Published: April 17, 2012
“It is a serendipity story,” stated auctioneer Joanne Grant of Mid-Hudson Auction Galleries as she recalled her office telephone ringing on a cold January evening and the conversation that ensued. It was a couple in California wondering if the Jasper Cropsey painting they had inherited might be “suitable” for her to sell at one of her auctions.
The story sounded too good to be true, yet Grant stayed the course, requesting the perfunctory photos. It seems that the couple had found her name on the Internet, explained the auctioneer, “We sold a drawing by Cropsey quite a few years ago and they found the record of that sale.”
The photographs of the Cropsey arrived the next morning and after a quick look, Grant shifted things into high gear; a flight to San Francisco was quickly booked and it was not long before the oil titled “Head of the Lake,” surely another rendition of one of Cropsey’s favorite subjects †Greenwood Lake, was being crated and shipped back to the county in which it had originally been painted.
Fresh to the market after having descended in the same California family for the past 80 years, the consigners told Grant that they remembered the painting hanging in their grandmother’s dining room. A prominent feature in the family’s home, the painting also became the main attraction at the March 24 auction at Mid-Hudson Auction Galleries, where it brought a premium price.
One of more than 1,000 lots to be offered over the course of the one-day sale, the auction contained a good selection of artwork that ranged from early oils to a Howard Christy Chandler pastel of a nude reclining on a daybed in subdued light. A huge collection of Asian antiques had come from a New York City consignment, with Chinese wares ranging from carved jade to early Buddha figures.
The Cropsey oil was the item in the auction that attracted the most interest; Grant reported calls coming in from every major art gallery in New York and around the country. In the original frame, the painting had numerous labels attached to the stretcher, although virtually all of the information written on them was limited to information about the artist.
By sale time, with four telephones ready, Grant opened bidding for the Cropsey painting at $50,000, with one of the phone bidders hitting the lot right away. Another phone bidder jumped in at $60,000 and it was then that a couple seated in the room advanced the bid to $70,000. Bids continued in $10,000 increments, with the telephone countering every bid that the couple made.
Action was quick, but brief. At $120,000, the couple appeared hesitant and it took a while for them to advance the bid to $130,000. The telephone once again countered at $140,000; the gentleman in the gallery shook his head No, but his wife was not giving up quite so easily. A short discussion between the couple ensued; the result was a $150,000 bid that claimed the lot. The determined couple, private collectors from Pennsylvania, ultimately paid $180,000, including premium, for the Jasper Cropsey oil. The couple related to Grant after the auction that the purchase of the rare painting was a “celebratory present †a birthday present to themselves.”
Paintings fared well throughout the auction, with a Shirley Borden oil on canvas titled “Vanity” selling at $14,400, as did the Howard Chandler Christy pastel of a nude bathed in subdued light. A well-executed oil on canvas depicting a barnyard scene filled with hens and chickens by Eugene Remy Maes brought $7,200, an intriguing F.R. Wilton painting titled “The Picnic” depicted children playing on a swing and sold at $6,000, as did an oil by Lucien-Victor Guirand de Scévola titled “Woman in Red.”
Orientalia did well, with Chinese items leading the way. Porcelains included a garlic top vase decorated with dragons that sold for $1,200, a large stoneware incense burner realized $2,400, and a celadon jar brought $1,920. A selection of carved coral pieces ranged from $960 to $720, including a brushpot at $390 and a carved rhino horn bowl at $270.
Prices include buyer’s premium charged. The next auction at Mid-Hudson will be April 21. For further information, 914-882-7356 or www.midhudsongalleries.com
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