Published: November 7, 2017
Review and Onsite Photos by Laura Beach, Catalog Photos Courtesy Shannon’s
MILFORD, CONN. – Shannon’s, the specialty auctioneer occupying an important segment of the secondary market for American paintings, sculpture and works on paper, celebrated its 20th year on October 26 with a new venue and a star-studded roster of artists working in a range of styles. Perhaps fittingly for an enterprise that steadily refines its operations while adhering to its strategic focus, Shannon’s move was right around the corner, to expanded quarters in a more salubrious setting.
The 300-lot session tallied $2.3 million, the gross rising as auction house founder Gene Shannon and co-owner Sandra Germain negotiated additional transactions after the hammer fell.
“We had a lot of highs and a few misses,” Shannon told us later.
“Predictions are difficult, but quality prevails,” added Germain.
One of the most interesting items to surface was “The Yankee Peddler,” a newly discovered oil on canvas by Nineteenth Century genre painter William Tolman Carlton of Boston, whose work is scarce. Expert Theodore Stebbins notes in Shannon’s catalog that a smaller, unsigned version of the work, which depicts the peddler tempting shoppers with fineries from his loaded wagon, belongs to Harvard Art Museums. The Museum of Fine Arts Boston owns a pen and ink sketch related to the 36¼-by-46¾-inch oil on canvas, auctioned by Shannon’s for a record $75,000. Four institutions entered the fray. Carlton seems to have exhibited the painting, dated 1851, at Boston’s New England Art Union in the 1850s.
A shimmering harbor scene by Richard Hayley Lever, an artist with whom Shannon’s has had success, also set a new record at action when “The Old Lighthouse and Fleets of St Ives,” depicting the harbor of Britain’s most famous artist’s colony, went to a private collector for $162,500.
“This painting was a 9.9 out of ten. I love Lever’s angle of approach and the liveliness of his composition. There is real joie de vivre to his brush,” Shannon said. At 50 by 60 inches, the painting is the artist’s largest format and is housed in a beautiful frame. Shannon’s parlayed Lever’s “Dance of the Boats” to $159,630 in 2005. It sold “Marblehead Harbor” for $115,630 in 2004.
Shannon’s streak continued with Dale Nichols. The firm holds the auction record for the Nebraska regionalist, having gaveled down “Mid-Nation Winter” earlier this year for $120,000. This time, a small, early Nichols, “Through the Clouds” of 1939, went for $100,000, nearly double the $55,200 Shannon’s got for it in 2007. From 1972, a date late in the artist’s career, “Silent Morning” fetched $35,000, a good 60 percent increase over its last sale at Shannon’s in 2013 and almost double what it sold for at Skinner in 2005.
Sandra Germain pronounced herself pleased with several works by Henry Gasser, a New Jersey artist known for his vigorous urban views. Especially successful was “Winter Corner,” a watercolor on paper that eclipsed its $4/6,000 estimate to bring $32,500. “Industrial Scene,” a large, workmanlike oil, went for $22,500. Accompanied by a catalog, an exhibition on the artist’s work is on view at Questroyal Fine Art in New York City through December 9. Questroyal calls Gasser the “sleeping giant” of the Twentieth Century.
The auctioneer characterized “Coffee Pot,” Thomas Hart Benton’s ink and wash drawing of the artist and his son at a campsite, a “good buy” at $20,480. Among other notable works on paper were “Good Deeds,” a $37,500 pencil drawing by Norman Rockwell, preliminary to his Saturday Evening Post cover of December 6, 1924, and Andrew Wyeth’s “Willard Asleep,” $23,750.
Shannon’s prices database, recording the firm’s sales back to June 1998, reveals a market still very much in recovery. The company’s cover lot, “In the Garden” by Abbott Fuller Graves, realized $112,500. From the Manoogian collection, it garnered $160,000 in 2005. Likewise, William Glackens’ “Bathers” of 1914 fetched $187,500, a substantial figure, but one beneath its $250/350,000 estimate.
Shannon’s new galleries afford plenty of display space, plus room for private viewing, cataloging, photography and other necessities. “We need to make a few alterations to the entrance, but the salesroom is 2,500 square feet with 12½-foot-high ceilings. We hung 300 paintings without a problem,” Shannon said.
Shannon’s is currently accepting consignments for its January online sale. “We’ve got over half of it in already and will be selling another hundred lots of Italian Abstract Expressionist painting. The works have been in storage since the 1960s,” Shannon said. The company’s next major cataloged auction will be in April.
Prices reflect the buyer’s premium.
Shannon’s Fine Art Auctioneers is at 49 Research Drive.
For additional information, www.shannons.com or 203-877-1711.
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