Published: December 14, 2021
Review by Greg Smith, Photos Courtesy Soulis Auctions
LONE JACK, MO. – It was a short and sweet sale weekend for Soulis Auctions December 4-5 as auctioneer Dirk Soulis sold just over a combined 500 lots across the two days. The two sessions were split between the estate of Morton and Estelle Sosland, major Kansas City patrons of the arts, on the first day, and general estates on the second.
The Soslands built their collection on the back of their publishing company, Sosland Publishing Co, a family business still in operation that publishes Milling & Baking News, Food Business News and World Grain. The company was founded by three Sosland brothers the generation above Morton, including his uncle Samuel, who he trained under. Samuel Sosland was a major American art collector who endowed a curator at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Following in his footsteps, Morton and Estelle became deeply involved with the museum for nearly six decades as they volunteered and stepped up as benefactors to support the endowment, a campus expansion and the Generations Campaign. Estelle Sosland served as the chair of the museum’s board of trustees from 2007 to 2009.
In 1994, the Soslands commissioned Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen to create the famed 19-foot-high “Shuttlecocks,” the four of which adorn the lawn of the museum. Publicly derided at their inception, the museum writes they are now iconic. The Soslands put together one of the finest private collections of American Indian art, particularly from the Northwest Coast, which they donated to the Nelson-Atkins in order to create the foundation of that collection within the museum. It opened in 2009 in the American Indian art galleries and traveled to the Met.
“They were very well known around Kansas City and I got the feeling also elsewhere around the country,” auctioneer Dirk Soulis said. “They had amassed various collections of African art and American Indian art at certain times.”
Aside from passing down many of their prized possessions to the next generation of collectors in the Sosland family, the couple was generous in bequeathing works to the institutions they cared for. Still, there were 280 lots to choose from at Soulis. The top was led by a $15,340 result for a Paul Storr oval silver tureen, made in London in 1814. The cover is surmounted by a cast spread-wing eagle, which appears engraved elsewhere on the work and may be a family crest, the auction house wrote.
Other works in silver were worth more than their weight. A Dominick and Haff 12-piece sterling tea set in the Louis XVI style sold for $8,610. A Gorham Art Nouveau silver water pitcher marked Martele and rising 9½ inches high would sell for $5,904. The pitcher was listed in the Gorham company records as having entered production on October 17, 1900, made by Frederick Bower. To the bottom was an engraved dedication that read “Queene Ferry June 8th 1901.” The auction house wrote, “A suffragette, philanthropist, advocate of early childhood education, and supporter of the arts named Queene Ferry was married in 1901 to a man named Avery Coonley. Around 1910, Queene and Avery Coonley, both heirs of large fortunes, commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to build the landmark Avery Coonley House and two other structures on their estate near Chicago.”
Soulis thought that the silver collection may have possibly been passed down through the family from the generation above Morton and Estelle.
Porcelain was led by two lots of Royal Copenhagen Flora Danica plates. Each a set of 12, a group with botanical studies and dated 1966 sold for $12,300, while a group from the same year, featuring various fungi, brought $9,440.
The couple invariably supported local artists, including Wilbur Niewald, the professor emeritus of painting at the Kansas City Art Institute, where he served as chair of the painting and printmaking department for 28 years. Breaking out to $9,225 over a $1,200 estimate was “Rocks At Greystone Heights I,” a 1999 oil on canvas that set a new auction record for the artist. A still life from Niewald with apples and bottle would take $2,596. Another artist that taught at the Kansas City Art Institute was William Wind McKim, who studied there before World War II with John De Martelly and Thomas Hart Benton. His egg tempera on Masonite, “Two Redheads,” went out for $2,596. Ceramic artist Ken Ferguson is another longstanding Kansas City Art Institute faculty member represented in the Sosland collection – accounting for ten pieces in eight lots. Ferguson was the head of the ceramics department for 32 years. Three of his hare-handled stoneware cups would sell for $1,003 each.
In the couple’s varied sculpture collection was a $5,500 result for St Louis artist Ernest Trova’s “Flying Man,” a juxtaposition against his “Falling Man” series. The man’s figure melts into the body of a jet on ascent. Soulis said it sold to a Kansas City collector, underbid by a St Louis dealer familiar with the artist’s estate. In wood was a 56-inch African carving of a man with hat attributed to Bamgboye, a carver of Odo Owa. It sold for $3,776. Bronzes saw $3,444 paid for Emile Antoine Bourdelle’s “L’Arlequin,” while Emilio Greco’s “Piccola Bagnante / Little Bather” sold for $2,360.
The second day of sales saw its highest prices when two Japanese inro cases soared high above their estimates. Selling for $29,520 was a Nineteenth Century example depicting crayfish and signed Tsuishu Yosei for the family of lacquer carvers that dates back to the Fourteenth Century. The family of artisans has won centuries of awards at international expositions, established lacquer schools to carry on the art form and earned renown in that country. A label on the base indicated it was once in the collection of Edward Gilbertson, a Nineteenth Century English collector of Japanese works of art who was a founding member of the Japan Society, London, in 1891. Just behind at $27,060 was another inro with carved lacquer baboon, the top surmounted by a carved Ojime in the form of a monkey. It was signed to the base “Bunsai” and with a red lacquer tablet inset to the base reading “Jugyoku, at the age of 75.” Soulis said both inros sold to a Vancouver buyer.
“A gentleman named Allen Ray had purchased them from a well-respected Kansas City antiques shop, Brookside Antiques, known for Asian art and active in Japanese woodblocks,” Soulis said. “He and his wife didn’t collect many other Asian arts. Mostly walking sticks and he liked fine chronometers, which we’ve sold over the last couple years. They seemed to just have a variety of interests and liked interesting things.”
The second day was more varied, offering jewelry, pottery of all styles, Art Deco lighting and more.
Just in time for the holidays were 14 lots of antique nutcrackers that comprised more than 300 examples. The group lots with the highest quantities sold the highest, taking anywhere from $1,599 to $584. Soulis said they came from a couple living in Lawrence, Kan., who had at times lived in Europe and outside of Boston. “They were also interested in cheese,” the auctioneer said. “They had a collection of antiques related to cheese and wine and nutcrackers. Food collectibles.”
An Art Deco collector from Pittsburgh, Kan., offered up 12 lots of Frankart that ranged from lighting and ash stands to busts and bookends. The top at $3,444 was an illuminated clock (lacking hands) with textured glass plate flanked by two ladies. It was designed by Arthur von Frankenberg, the company’s founding president and art director. Rising 12½ inches high was a lamp with two seated ladies flanking a rising skyscraper custard glass shade. It sold for $2,460. In a green enamel was another light with the two femme fatales holding up a stepped hex shape amber globe with frosted ground and polished high points – it brought $1,476. Two reverse painted glass Saturn lamps, originally created by the L.J. Houze Convex Glass Co. for the 1939 World’s Fair, sold for $1,169 and $523.
Three works by Biloxi, Miss., potter George Ohr came from that same Pittsburgh collection and sold above estimate. A pinched and folded bowl only 3¼ inches high brought $2,460, while a 4½-inch-high pitcher with handle in the same style took $2,091. A 6½-inch-high vase with a cylindrical neck over a bulbous, pinched body, would sell for $1,599.
Soulis Auctions’ will have an online-only antique pressing iron sale from January 13 to February 3, with a three-day sale of stoneware, folk art, Americana and European glass February 18-20. For information, www.dirksoulisauctions.com or 816-697-3830.
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