Published: March 2, 2021
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Clars Auction Gallery
OAKLAND, CALIF. – One hundred years after the fact, the scandalous subject of a royal affair continued to generate international buzz and helped boost the two-day total of sales at Clars Auction Gallery to $1,388,000. With more than 1,600 lots crossing the block February 20-21, 83 percent found buyers and more than half of the sale’s total – $733,000 – was pulled in for fine art.
“The overall sale was very good due to strong and energetic enthusiasm from online and telephone bidders both nationally and internationally,” Clars’ chief executive officer and director of fine art, Rick Unruh, said. “This was felt in a room that did not have the public participating and hasn’t since March 2020. It’s quite a nice feeling to have during these rather gloomy, pandemic times and know that people out there are still vigorously enjoying buying exceptional items at auction.”
A portrait of the married mistress of the Prince of Wales before he became King Edward VIII attracted international interest to lead the sale with a price of $135,300. “The Lady in Black and Green (Mrs Dudley Ward) by Sir John Lavery (Irish, 1856-1941), which was painted in 1920 during her 11-year affair with the Prince of Wales before he ascended to the British throne in 1936, prompted bidders on 14 phone lines, all but three of whom were new to Clars. A private collector in London acquired the work, prevailing against an underbidder in Ireland. It came from the Bay Area estate of a university academic whose family had moved to the Bay Area in the 1960s; the family of the decedent had acquired the painting in London in the 1950s for approximately 50 pounds.
Though the estate chose to give several pieces to institutions, it gave Clars a few additional works of fine art, including “The Letter” by William Henry Margetson, which brought $37,500 and the third highest price in the sale.
Several landscape views exceeded expectations. “Toward Sunset (Manitou, Colorado)” by Birger Sandzén (American / Swedish, 1871-1954) came from a Pebble Beach, Calif., collection that had acquired the painting directly from the artist when he was working in McPherson, Kan. Done in oil on canvas in 1916, the work had been authenticated by the Birger Sandzén Memorial Gallery and sold within estimate, selling to an online bidder in the United States for $68,750. “Pueblo Beach, Catalina,” a watercolor by Gunnar Widforss (American / Swedish) varied from the artist’s usual body of work in depicting a coastal scene but had been authenticated by an expert and sold to a collector on the West Coast for $17,500. Several phone bidders lined up in pursuit of an untitled Orientalist desert encampment in oil on canvas by Louis Comfort Tiffany that brought $16,250. The family of a private collector in Sacramento, Calif., had acquired it on the East Coast and it was purchased by an East Coast buyer.
Two local historical societies sold works that brought surprising results. The Hoyt Military Museum in Lafayette, Calif., sold a collection of Soviet Union socialist medals that caught the eye of bidders in Russia, Australia and New Zealand but in the end, a bidder from the United States prevailed, spending $15,000. Six lots from the San Francisco Historical Society were sold to benefit acquisitions funds; the group included two stop light groups, a piece of cable-car track, an architectural Gladding McBean frieze, a department store sign and a dated 1858 headstone from the San Francisco Yerba Buena Cemetery. All of the lots sold to local buyers with the most complete of the two stop-light lots bringing $5,938.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.
The next sale on the books for Clars Auction Gallery will take place March 20-21.
Clars Auction Gallery is at 5644 Telegraph Avenue. For information, www.clars.com or 510-428-0100.
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