Published: April 25, 2017
Review by Laura Beach
SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. – It seems fitting that in a region of the country known for its fine weather, nary a cloud darkened the annual Scottsdale Art Auction. Now in its 13th season, the sale posted $11 million in sales during three sessions on April 6 and April 8. The sell-through rate on 476 lots was more than 85 percent.
“We were fortunate to have a full house. About 500 people were in attendance and many others bid by phone and on our two bidding platforms, Invaluable and iCollector,” said Scottsdale Art Auction founder and partner Michael Frost, president of J.N. Bartfield Galleries in New York City. Buyers from the East Coast to Alaska pursued a diverse selection of Western American, wildlife and sporting paintings, sculpture and prints.
The action began with contents of the studio of Glenna Goodacre. Born in Texas in 1929, the maker of monumental, figurative bronze sculptures is admired for, among others, her Washington, DC, memorial honoring women who served in the Vietnam War and for her rendering of the Native American guide Sacagawea, reproduced on the US dollar coin of 2000. Including maquettes and other unique pieces, the 114-item Goodacre trove provided plenty of opportunities for collectors, with prices ranging from a low of $585 to a record $409,500 for the proof cast of the 1989 “Puddle Jumpers,” an ebullient depiction of children holding hands and skipping,
“It was wildly popular and it took the foundries a while to catch up to the orders. ‘Puddle Jumpers’ became almost a trademark for me, and, for better or for worse, it started an epidemic across the country of running, jumping, flying kid bronzes,” Goodacre recalled. “Sacagawea and Jean Baptiste,” a bronze case of 2001, fetched $111,150 at the Scottsdale sale.
“Glenna is no longer working and there will be no posthumous castings, which clarifies the market for collectors,” Frost noted.
Among work by mainstream masters of the West, bronzes by Frederic S. Remington (1861-1909) came out blazing. A casting of “The Rattlesnake,” the making of which James Barnes described in Collier’s in 1905, sold to a private collector for a record $386,100 against its $150/250,000 estimate. A casting of Remington’s better known “Bronco Buster” achieved $163,500. “The Cheyenne” went for $81,900.
“‘The Rattlesnake’ was exquisite. It had been in one collection since 1982 and had been purchased by the collector from the prominent dealer in Western art Rudy Wunderlich,” Frost explained.
Scottsdale saw renewed interest in Charles Russell (1864-1926), with the 1894 watercolor “Indian Women Crossing Stream” making $105,300, and in Frank Tenney Johnson (1874-1939), whose oil on canvas nocturne “Navajo Land” left the room at $58,500. A painter of landscapes and Indians in California and Arizona, Maynard Dixon (1875-1946) was remembered this round by the oil paintings “Riders,” $35,100, and “Old Tree,” $21,060, and by the vivid watercolor “Study for Migration I,” $23,400.
Sparks fly where the Western, illustration and sporting art markets intersect. Topping the category was “Dangerous Sport,” an oil painting of a hunter, dog and bear that made $339,300, a record for artist Philip R. Goodwin (1882-1935), who studied with Howard Pyle and illustrated many of the leading popular journals of his day. Rarely straying from his New York City studio, Goodwin evoked vigorously the pastimes of hunting and fishing in the untamed wilderness.
In a similar vein, a collection of 43 etchings by the German-born wildlife artist Carl Rungius (1869-1959) made $152,100. “Hide and Seek,” a bobcat in snow depicted by contemporary sporting artist Bob Kuhn, who died in 2007, went for $87,750.
Six paintings by Gerard Curtis Delano (1890-1972), whose evocative paintings characteristically depict Indians traversing the canyons, sold for a combined $764,010. William R. Leigh’s (1866-1955) dynamic 1952 oil “Hell Hound,” capturing the moment a buckaroo is thrown from his horse, brought $380,250. Known as the “Sagebrush Rembrandt,” Leigh was a Manhattan illustrator who began making trips to the Southwest in 1906 on behalf of the Santa Fe Railroad, whose exotic image he helped craft.
A little-known curiosity was a work by Sarah Whitlock, a Nineteenth Century painter of Indians whose oil on canvas “Frost Comes” of 1853 made $70,200. Whitlock, active in the 1850s and 1860s, lived in Troy, N.Y. Another early piece, Worthington Whittredge’s (1820-1910) oil on board “Indians on the Platte River,” captured $105,300.
Among work by Twentieth Century masters, “Lower Colonias” by Clark Hulings, 1974, sold for $175,500, “Hidatsa Tribesmen” by Kenneth Riley brought $141,570 and “At the Crossing” by Frank McCarthy made $52,650.
James Balestrieri, director of J.N. Bartfield Galleries, noted, “Collectors of historic Taos and Santa Fe School paintings are looking for the highest quality. Small gems tend to fare better than larger, lesser works.” The most successful offering in this group was “Call of the Flute (The Love Call)” by Taos artist E.I. Couse (1866-1936). The dreamy tableau was a winner at $128,700.
Among contemporary artists, 11 G. Harvey oils totaled $984,555, two Howard Terpning paintings fetched $731,250 and nine Kenneth Rileys found new homes with collectors for a total of $349,915. Kyle Polzin’s painting “The Renegade” crossed the block at $111,150.
“We had good quality at all levels and buyers responded,” Balestrieri said.
The pace accelerates for Scottsdale Art Auction next year. In addition to its annual spring sale on Saturday, April 7, 2018 , the firm will disperse the contents of the Leanin’ Tree Museum of Western Art of Boulder, Colo. – founded by Ed Trumble and set to close on August 31 – in Scottsdale on January 19-20. The 92-year-old collector founded Leanin’ Tree Greeting Cards.
Prices include the buyer’s premium.
Scottsdale Art Auction is at 7176 East Main Street. For more information, 480-945-0225 or www.scottsdaleartauction.com.
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