Published: March 28, 2017
Review by Laura Beach
WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. – Charlton Hall’s March 2 auction of the Arturo and Jacqueline Peralta Ramos estates demonstrated that the investing adage – buy quality and hold for the long term – can apply to both art and stocks. How else to explain the market’s ravenous response to roughly 200 lots associated with the tempestuous tastemaker Millicent Rogers (1902-1953), her son Arturo Peralta Ramos II and his wife, Jacqueline?
Rogers, the granddaughter of Standard Oil partner Henry Huttleston Rogers, spent her last years in Taos, N.M., where she is remembered for the small but superb museum housing her collections of Native and Spanish American art. With her Southwestern treasures mostly dispersed (the still-furnished Rogers and Peralta Ramos residence Turtle Walk in Taos may be viewed on Zillow.com, where it is listed at $3.5 million), Charlton Hall featured European and American arts from family homes in New York, Austria and Virginia. Rogers fled Europe at the outbreak of war, acquiring Claremont Manor in Surrey, Va., in 1940. She recruited William Lawrence Bottomley to restore and modernize the Seventeenth Century house and turned to Van Day Truex and Billy Baldwin for advice on decorating it with the French and Austrian art and antiques she shipped back from her Austrian chalet.
Arturo Peralta Ramos II died in New Mexico at 87 in December 2015. Jacqueline followed him in September 2016. Known as a sportsman, Arturo shuttled between Europe and the United States as a boy, briefly attended the University of Virginia, pursued a variety of business interests and, fascinated by foreign affairs, acted on behalf of the United States government from time to time. A Californian by birth, Jacqueline did some modeling and loved competitive riding until a back injury forced her to give it up. The first 182 lots of Charlton Hall’s March 2 sale featured Arturo’s estate. Jacqueline’s belongings were scattered among the 228 lots that followed.
“Two hundred-plus boxes arrived here after Jacqueline passed away. Many pieces were gifts from Arturo to Jacqueline. Some have a Millicent Rogers connection. It took all of two months to unpack everything. We became adept at identifying who probably bought what. Millicent acquired contemporary art between the 1920s and the 1940s. For décor, she wanted French things when she lived in France and Austrian things in Austria. Arturo collected documents and weaponry,” Kinga Bender, Charlton Hall’s director of fine and decorative arts, said.
Three late additions to the auction attracted notice: the genre painting “January Bills” by David Gilmour Blythe (1815-1865), which sold for $420,000 ($15/25,000), an auction record; “The Green Door” by Everett Shinn (1876-1953), a pastel that made $20,400; and a Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863) drawing bid to $3,360.
Bender explained, “We were adding some last-minute things from other sources. There was a bin of paintings from Jacqueline’s estate. I’d been told it contained nothing important. The first thing I pulled out of the bin was the Blythe, then the Shinn. I sent everyone away and stayed at work until around 11 that night, scrambling to catalog the additions and get them in the sale. The Blythe was not in our printed catalog and appeared in only one print ad, in Antiques and The Arts Weekly.”
Several top dealers in American paintings – including Robert Schwarz of Philadelphia’s Schwarz Gallery and Stuart Feld of Hirschl & Adler Galleries – traveled to South Carolina to review the Peralta Ramos estates, which additionally featured “Squirrel Hill Farm,” a double-sided oil on board by Pennsylvania folk artist John Kane (1860-1934), sold for what appears to be an auction record $120,000 ($6/9,000), and a still life painting of fruit, $40,800 ($10/15,000) that, though lined in a way that obscures inscriptions on its reverse side, is most likely by Rubens Peale (1784-1865).
Born in East Liverpool, Ohio, David G. Blythe worked as an itinerant portrait painter before settling in Uniontown, Penn. By the 1850s he was creating genre scenes notable for their sharp humor. “January Bills” depicts a harried newspaper publisher settling his books. Though long off the market, the 20-by-24-inch oil on canvas was well known through published accounts, according to buyer Thomas Colville. Exhibiting at the Art Show in Manhattan, the Connecticut and New York-based dealer bid remotely.
“It is one of Blythe’s three or four most important pictures, discussed in the literature on him. He painted it in 1859, at the moment his work reached maturity. It has a great history of ownership and exhibition. You pay what you have to pay for a painting like this. It is an extraordinary piece of American art and history, beautifully done. Blythe has been compared with the Dutch genre painters of the Seventeenth Century and with the Nineteenth Century English artists Cruickshank and Hogarth,” Colville said.
As recounted by Bruce W. Chambers in The World of David Gilmour Blythe, published by the Smithsonian in 1980, “January Bills” was shown at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Pennsylvania Library, the Carnegie, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. After passing from the Hailman family, it belonged to collector Francis P. Garvan. Millicent Rogers acquired it from Macbeth Gallery.
Including its Style + Design sale on March 3 and its Collect Online sale on March 4, Charlton Hall reaped roughly $2.2 million in three days of auctions. The Peralta Ramos estates attracted buyers from around the world. In all, Charlton Hall registered more than 10,000 bidders from 122 countries.
Bender ascribes the auction’s outstanding results to freshness, quality and a variety that attracted diverse bidding constituencies.
“Many of these pieces had been lost to the world for 50 or 60 years. Arturo’s estate is settled now, but more is coming from Jacqueline, some of it with Millicent Rogers provenance. Our next major auction is planned for July. So far, it includes some fantastic pieces of early silver,” said the specialist.
Prices include buyer’s premium.
Charlton Hall Galleries is at 7 Lexington Drive. For information, 803-779-5678 or www.charltonhallauctions.com.
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