Published: August 1, 2017
Review and Onsite Photos by Rick Russack, Catalog Photos Courtesy The Cobbs
PETERBOROUGH, N.H. – Charlie Cobb’s July 15 sale included one of Benjamin Champney’s most iconic White Mountain paintings, and it led the sale, finishing at $42,000. Several other paintings did well, both with New Hampshire subject matter, along with European subjects. The second highest price of the day was achieved by another painting of Mount Washington, which brought $30,000. A well-known Solomon Islands figural gourd earned $19,200, leading the tribal arts lots. Cobb’s sales draw a good crowd to the gallery in spite of the fact that online bidding is available. There were about 100 people present for this sale, including a number of retail buyers. Several phone lines were in use, and there were numerous absentee bids.
The Champney painting that did well was “Moat Mountain From Intervale,” 1872, signed B. Champney (1817-1907). It is one of Champney’s better-known paintings, having been part of the extensive collection of White Mountain art assembled by the White Mountain National Bank. The painting was included in the 1980-81 landmark touring exhibition of White Mountain art, “The White Mountains: Place and Perceptions,” when it was also exhibited at the New-York Historical Society.
More recently, it was included in “Personal Favorites: Collectors of White Mountain Art” at the Museum of White Mountain Art, Jackson, N.H. Scholar Charlie Vogel termed it his “favorite” in that exhibit. Champney lived nearby and he, along with many other artists, painted similar scenes, but this might be his best-known work. It sold to one of several phone bidders for $42,000.
Another scene of Mount Washington and the Intervale by Samuel Lancaster Gerry (1813-1891) sold well over estimate, finishing at $30,000, also going to a phone bidder. Gerry painted in numerous locales in the White Mountains and one of his favorite subjects (according to www.whitemountainart.com), was the Old Man of The Mountain in Franconia Notch. One of his Franconia Notch paintings, depicting Mount Lafayette and Profile Lake, was included in this sale but sold well under its $7,000 estimate, going out for just $1,800.
Another White Mountain painting, this one by Daniel Santry (1858-1915), depicting a snow covered peak that was probably Mount Washington, realized $4,500. Santry was the artist-in-residence at the Sunset Hill House in Sugar Hill for 23 years, and this painting may have been done from his studio there. (At the time this painting was done, Sugar Hill was part of the town of Franconia. In 1962, it became a town, and it is the “newest” town in the state.)
A painting of nearby Mount Monadnock, with sheep grazing, by William Preston Phelps (1848-1923) finished at $5,700. Phelps is often referred to as “the painter of Monadnock.” A European painting, about which little was known, estimated at $400, reached $14,400. It was cataloged as a “Continental school painting of a European fort/walled section around a city along a river, unsigned,” but those bidding undoubtedly knew more about it.
Cobb’s sales often include Native American and tribal arts. Although some of these items were passed in this sale, one piece did quite well. It was a 12¾-inch Solomon Islands figural gourd from Nendo Island, dating to the early Twentieth Century. It had been in the Edward and Mina Smith collection, exhibited at the San Diego Museum of Art in 2009-10 and published in the catalog for the exhibit “Oceanic Art, A Celebration of Form.” It earned $19,200. A Maori-style carved wooden feather valuable box, with two looped handles and swirl carvings, a good old surface, with minor flaws, realized $1,440. It was believed to have been done by master carver James Edward Little (1876-1953). An African folk art club with a carved head and an elaborate coiffure made $2,640.
There were several other interesting items, including an important piece of needlework that sold for $9,000. It depicted a bold group of flowers in a vase with deer, butterflies, a rabbit and a bird. It was done on linen and stitched onto a wooden backboard, marked “Anna Flower 1755.” It descended in a New Hampshire family until this sale. A family coat-of-arms done by Anna’s sister, Elizabeth, was sold at Christie’s in 2006. Anna’s sketchbook and an embroidered prayer book cover are at Winterthur.
Retail buyers had some good buys, the most notable of which was a very fine quality, carved Twentieth Century copy of a 1641 Norddeutscher shrank. It was constructed of thick oak, and had handmade wrought iron locks and keys. The final price seemed very reasonable, going out at just $240. A Nineteenth Century room-sized Serapi rug, with a central medallion on a brick red ground, blue border and ivory corners, also went to a retail buyer who paid $10,800. A number of other rugs sold under $1,000.
The building that houses The Cobbs’ gallery is a restored historic mill building on the Contoocook River. The Cobbs bought the building in 1999, when it was, according to Charlie Cobb, “in rough condition. We had a lot of work to do on it. We converted some of the space into seven apartments, one of which we now live in. There are commercial tenants on the main floor, including a coffee shop, a restaurant and office space. When we bought the building, the water power was being used to generate electricity. We’re restoring the generating equipment now and we expect to be generating, and selling, some electricity later this year. It will help pay the taxes. We both really enjoy the building – we can look out our windows in the morning and see baby geese in the pond and other wildlife, as well.”
Cobb said that he was pleased with the sale, particularly the paintings. “I liked the fact that the White Mountain paintings all went to collectors – they’ll be hanging in homes where they’re appreciated. The painting of the walled city was a surprise. It had three bidders, two were on the internet, and it wound up going to a New York dealer. Someone said to me that it might have been Jerusalem, but the bidders obviously knew what it was. That’s the beauty of the internet – it gets good things in front of the right buyers. I also liked the fact that the Solomon Islands gourd is going to a collector in that part of the world. He’s bought from us before, whenever we’ve had good things from that region. All in all, it was a good day.”
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
For additional information, www.thecobbs.com or 603-924-6361.
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