Published: September 12, 2017
Review and Onsite Photos by Rick Russack, Catalog Photos Courtesy Thomaston Place Auction Galleries
THOMASTON, MAINE – The three-day sale at Kaja Veilleux’s Thomaston Place Auction Galleries literally had something for everyone. The catalog for the August 25-27 sale had more than 300 pages and included more than 1,400 items. Modern paintings led the sale, with a Marsden Hartley bringing $169,500, and works by Marguerite Zorach, Alexander Calder and Zorach’s daughter Dahlov Ipcar also doing quite well.
The sale included American and European furniture, folk art, Tiffany lamps, redware, Asian furniture and ceramics, several important marine paintings, scrimshaw, jewelry, historical documents, autographed baseballs, pre-Columbian material, doorstops, trade signs and much more. About 100 people were in the audience as the sale began, numerous phone lines were utilized throughout the sale and internet bidding was available on multiple platforms.
Clearly, the stars of the sale were works by major Modernist painters, most with interesting provenances. Expected to lead the sale, as it did, was a landscape by Marsden Hartley (American, 1877-1943). The 35-by-30-inch signed oil on canvas had a label on the back from Edith Gregor Halpert’s Downtown Gallery with her stock number and it is included in the gallery records in the Archives of American Art. It had been purchased from Halpert, circa 1950, by Lee Ault, publisher of Art in America, and had remained in his family. It finished slightly over the estimate at $169,650.
An untitled 1961 gouache on paper by Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976) was also one of the highest-priced items in the sale, realizing $64,350. The frame was marked “Krasner,” probably referring to fellow artist Lenore “Lee” Krasner, who, according to the catalog, became close with Calder after the death of her husband, Jackson Pollock. A work by Waldo Peirce (American, 1884-1970) brought $31,590. It was a painting of the artist’s wife, actress Ivy Troutman, and Elizabeth Hadley Richardson, first wife of his good friend Ernest Hemingway, in a Riviera apartment, painted in 1925. “The Butterfly Collection” by Dahlov Ipcar (American, 1917-2017) exceeded its estimate, bringing $19,305. The title was supplied by the consignors, who had received the painting directly from the artist.
Other paintings also did well. Topping the second day of the sale was a view of Pont Neuf from the Louvre by James Taylor Harwood (American, 1860-1940), an oil on linen dated 1929. The artist lived in Paris until the start of World War II, when he and his family returned to the United States. The painting reached $28,080. Ship paintings by American artists drew strong interest. Three each finished at $11,700. One was by Elisha Taylor Baker (American, 1827-1890) and two were by Percy Sanborn (American, 1849-1929). The Baker depicted the 1885 America’s Cup yacht race off Newport between the American sloop Puritan and the British cutter Genesta. The Americans won by 1 minute, 38 seconds. One of the Sanborns was titled the “Ship Iroquois,” a three-masted schooner under full sail with men on deck, at the entrance to New York Bay. The other was titled “Ship Onward,” also a three-masted ship with men on deck, and a lighthouse in the background. Antonio Jacobsen’s portrait of the two-masted steam/sail ship El Rio, earned $7,020. That ship was the largest American merchant steamer of its time and the painting had been in a Maine attic since 1972.
Much of the Americana was sold the second day. The second item was a weathervane with a full-bodied running fox by L.W. Cushing & Company. It was only 23 inches long, but sold for $8,775, more than seven times the estimate. The form of the fox was the same as the fox and hound weathervanes by the same company. Two carousel horses seemed on the low side. An outer row “stargazer” carved horse by Charles Carmel, with glass eyes, inlaid jewels, well-carved tail and a reared head, went for $4,095, while another outer row horse, attributed to Charles Looff, brought only $2,340.
Two brightly colored trade signs for Rumsey & Co., a firefighting equipment supplier in Seneca Falls, N.Y., will probably turn up down the road at a significant markup. Both were painted red, one was in the form of a large top hat, painted with a steam pumper marked “93 Liberty Street, New York” and advertising “engines, ladders, hoses, hooks and bells.” It sold for $4,095. An interesting, brightly colored, hooked rug went for $3,627. It was only 21½ by 34 inches but it showed a one-room schoolhouse with a tower, a flagpole flying an American flag, and was inscribed ABC on the top edge and HSR on the lower edge.
An exceptional matching pair of Hepplewhite demilune card tables from Salem or Boston was one of the pleasant surprises of the day, finishing at $17,550, more than three times the estimate. Another pleasant surprise was a group of works by Philippine artist Alfonso Ossorio (1916-1990). A poster drawn by the artist for a show of his work done with a Whitney Museum Fellowship fetched $17,550 and a mixed media assemblage of resin and found objects, which the artist referred to as “congregations,” reached $15,210. Both were far over their estimates, as was a group of 24 hand cast miniature soldiers in medieval dress, made by Richard Courtenay (1892-1963). The group brought $7,605. Also finishing well over the estimate was a pair of Chinese hardstone panels inlaid with semiprecious stones, creating images of birds in trees with butterflies and a rocky profile at the base, that finished at $14,040.
Day one of the sale was devoted entirely to works by Maine artists and included about 225 works, nearly all by Twentieth Century artists. An oil on canvas, “Harborside Home,” by Imero Gobbato (1923-2010) earned $9,360. “Across The Strawberries, Cape Elizabeth,” an oil on canvas by Connie Hayes, a contemporary artist, brought $4,388 and another of her works, “Bayside Trees,” finished at $1,872. John Bottero, vice president, said, “We’ve been putting aside paintings by Maine artists for about a year now. We wanted to be able to mount a sale devoted to that material. And the money received on about 50 of the lots will be contributed to the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland.”
Both Veilleux and Bottero believe in “giving back to the community” and they do about 50 fundraisers a year for local organizations for which they receive no compensation. They recently contributed their time and effort to a benefit auction at the Owls Head Transportation Museum in nearby Owls Head, Maine, that raised about $4.9 million for the museum. Bottero, corporate vice president, has been with the company about 25 years. “We know the fundraising things we do for the community comes back to us in spades. In addition to the Owls Head sale, we recently did one for the Stanley Museum in Kingfield, Maine. They’re devoted to the Stanley family and the famous Stanley Steamer automobiles. Events like these get us in front of people that we might not otherwise get to meet.”
Bottero’s background was in engineering before joining Veilleux and he had an interest in clocks. He and his wife own the Nobleboro (Maine) Antique Center, down the road from Thomaston Place.
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
For additional information, www.thomastonauction.com or call 207-354-8141.
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