Published: August 31, 2021
Review by W.A. Demers, Catalog Photos Courtesy Bruneau & Co
CRANSTON, R.I. – An online summer antiques and fine art estate auction conducted by Bruneau & Co. Auctioneers on August 19 saw 400 lots cross the block. Among them, original oil on canvas paintings by Ram Kumar (Indian, 1924-2018) and Jean Charlot (French, 1898-1979) were the headliners, selling for $21,250 and $20,000, respectively.
Kevin Bruneau, the company’s president and owner, said, “The sale brought just over a quarter million with an 85 percent sell-through.” A total of 7,442 registered bidders participated via all platforms and phones. From Kumar to Charlot and some surprising results for decorative arts items, there was something offered for all collectors.
The Kumar abstract architectural oil had an estimate of $25/35,000. It sold to a collector in Great Britain. Part of the artist’s “Beneras” series, the work depicts brown buildings against a vibrant blue sky from the opposite side of a river. Signed and dated “Ram Kumar 07” on verso, it measured 36 by 24 inches. “Usually when I look at a landscape, the most interesting aspect in ones that do well are a beautiful blue sky, the colors, the light palette. I think it just sort of pops,” observed Bruneau.
Described as one of modern India’s most foremost abstract painters, Kumar studied at the Sarada Ukil School of Art in New Delhi before traveling to Paris to study art under Andre Lhote and Fernand Leger. He is associated with other great artists of the period like M.F. Hussain, Tyeb Mehta and S.H. Raza, and gave up figural subjects to create abstract art. His art commands high prices in the domestic and international market.
“I was expecting the Charlot to do well,” said Bruneau of the oil painting by Jean Charlot, a whimsical figural illustration depicting three small, round-faced children wearing glasses and straw hats in an oval-shaped forested world, surrounded by colorful birds. “Despite some damage, it pulled right through and went past its high estimate.” The work, estimated $7/10,000, was inscribed, signed and dated (“For H.F.D., Jean Charlot 1945”) and housed in a 36-by-56-inch frame.
Louis Henri Jean Charlot was a French-born American painter and illustrator, active mainly in Mexico and the United States. After studying at the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris and following World War I, he moved to Mexico, where he befriended Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Jose Orozco, establishing himself within the Mexico City art scene. In 1947, he moved his family to Colorado to become head of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center Art School. He then moved again, to Hawaii, where he continued to teach at the University of Hawaii. Not surprisingly, this painting sold online to a collector in Hawaii.
A fiery Hudson River sunset view by George Henry Smillie (1840-1921) reached $5,000. In the 15-by-24-inch oil on canvas, the sun is depicted setting over a distant town, bathing fields and a glistening lake in warm, orange light. Smillie studied art with James McDougal Hart and was a member of the National Academy of Design and the American Watercolor Society. He was featured in numerous exhibitions, such as the National Academy of Design, Philadelphia Centennial and the Boston Art Club with his works in the Oakland Museum, Metropolitan Museum, Rhode Island School of Design, the New York Public Library and many more.
The sale offered more paintings, decorative arts, furniture, jewelry, silver, Asian arts and collectibles, pulled from prominent estates and collections across New England. Bruneau said he typically stages the fine art at the front end. “We usually always start with fine art,” explained Bruneau. “I’ve been doing that for years, and I just feel it’s a way to keep things organized because folks who are after fine art but not into decorative arts can be done early.”
There were at least two notable surprises in this sale, both in the decorative arts category. Estimated just $200/300, an American squat-handled jug with translucent cucumber green drip glaze, approximately 7 by 5¾ inches, was bid to $7,500. “The market is still here, is it not?” said Bruneau. It came out of a North Stonington, Conn., estate. Said Bruneau, “I was in the house with the family and remarked, ‘Oh my God, look at this little pot. You should put it in the sale.” It ended up resonating with quite a few people. “We had four different bidders and a lot of online action,” said the auctioneer.
“I love that plate,” said Bruneau about another small item that brought a big price. It was a Nineteenth Century Japanese Satsuma imperial plate, 8-7/8 inches in diameter, that bidders pushed from a $400/600 expectation to $7,500. From the collection of a Portsmouth, R.I., estate and ornately decorated, the plate depicted a bustling market scene with a grove of cherry blossoms. Its exterior was decorated with butterflies, dragonflies, beetles and cicada. “When we saw this plate, I said, ‘folks, I think you’ve got a winner here. The Japanese market can be up and down, never been able to pinpoint it over the past 10-15 years, but we put it up there cheap, did a little social media marketing, and got a great result.”
Rounding out the sale’s star lots, a men’s Rolex Oyster Perpetual S.S. & 18K gold watch left the gallery at $5,938; a Twentieth Century Lalique colorless glass sculpture depicting a horse’s head with a circular black base brought $5,313; and a Middle Eastern Heriz geometric Oriental carpet took $4,063. With red, yellow, navy blue, pale blue and cream central medallion over red geometric field surrounded by geometric floral borders, it measured approximately 12 feet by 9 feet 8 inches. When asked if it’s true that geometric designs are hot, florals are not, Bruneau observed, “100 percent. The tribal rugs, the Kazaks, the flat weaves – what I call the stick-y looking flowers – all those sell really well.” The rug exhibited some edge and end wear, losses to outer edges, wear and losses to pile and would benefit from a cleaning, “But people like them a little beat up today,” said Bruneau.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. Next up for Bruneau & Co. is a September 20 estate sale, an online toys and comics auction on September 25, militaria and historical items on November 20 and a sports memorabilia sale in the fall, date to be announced. For information, 401-533-9980 or www.bruneauandco.com.
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