Published: January 29, 2016
American Art & Pennsylvania Impressionists Auction Totals $4 Million, Led By Wyeth
PHILADELPHIA, PENN. — The salesroom was packed for the December 6 sale of American art and Pennsylvania Impressionists at Freeman’s. Exceeding expectations the sale realized $4,066,410, the highest total for this department at the firm since its inception in 2013. Drawing a great deal of attention during traveling exhibitions to London, New York and the Philadelphia area, the top lot of the day was Andrew Wyeth’s painting “Winter Corn Fields,” which sold for $1,145,000. This impressive work, rarely seen since in public since its initial acquisition in the early 1940s, had never been brought to auction before.
“We are delighted with the results of the sale — our highest total to date and the Wyeth is our first $1 million lot of American Art. There was a buzz in the saleroom and all of our top lots went to private collectors,” said Freeman’s vice chairman and head of fine art Alasdair Nichol. “I am very pleased with the 83 percent sell-through rate, which I believe exceeds the recent American art auctions in New York. These sales continue to attract new clients beyond the assumed American buyer base.”
The offerings of works by American art icons received careful consideration by collectors and institutions alike. Small in size but rich in color, the dream-like “Blue Fountain” by Maxfield Parrish was chased after and with the perseverance of a private collector it finally realized $317,000. Another diminutive but significant work was “Study of a Spectator for ‘Taking the Count’” by Thomas Eakins. It is an intimate study of an onlooker in Eakins large-scale masterpiece “Taking the Count,’” part of the Yale University Art Gallery Whitney collection of sporting art. This painting achieved $46,875, doubling its original auction estimate.
Most of the notable lots in the sale, by Wyeth, Parrish and Eakins, are artists with Pennsylvania roots and connections. Following that theme were the Pennsylvania Impressionists Daniel Garber and Edward Redfield. This portion of the auction achieved a total of $1,127,600 and an impressive 89 percent sell-through. Both of the top works by Garber are cited in the artist’s catalogue raisonné: “The Mary Maxwell House” went above its estimate, selling for $293,000 (the third highest price in the sale) and “Quarries at the Crossing” fetched $161,000. Edward Redfield’s “The South Window” sold for $93,750. Freeman’s is the only auction house with a specialty category dedicated to this collecting genre, and the proven results from past sales of works by these and other Pennsylvania artists has served to reinforce the popularity of the group.
“Winter Corn Fields” was only one of the works from the estate of Nancy duPont Reynolds Cooch, childhood friend of Andrew Wyeth and his wife Betsy on offer. Two other Wyeth works from this estate attracted fierce bidding — “Young Buck” fetched $125,000, four times its estimate of $30/50,000, and “Gray Barn” brought $65,000.
All three generations of Wyeth’s were represented in the sale and all achieved results above estimates. Jamie Wyeth’s dry brush and mixed media on paper, “We’ve Got Your Pickle,” enticed competitive bidding, finally selling to a client in the room for $209,000 against a $40/60,000 estimate. Works by his grandfather N.C. Wyeth drew similar interest, with “Country Lane” realizing $40,625, “A Cavalier” sold for $23,400 and the surprise was “View of Kelp Beds, Port Clyde” fetching $24,700, six times its estimate.
Freeman’s continued its efforts to reach the best and broadest audience by traveling highlights to New York and London before the exhibition in Philadelphia. This resulted in an increase of bidders and buyers and drew the highest paddle registration for a fine art sale. Collectors from more than 20 countries from Singapore to Switzerland were registered, resulting in a 15 percent spike in new clients. This is triple the number of new buyers from the past year. The biannual auctions of American art and Pennsylvania Impressionists have brought almost $16 million in 36 months.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium. The next American art and Pennsylvania Impressionist auction will be conducted in June. For information, 267-414-1211 or www.freemansauction.com.
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