Published: June 20, 2023
By Madelia Hickman Ring; Photos Courtesy Freeman’s
PHILADELPHIA — Two marquee collections were offered alongside consignments by various owners in Freeman’s auctions of American art and works by Pennsylvania Impressionists. American Art and Pennsylvania Impressionists Featuring the Papageorge Family Collection, which proffered 114 lots, 18 of which were from the Papageorge family of Carversville, Penn., crossed the block the afternoon of June 4 which proceeded “Pride of Place: Works from the Estate of Sydney F. Martin,” a noon auction of just 26 lots the same day. The collection of Martin, described in Freeman’s auction catalog as “an avid and early collector of Pennsylvania Impressionists and other Pennsylvania-related work,” was separated into two sessions, with a final 172 lots offered on June 6, in “Collect: American Art Featuring Works from the Estate of Sydney F. Martin.”
The June 4 various-owners sale yielded $5.3 million with nearly 80 percent of lots selling, while the single-owner sale was more than 92 percent sold by lot and earned a total of $806,652. When the results were in for the June 6 sale, an additional $450,103 had been added with more than 86 percent trading successfully.
The American Art and Pennsylvania Impressionists Featuring the Papageorge Family Collection auction on June 4 was dominated by the $2,450,000 result for Newell Convers Wyeth’s (American, 1882-1945) “Jetty Tree (Port Clyde, Maine),” painted in oil on canvas around 1936, which depicts the view Wyeth would have seen from the family’s summer residence in Port Clyde, Maine, and offers a counterpoint to his more commercial illustrations. The price was not only a record for a non-illustrative work of art by the artist but is the highest price Freeman’s has achieved for Wyeth and is the second most valuable work of art ever sold by the house. Several factors drove interest in the piece, including freshness to the market, inclusion in two catalogues raisonnés as well as two exhibitions on the artist conducted at the Brandywine Museum of Art in 2021 and 2022. After the sale, the house confirmed that it had sold to a private collector.
“Works like ‘Jetty Tree’ were important to Wyeth as they provided him the opportunity to transcend the constraints of commercial work to create personally meaningful compositions,” says Freeman’s chairman Alasdair Nichol. “Clearly, this work and its subject matter resonated with collectors. We’re honored to bring impactful canvases like this to market and delighted that it far exceeded expectations.”
A member of the prominent Wyeth family who is arguably less well known than either her father, N.C. Wyeth, or brother, Andrew Wyeth, Henriette Wyeth (American, 1907-1997) was represented in the sale by “Portrait of Peter Hurd,” one of her father’s models who she would marry in 1929. The circa 1936 oil on canvas composition, painted during the couple’s time in the Hondo Valley of New Mexico, won first prize at the annual exhibition of the Wilmington Society of the Fine Arts in November 1936 and in a few months, had been awarded the Mary Smith Prize for the most outstanding work by a woman artist at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts’ 132nd Annual Exhibition. It set a new world auction record for the artist when it sold for $138,600.
“After the Storm (Tundra)” by German born Carl Clemens Moritz Rungius (American, 1869-1959) nearly doubled its estimate when it brought $453,600. Freeman’s catalog described the circa 1929 oil on canvas composition, which had been exhibited at the 1938 California Art Club and depicted two North American moose in a snowy landscape as “a testament to Rungius’ career-long commitment to documenting the West and its wild inhabitants.” Though the artist was known for painting big game, his renderings of moose historically earned particular praise, including from Theodore Roosevelt (American, 1858-1919), who deemed one in the artist’s studio as “the most spirited animal painting [he had] ever seen.”
The auction offered three works by Robert Spencer (American, 1879–1931), two of mills from the artist’s early career while he was still working in Bucks County, Penn., following his early study at the New York School of Art, where he was influenced by Robert Henri (American, 1865-1929) whose gritty scenes of New York City Spencer would come to emulate later in his career. Exceeding expectations and leading less than two dozen works from the Papageorge family collection at $163,800 was “Harlem River” by Robert Spencer (American, 1879-1931) and represented the decade the artist was focused on the rivers and harbors around New York City. Though one of the Ashcan School artists, Spencer utilized a colorful palette to convey “a dynamic, almost joyous, atmosphere that belies the harsh context” of the composition.
