Published: May 16, 2017
Review and Photos by Laura Beach
MILFORD, CONN. – Shannon’s Fine Art Auctioneers heralded the start of the spring selling season for American art with a varied selection of paintings, sculpture and works on paper. The May 4 auction featuring 271 lots generated more than $2 million while offering clues to the direction of the resurgent market.
“Records were broken and activity levels were very encouraging. We saw many familiar faces and met several new clients,” said auction house principal Sandra Germain.
Founder Gene Shannon noted, “We had a good turnout. People came to preview and stayed for the sale. The internet was quite active.” Including private treaty sales, the 80 percent sell-through rate was right on target, he said.
The session confirmed interest in American Modernist paintings, both representational and abstract. A handful of European works underscored the enduring appeal of French Impressionism.
Shannon’s notched new benchmark prices at auction for Dale Nichols, a Regionalist American painter and illustrator, and for the Abstract artist Alice Mattern, among others.
“It is among his very best works,” Gene Shannon said of Nichols’s “Mid-Nation Winter.” Large format, bold conception and outstanding condition recommended the 1967 painting by the Nebraska-born artist. The canvas depicting a red barn against a snowy landscape achieved $120,000, including premium, eclipsing previous six-figure sales for Nichols at Leslie Hindman in 2014 and at Christie’s in 2013. Auctioned by Sotheby’s in 1990 and previously in a private Massachusetts collection, “Mid-Nation Winter” illustrated the cover of Missouri Medicine magazine.
Shannon’s hoped to see more for “The Potato Pickers (Homage),” a Social Realist painting by Daniel Ralph Celentano that left the room at $24,000. The canvas retains a 1943 exhibition label from the Carnegie Institute. Shannon’s holds the auction record for this New York painter, having sold a related work by Thomas Hart Benton’s former student for $50,400 in 2009.
With collectors hungry for the work of women Modernists, the appearance of “Allegro,” a 1943 oil on canvas by Alice Mattern, was certain to invite interest. In untouched condition and in its original frame, the abstraction doubled estimate to bring $55,200. An exhibition label from the Solomon Guggenheim Foundation added to its appeal. “Woman with Cat” by Sally Michel Avery, whose colorful, pictorial work echoes that of her better-known husband, brought $16,800.
Traditional American landscape painting performs well in this venue. Leading the group was Daniel Huntington’s oil on canvas view of the silvery expanse of Lake Mohonk near New York’s Catskill Mountains. It fetched $57,600.
Urban New York views also found favor, with “Bryant Park at Evening, New York” by Birge Harrison crossing the block at $60,000, “Wall Street” by Lee Lash going for $28,800 and the Guy C. Wiggins street scenes “Washington Square” and “Snow Storm at The Plaza” bringing $9,000 and $14,400, respectively. In the aquatic realm, “Coastal Sunset” by Charles H. Gifford (1839-1904) made $12,000. An unexpected volley of bidding greeted Charles W. Tice’s 1870 portrait, $15,600, of the steamship Thomas Powell on the Hudson River.
Julian Alden Weir’s small, exquisitely rendered “Rose on the Vine” was a shrewd buy at $9,600. For lovers of tabletop tableaux in the manner of Severin Roesen, Paul Lacroix’s “Fruit and Wine Glass on Marble Tabletop” was just the ticket at $21,600.
Works on paper were another strength. Two striking Jane Peterson gouaches, both Venetian subjects, climbed to $28,800 and $26,400. Meticulous in its refined detail, Ogden M. Pleissner’s “Grouse Hunt,” depicting a hunter and his dog in winter, left the room at $36,000. A Frank Weston Benson coastal view yielded $26,400. Shannon’s wrapped up with “Fleurs d’ete” by Alexander Calder, a 1968 gouache and ink on paper that sold for $50,400.
The Findlay provenance – Wally and David – attached to several successful French works. Leading the group was “Cavaliers sous les branches a fere en tardenois,” $78,000, a 1970 oil on canvas by the living artist Andre Brasilier, represented in the collection of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and featured in retrospective displays in Russia and Germany.
Shannon’s scored with pastel florals by French Vietnamese artist Le Pho.”Mother and Child in a Garden (Le Femme et les Seringas)” made $50,400, while an untitled oil composition depicting a woman with a bouquet garnered $21,600. Both paintings carried the Wally Findlay Galleries label.
“It’s a pretty major work by a major guy,” Gene Shannon said of “Nature Morte au Jardin,” $36,000, by Raoul Dufy. The watercolor on paper is from a series of garden compositions, some of which were purchased by Alice Warder Garrett in 1935.
All prices include buyer’s premium.
At 354 Woodmont Road, Shannon’s will host an online-only auction in June and its next live, cataloged fine arts sale in October. For information, 203-877-1711 or www.shannons.com
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