Published: November 9, 2021
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Eldred’s
SOUTH DENNIS, MASS. – When power on Cape Cod was knocked out on Tuesday, October 26, Eldred’s had to scramble to make sure its Women in the Arts sale, originally slated for October 28, went ahead with only a slight delay, on November 1. By sale day, power – including internet and phone lines – still had not been restored so Eldred’s team took the term “auction house” literally and conducted the sale from the house that once belonged to Josh Eldred’s grandfather and company founder, Robert C. Eldred Sr.
“Everything was hodge-podge,” Josh Eldred said, speaking after power was finally restored, a full week after the storm passed through. “I have to commend our staff; everyone pulled together. We felt a little like a start-up company, working around the dining table in my grandfather’s house. It feels like we’ve come full circle, there’s some poetry to it.”
A sale of works made exclusively by women artists is not new to Eldred’s but the last one took place about 20 years ago. For five or six years, Eldred has been hoping to hold another one; the sale of 259 lots was the realization of that goal. The firm pledged three percent of sale proceeds to WE CAN, a Harwich, Mass.-based organization dedicated to helping low- and moderate-income women across Cape Cod navigate a variety of life transitions.
“I felt there’s been so much negativity in the world that we wanted to do something positive,” Eldred said. “They [WE CAN] were very receptive, and we will work with them again. I feel great about the sale, though I wish we could have had an audience; we transitioned everyone into online or phone bidders. The sale was very well received, and it was a great way for the tradition to start. We’ll build on it year to year, with the goal of having this a yearly event, possibly during Women’s History Month. That’s a few years down the road, though; the next one will probably be next fall.”
He said he was pleased at the number of new bidders who participated in the sale, saying it realized about $250,000.
Landscapes were, hands down, the predominant genre in the sale; interior genre scenes were also popular among bidders.
The top lot of the day was a luminous work of birds in a marsh landscape by Fidelia Bridges (New York/Connecticut, 1834-1923), which realized $37,500, well ahead of its high estimate. It had been consigned to the sale from a New York collector and sold to a local collector.
Two works by British artist Jessica Dismorr (1885-1939), finished within a few bids of each other; a landscape of Southern France made $16,250 while her view “In the Alpes Maritimes, France” closed out at $15,000. Eldred’s Mystic, Conn., office had sourced both from the same seller and, happily, both sold to the same phone bidder.
For name recognition, it is hard to beat Mary Stevenson Cassatt, who is arguably one of the most famous women artists of any period. Eldred’s offered four drawings by the American impressionist who worked alongside Edgar Degas and exhibited with Renoir, Manet and Cezanne. Eldred said the four were all from the same seller, who had acquired them from a works on paper sale at Sotheby’s in the 1980s. A phone bidder paid $15,000 for “Louise, In A Fluffy Bonnet and a Coat, Held by Reine.” The other three works by Cassatt achieved considerably more modest prices but all within expectations, from $688 to $1,188.
Massachusetts and New Jersey artist Anne Packard (b 1933) was represented by three works: two oils on canvas and a monoprint. All sold, with both oils significantly beating their high estimates; the print sold slightly below expectations.
Cape Cod artists have wide appeal as evidenced by the results of two sailor’s valentines that were done by Sandra “Sandy” Moran (Cape Cod, 1944-2020) and were from her estate. The contemporary shellwork pieces were the first and second lots in the sale and set a good tone straight out of the gate. The double-sided “Flowers of Barbados” brought $5,625, not quite double the $3,125 price realized by single-sided “Shell Seeker.”
Martha Farham Cahoon (Massachusetts, 1905-1999) was the wife of Cape Cod artist Ralph Cahoon and while they painted in a similar flat style, her works offer an innocence that his often lack. Two of her works were offered, each at $1/1,500 estimates; the one depicting a girl and her doll in a winter landscape sold for $1,375 but “Children holding balloons” failed to find a buyer.
Bringing more than eight times its high estimate was a geometric wool tapestry in bright colors, woven in Mexico in the 1960s by Evelyn Ackerman (1924-2012), for ERA Industries. It measured 68 by 18½ inches and made $5,000.
Another lot that sold exponentially well was “Shore scene” by Grace Dredge Reasoner (Massachusetts/Iowa, b 1895). Without a body of previous auction records upon which to base an estimate, Eldred’s put a conservative estimate of $300/500 on the oil on canvas that measured 29½ by 34½ inches in its frame. Eldred said he was particularly surprised – and pleased – at the $3,625 it made.
Pablo Picasso’s lover and muse, Dora Maar (French, 1907-1997) was an artist in her own right. The sale featured four of her pieces: two untitled abstracts, a pencil still life of three lemons and a figural study in ink on paper. The untitled abstract in white, black and gray, an unframed mixed media on paper, saw the most interest, going out the door for $2,250.
“In the end, the storm didn’t really impact the sale,” Eldred said in hindsight. “We had a live exhibition before the power went down and anyone who wanted to see things could. Ten years ago, it would have made a difference but the way the business has changed, we could move forward. That said, I wouldn’t want to do it every day.”
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. For additional information, www.eldreds.com or 508-385-3116.
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