Matching “Harlem River” in price at $163,800 was Spencer’s “The Silk Mill,” an oil on canvas from a private Florida collection that had been included in no fewer than five exhibitions and published in two monographs on the artist and in Thomas Folk’s, The Pennsylvania School of Landscape Painting: An Original American Impressionism (Allentown, 1984). In the essay for the catalog, 1913 — the year “Silk Mill” was painted — is considered “the best year of [Spencer’s] life as a painter” by an expert who considers “The Silk Mill” to be one of several major canvases completed in that decade and one of a series of important works depicting local mills.
The pride of “Pride of Place: Works from the Estate of Sydney F. Martin” was Daniel Garber’s (American, 1880-1958) “Brandywine Meadows,” which achieved an expected $214,200. Though the artist rarely painted outside of Bucks County in his mature years, this 1933 oil on canvas landscape is a rare view of Chester County and was commissioned by West Chester, Penn., resident, Joseph Strode.
Freeman’s set a new world auction record for works by Morgan Colt (American, 1876-1926) when it realized $126,000 for “A Glorious Day.” It was described in the catalog as “arguably one of Colt’s most dazzling compositions, and the largest canvas to ever come to market.” As many of Colt’s paintings were destroyed following his unexpected death in 1926, “A Glorious Day” provided collectors the rare opportunity to acquire a rare survivor that exemplifies the artist’s signature bright, refreshing palette in short, rapid brushstrokes.
Another artist for whom Freeman’s reset the high bar was William Brooke Thomas Trego (American, 1858-1909), represented in “Pride of Place” with seven works, including the new top lot for the artist: “Union Soldiers in Combat,” which extensive interest took to $44,100, nearly nine times its high estimate. It was followed at $40,950 by “The Rebel Deflection (The Blue and the Gray).”
Another artist with more than one work on hand was Samuel George Phillips (American, 1890-1965), who was represented in “Pride of Place” by “Morning on the Delaware,” a circa 1925 oil on canvas landscape that was followed across the block by its contemporary, “Along the Towpath.” The first achieved an unsurprising $12,600, while “Along the Towpath” sailed beyond expectations to finish at $30,240.
Perennial favorite Walter Emerson Baum (American, 1884-1956) saw three works on offer in “Pride of Place,” all selling within or above expectations and led at $8,820 by “Autumn on Clymer Avenue (Sellersville),” which the Martins had acquired from a Lambertville, N.J., gallery.
Another five works by Baum — topped at $6,930 for “The Red House” — were offered two days later, in “Collect: American Art Featuring Works from the Estate of Sydney F. Martin.” The sale catalog described the auction as “opportunities for buyers at all stages to expand their collections, with a particular focus on Nineteenth and Twentieth Century painting and sculpture.
The top lot in “Collect” was “Hilltop Landscape” by Manuel Azadigian (Armenian/American, 1901-1924), which saw an exceptional result of $27,720, more than five times the high estimate. After fleeing Turkey in 1912, Azadigian and his family settled in the United States and he attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1918, where he studied with Robert Vonnoh and Daniel Garber. He followed that up with studies in Paris, at the Académie de la Grande Chamière before succumbing to cancer at the young at of 22. With few examples of his work in existence, much less on the market, interest in the Parisian-painted scene was high and the price realized is the new world auction record for the artist.
“Ridley Creek and Hunting Hill” by Charles Morris Young (American, 1869-1964) earned a second place finish in the sale, going to $22,680, nearly double the lot’s high estimate. The composition had been included at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts’ January 6, 1948, exhibition, “The Young Exhibition.”
Rounding out the highlights of “Collect” was “Afternoon on the Rocks” by Clarence K. Chatterton (American, 1880-1973), a summery scene that appealed to bidders, who took it to $13,860. Not only did the composition have provenance to two New Jersey private collections but it had been exhibited in three galleries, two in New York City and one in Houston, Texas.
Freeman’s will next sell American Art and Pennsylvania Impressionists on December 3.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. For information, www.freemansauction.com or 215-563-9275.
September 19, 2023
September 19, 2023
September 19, 2023
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