Published: May 10, 2023
Review By W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Shannon’s Fine Art Auctioneers
MILFORD, CONN. — Shannon’s Fine Art Auctioneers hosted its spring fine art auction on April 27, featuring numerous examples of paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings. The 139-lot sale was nearly 90 percent sold and grossed $2.6 million. Private collections seeded the majority of the sale, which was headlined by Modern and contemporary art. A rare beach scene in Boston, circa 1907-10, by American Post-Impressionist Maurice Prendergast (1858-1924) topped the sale with a $162,500 final price. The busy scene depicts women and children walking along the esplanade. The work is painted in Prendergast’s typical style, with broad brush strokes. Catalog notes point out that the artist’s work in both watercolor and oil bridges the styles of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. “[Prendergast] pushed through a late American Impressionism and an Ashcan-influenced urbanism to a highly modern view,” they state. “His late work incorporated elements of the fantastical, but the heart of his career, from the early 1900s to the teens, was marked by his unique surface patterning of patches of brilliant color.”
Pop Art icon Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987) found favor with “Orangutan” from the “Endangered Species” series, 1983, going out at $150,000. The screen print in colors on Lenox Museum board was numbered and signed in pencil lower right “TP 6/30 Andy Warhol,” with publishers stamp by Ronald Feldman Fine Arts on the reverse, measuring 38 by 38 inches. Warhol’s “Endangered Species” portfolio was commissioned and published in 1983 by Ronald Feldman, a prominent New York gallerist and dealer, stemming from a shared concern about conservation and coastal erosion. In addition to “Orangutan,” subjects included the African Elephant, Pine Barrens Tree Frog, Giant Panda, Bald Eagle, Siberian Tiger, San Francisco Silverspot, Gervy’s Zebra, Black Rhinoceros and Bighorn Ram. Warhol’s talent was to render these animals as stylish portraits in an effort to raise their public profile and draw attention to their plight.
Among Nineteenth Century American paintings on offer, a Martin Johnson Heade (American, 1819-1904) rendering titled “Vase of Roses” led the still life offerings at $125,000. The 20-by-12-inch oil on canvas with a lush depiction of crimson blooms in a glass vase was signed lower left “M J Heade.” Perhaps better known for his atmospheric marsh landscapes and South American hummingbirds, Heade is included in the canon of important Nineteenth Century American artists and his work is included in numerous prominent public and private collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art and the Brooklyn Museum.
In the American Impressionist category, a 40-by-50-inch Richard Hayley Lever (1876-1958) work titled “Sunshine in the Hills,” 1904, took $106,250. The oil on canvas was signed and dated lower right “Hayley Lever / 1904,” inscribed and titled on reverse “River Ex.” (River Exe, Exmouth, England). Catalog notes explain Lever’s affinity for such scenes, pointing out that at the turn of the Nineteenth Century, the ancient Cornish fishing town of St Ives, England, was home to a thriving artists’ colony that lured both European as well as American artists to paint along the shores and piers Lever was a frequent visitor and painted “when the tide was out and when it was in, at all hours; sunrise, midday, sunset and moonlight.”
Fetching the same amount as the Lever was an oil on canvas by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (French, 1841-1919) titled “Arbres Devant La Maison,” 1908. Exemplifying Renoir’s mastery of capturing light and shadow, the painting’s use of Impressionist technique in the trees creates a visual screen to integrate the foreground and the background. The 7½-by-6-1/3-inch work will be included in the forthcoming Pierre-Auguste Renoir Digital Catalogue Raisonné, currently being prepared under the sponsorship of the Wildenstein Plattner Institute.
A wild riot of color and form in Peter (Henrietta) Miller’s (American, 1913-1996) “Head,” circa 1930s, helped push the oil on canvas to four times its high estimate, finishing at a record $100,000. Estate stamped and numbered on the reverse, the 36-by-30-inch abstract painting was listed as in excellent original condition. Miller, born Henrietta Myers was a Modernist who, in the 1940s, showed at the prestigious gallery of Julien Levy in New York City, the premier showcase for Surrealism in America. The artist developed her interest in art at a very early age and applied for study at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia.
