Published: March 7, 2017
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Guyette & Deeter, Inc.
CHARLESTON, S.C. – On February 18, Guyette & Deeter, Inc. conducted its fifth annual decoy and sporting art auction at the Charleston Marriott in conjunction with the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition.
The sale was topped by a rare yellowlegs by Quogue, N.Y., carver John Dilley, the only known Dilley shorebird decoy with a turned head. It handily trounced its $12/15,000 estimate to bring $40,125, including premium. Carved in the last quarter of the Nineteenth Century, the bird featured fine feather paint detail and glass eyes. “His head is turned about 50-60 degrees to the side,” said Gary Guyette, “so while it was perhaps not the most spectacular Dilley shorebird, it’s the only one we’ve ever seen with a turned head. It came out of a cottage in Prouts Neck, Maine.”
Another strong performer in the sale was an Elmer Crowell (1864-1954) widgeon, which landed at $37,375, near the top of its estimate. Carved by the East Harwich, Mass., artist in the last quarter of the Nineteenth Century, the rare example featured carved, crossed wingtips and fluted tail, with a slightly turned head. It was branded on the underside “CWW” for Charles W. Whittier, a member of the Swan Island Club in North Carolina in the last quarter of the Nineteenth Century.
Overall, it was a good sale, according to Guyette, within estimate at $610,000 and with six lots selling for more than $10,000. “Only five items in our auction did not sell, making for a little over 98 percent sell-through rate,” said Guyette, adding that it was the firm’s smallest such auction with just 287 lots.
Guyette and his partner Jon Deeter attributed the success of the auction to the crowd on hand, extensive promotion, the lack of reserves and the company’s guaranteed condition reports. “These give buyers confidence to buy – online, absentee and on the phone.”
Bid calling was done by Larry Carter. A decoy buy, sell and swap with 30 dealers, was conducted in the same ballroom.
Additional highlights in the sale included a pinch breasted pintail drake by the Ward Brothers, Crisfield, Md., selling for $20,125. This bird exemplified fine form with well-sculpted, turned and slightly tilted head and was further differentiated by an exaggerated pinch breast.
A rare 1936 model greenwing teal drake by the Ward Brothers was expected to top out at about $18,000 and it did, bringing $19,550 with premium. This was an unusual construction for this model, including a balsa body and turned and slightly lifted cedar head. The decoy was given to the consignor’s father in the late 1930s by the Ward Brothers.
Fetching $17,250 was Alvirah Wright’s (1869-1951) rare ruddy duck. Born in Camden N.C., Wright was a tug boat captain, logger and boat builder, occupations that he supplemented by making decoys. According to the sale catalog, he made approximately 300 of them between 1900 and 1925.
A Crowell bird again surfaced within the top ten lots with a rare prestamp redhead hen, circa 1900. From a group of redheads found in a barrel at a hunting club in Martha’s Vineyard in the 1960s, this example with well-blended paint and fluted tail realized $11,500.
Signed “My best preening pintail, 1969” by the carver himself, Lem Ward, Crisfield, Md., a well-sculpted preening pintail drake lived up to that description and pulled down $11,500.
It is not that sporting art is an afterthought at a Guyette & Deeter auction, it is just that, as Gary Guyette explained, because the sale is unreserved, it is difficult to get what he calls “better” artwork consigned as collectors feel more comfortable when reserves are in place.
Nevertheless, the sale did feature a dramatic oil on canvas painting by Frank E. Schoonover (1877-1972). Titled “Running Rapids in Outrigger Dugout” and signed and dated 1928, the artwork settled at $9,200, just shy of its low estimate. The 28-by-38-inch painting had been used as an illustration in an article by E.E. Harriman in Youth’s Companion Magazine, March 1929. It had been handed down in the family of a fellow illustrator and friend of Schoonover.
Realizing the same final price – $8,625 – were two additional decoys, a rare full-size whistling swan by Oliver Lawson, Crisfield, Md., and a widgeon drake by George Stevens, Weedsport, N.Y., from the last quarter of Nineteenth Century.
The sale featured the collections of William Berry and Pat Kalinsky, Gene Carr, John Joseph Heggarty, Harold and Nancy O’Connor, Carl Olson, Bill Royal, Dr Richard Snell and Leonard Willis.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
Guyette & Deeter’s next decoy sale will be April 27-28 in St Charles, Ill. The sale will feature decoys from the collection of Peter Brown, the most extensive known collection of Canadian decoys. It is conducted in conjunction with the Midwest Decoy Collectors Show. For information, 410-745-0485, 440-610-1768 or www.guyetteanddeeter.com.
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