler Ufer (1876-1936), a German-American artist who was born in Germany but raised in the United States. Ufer trained overseas and then returned to work in the American Midwest, eventually settling in New Mexico and being elected to the Taos Society of Artists. The painting came from a private Santa Barbara, Calif., collection and also sold for $8,125.
Statues of various mediums, geographical origin and purposes were present in the sale. Second place in the top lots was a cigar store Native American on a plank wood base with cast iron wheels, carved in the style of Samuel Robb (American, 1851-1928). Robb’s New York City workshop also produced tobacconist figures, circus wagons and ventriloquist dummies, which are highly sought-after by Americana collectors. Despite its lack of confirmed attribution, this example bid to $18,750. The other top sculpture was a bronze of actor John Wayne by David Manuel (b 1940) from the estate of Wayne’s daughter, Melinda Wayne Munoz, that brought $10,625.
Another lot with a Hollywood connection was a contemporary Molesworth-style sofa with leather and Chimayo, N.M., wool upholstery from the estate of actor Gregory Sierra (1937-2021). Each side was accented with a carved image of a cowboy and his horse and was framed with “knee leg” burl wood. Produced by the New West Furniture Co, a similar sofa appeared in the company’s spring 2002 catalog with the product line “Telluride Couch.” This example tied with the Native American tobacconist figure for $18,750.
An unusual and unexpected top lot was a painted bass drum from Pawnee Bill’s Wild West Band, showing a Plains Native American man in the center, painted by John Edward Borein (American, 1827-1945). According to the Santa Barbara Museum, Borein was “one of a handful of early Western artists who was actually born in the West.” He worked as a cowboy and recorded his experiences through art before settling in his native California. Gordon William Lillie, known as “Pawnee Bill” (1860-1942), was an American showman who earned his nickname as the Pawnee interpreter of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Lillie later opened his own series of Wild West shows featuring a diverse cast of performers. This drum was most likely from one of those shows and is dated to the late Nineteenth or early Twentieth Century and was billed at $12,500.
Prices quote with buyer’s premium as reported by the auction. For more information, 626-793-1833 or www.johmoran.com.
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