“Canal Lane,” 1919-20, a 24-by-30-inch oil on canvas by John Fulton Folinsbee (American, 1892-1972) sold for an above-estimate $81,250. It had an extensive exhibition and published history, and catalog notes characterize it as a “canvas reminiscent of [Robert] Spencer’s work in both subject and tone — the pearly atmosphere is still there, but the brilliant red of the mule’s blanket and the subtle blending of greens, reds and blues in the surrounding buildings unify and enliven the composition and suggest a new, more sophisticated use of color.” In 1914, Folinsbee married Ruth Baldwin and two years later moved with her to New Hope, Penn., where he joined Edward Redfield, Daniel Garber, Robert Spencer and William Lathrop as a member of the New Hope School of Pennsylvania Impressionists.
A private Connecticut collection contributed Russell Chatham’s (American, 1939-2019) “River at Twilight,” a moody 1991 oil on canvas that was signed with artist’s device and dated lower left. Its dimensions were 30 by 36 inches. A contemporary landscape artist and author who spent most of his career living in Livingston, Mont., Chatham was the grandson of landscape painter Gottardo Piazzoni, though he was essentially a self-taught artist.
It may have been the firm’s spring fine art auction but it’s seemingly always winter in the world of Guy Carleton Wiggins, (American, 1883-1962), whose snow-swirling oil on canvas “5th Ave at 42nd Street, 25¼ by 30¼ inches, was bid to $62,500. An active member of the Old Lyme Art Academy, Wiggins started out painting landscapes, however, he continued to paint New York City as a preferred subject, particularly on snowy days. Here, the city taxis and pedestrians move undeterred by the falling snow. The lions in front of the library rest peacefully under the colorful waving flags.
From snowy mid-Manhattan to tropical South America, Elizabeth Gilbert Jerome’s (American, 1824-1910) “South American Sunset,” 1870, blazed to $57,500 against a high estimate of $25,000. The oil on canvas, 30 by 50 inches, was signed and dated lower right “G Jerome 1870” and came from a private Massachusetts collection. Frederick Edwin Church’s luminist influence is evident in the painting as New Haven, Conn., artist Jerome settled in Hartford, close to Church’s house. The catalog notes state that Jerome struggled as a female artist working in the Nineteenth Century as it was deemed an unladylike activity. When she was 15 her stepmother burned all of her drawings and she was not able to begin studying painting until she turned 27. This painting sold to a museum collection and set a new world auction record for the artist.
Additional highlights included two paintings that each brought $52,500. One was John Carleton Atherton’s (American, 1900-1952) surreal “Pine Tree” of 1938, the other a seascape, “Rocky Coast at Grand Manan,” a large oil on canvas by Alfred Thompson Bricher (American, 1837-1908).
Following the previous season’s successful sale of a Lynne Drexler oil painting for $450,000, Shannon’s offered four works on paper by the artist. Each watercolor was vibrantly colored and dated 1962. Foremost among them was “Foliage Study,” 1962, a gouache on paper, 16 by 13 inches, which left the gallery at $43,180.
A rare, 48-inch-tall bronze by Latin-American artist Angel Botello titled “Coquette” at $47,500 and an Elliott Daingerfield (American, 1859-1932) oil on canvas painting depicting sunrise in the Grand Canyon, realizing $50,000, rounded out the top highlights in the sale.
After the auction, owner Sandra Germain commented, “It was an upbeat auction with plenty of live action on the phone and online. Although we had good online activity before the sale, it was exciting to watch bidders participate in real time. There were several new participants given the diversity of the offerings, and we are excited to work with a growing list of auction buyers.”
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For information, 203-877-1711 or www.shannons.com.
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