Published: March 1, 2022
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring. Photos Courtesy Dirk Soulis Auctions
LONE JACK, MO. – Roughly every two months, Dirk Soulis offers two- or three-day sales. For his February event, he had two single-owner collections – the first with 126 lots of Americana, the other was the Sawa / Boulden collection of 100 individual or groups of early Twentieth Century art glass; these were offered on February 18 and 20, respectively. The February 19 session presented nearly 350 lots of various-owner estate offerings from numerous categories. The sales achieved a combined total of about $500,000, with more than 93 percent of lots trading successfully.
The collection of Americana included prints by Thomas Hart Benton (American, 1889-1975) and other artists; it belonged to a prominent but anonymous Kansas City couple and was the first order of business. The couple’s collection of works by Benton were so extensive – about three dozen – that Soulis only slated 16 for auction and will offer a second round of prints in his next sale. Despite so many on offer at once, all sold with all achieved prices that exceeded presale expectations. The top lot of the day was “Departure of the Joads,” a 1939 rare large-format lithograph the catalog described as “among the rarest and most desirable of Benton prints.” Published in an edition of 100, the lithograph illustrated a scene from John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. It sold to a collector in Kansas City, Mo., for $13,800.
Benton’s “Morning Train (aka The Station),” from 1929, was numbered 55 from an edition of 100 and is one of just six examples to have come to auction since 1988. It left the station at $13,200. Rounding out the leaderboard was a rarely seen pencil signed variation of “Martial Law” by George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879) that made $9,000, more than twice its high estimate.
Three-dimensional Americana from the Kansas City collection was led at $8,400 by a Twentieth Century tobacconist figure of a Native American maiden, on a stand marked “Cigars.” The figure did not have the age that most cigar store figures typically do and was estimated conservatively at $500/750. Other examples of Americana were a large Nineteenth Century burl bowl ($1,920); a circa 1910 Teddy and the Bear mechanical bank by J&E Stevens ($720); and a circa 1920 unattributed jumper carousel horse that rode out at $660.
The apex of the weekend’s sales was reached by the first lot on the second day, with $46,000 paid by a Mission Hills, Kan., private collector for “Pine and Aspen” by Birger Sandzen (1871-1954). One of Sandzen’s perennially popular Colorado landscape scenes, it was being sold by a world traveler who was based in Kansas City and who had acquired it from the Birger Sandzen Memorial Gallery in Lindsborg, Kan. The oil on artist’s board work, executed in the high impasto technique favored by the artist, had been painted circa 1945 and was framed in an American Impressionist style giltwood frame from American Legacy Gallery that measured 29¼ by 33¼ inches.
Fine art in the Saturday session saw across-the-board interest. John Steuart Curry’s (1897-1946) “Then a Galaxy of Fireworks Exploded in His Head and All The World Turned Black,” an illustration for the December 23, 1922, issue of Country Gentleman magazine sold to the Beach Museum on the campus of Kansas University in Manhattan, Kan., for $13,800. Soulis thought the $8,050 price he achieved for “Line Storm” by Aaron Gunn Pyle (Nebraska, 1903-1972) was a record for the artist. The circa 1969 egg tempera on artist’s board work was clearly influenced by Benton, who taught the artist. A letter by Benton to Pyle accompanied the lot, in which Benton predicts that Pyle will become “the best artist I have ever had the privilege of teaching.”
People familiar with the Kansas City art scene will likely have heard of Morton and Estelle Sosland, who were prominent art benefactors and philanthropists who gave their collection of Native American art and artifacts to the Nelson-Atkins Museum. Soulis was tasked with dispersing some of their estate, which was led at $22,800 by a circa 1910 palace sized Kerman Ravar carpet that garnered enough interest to generate bidders online and on the phones from the United States, London, and the Middle East. In the end, an online bidder, from the United States, prevailed against global competition.
Soulis has been working with an estate in Denver, Colo., to disperse a collection of more than 4,000 watches, with names from Timex to Patek Philippe. More than 50 watches were offered in this sale. Among the highlights from the collection were an 18K gold Patek Philippe Art Nouveau lady’s lapel watch that had enameling Soulis described as “really lovely.” It doubled its low estimate to finish at $16,800. Among men’s watches, a stainless steel Rolex Tudor oyster Prince submariner wristwatch, circa 1970, timed out at $11,400.
The various owner’s sale on Saturday featured an unusual collection from a Lewis and Clark reenactor. The small collection of 34 lots included books, Nineteenth Century swords and early Twentieth Century Native American pottery vessels, but it was the early scientific and surveying instruments that attracted the most attention. Leading the group, at $6,600, was a Seventeenth Century engraved brass Gunter’s sector that sold to a California buyer.
The weekend went out on a high note, with the Sawa / Boulden collection of French, American and Austrian art glass from Colorado on the last day. Of the 100 lots that crossed the block, two of the highest prices paid were for works designed by the French designer and decorator, Amalric Walter (1870-1959). The first, at $11,500, was a pate de verre dish with dragonfly designed by Henri Berge. According to the auction catalog, Berge and Walter are thought to have made no less than 500 designs but only a few of the dragonfly examples have appeared at auction in recent years. It was purchased by a phone bidder. The other piece by Walter was a pate de verre glass dish modeled to represent a mouse peering into the oval dished basin; Soulis had sold the dish previously, when it sold for less than $1,000. In this auction, Soulis achieved $6,600 for it.
Dirk Soulis Auctions’ next sale will take place the weekend of April 23.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. For additional information, 816-697-3830 or www.dirksoulisauctions.com.
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