Published: December 20, 2022
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy James Cox Gallery
WILLOW, N.Y. – Robert Henri’s (1865-1929) “Cottages-County Mayo, Ireland,” circa 1910, with a bird’s-eye impression of a lush countryside and cottages, took top honors at James Cox Gallery’s Collectors Exchange fine art auction on December 11. It sold for $18,250, nearly twice its high estimate, to a private New York City and Woodstock collector. At 12½ by 16 inches and signed lower right, it was initialed “M.H.” for Henri’s wife, Marjorie, lower right. Henri, an American painter and teacher and one of the organizers of a landmark show titled “The Eight” (after the eight painters displaying their works) at the Macbeth Galleries in New York, made several trips to Ireland’s western coast and rented Corrymore House near Dooagh, a small village on Achill Island.
The online-only, no-reserve sale offered 200 pieces from three private collections and five estates with significant artwork in all media, including Eighteenth, Nineteenth and Twentieth Century American and European art. The sale totaled $164,000 with a 97 percent sold rate and 1,165 bidders on LiveAuctioneers and Invaluable combined, along with phone and order bidders. The firm also had bidders from 12 different countries actively bidding during the auction.
Two glazed ceramic “Hippos” by Carl Walters (1883-1955) went out at $8,125 and $8,750. Walters perfected the blue glaze used by ancient Egyptians. He also fired the glass door panels for the original Whitney Museum entrance. “Hippo #49” measured 7 by 16 by 7 inches, and “Hippo #150” was 4½ by 10 by 4 inches. Both were signed on the bottom.
Four oil paintings by James Chapin (1887-1975) were offered in this sale. Gallery owner James Cox was first introduced to the artist’s work when he was director of the Grand Central; he has represented the Chapin estate for more than 30 years. An oil on canvas depicting “Young Robert Frost in New Hampshire,” 1964-74, was, according to a note inscribed on verso, “Based on a study made in 1917 at Amherst, Mass., and memories of day-long walks in the Franconia area about 1915.” Measuring 34 by 28 inches and signed lower right, the portrait sold for $16,250.
Another Chapin included in the sale, “Seated Nude” depicted a Black woman in a sedate, reflective pose. “This painting is the finest nude Chapin ever painted,” Cox observed. However, the painting was passed.
“Chapin was clearly attracted to a wide variety of African American subjects,” Cox explained. Three paintings of the infamous Scottsboro trials were offered as one lot in the sale and were bid to $3,750. The trial of nine Black teenagers in the 1930s attracted national attention when the boys were charged with raping two white women on a freight train in northern Alabama. After years of contentious trials, the young men were finally exonerated, with the series of unfair court proceedings playing a major role in the ensuing civil rights movement.
“Chapin was an advocate of civil rights and frequently explored social issues in his artwork.” Cox observed. “This group is a striking example of the artist’s compassion for victims of discrimination.”
“Cotton Picking,” a mural design for the Roanoke Rapids, N.C., post office by Charles William Ward (1900-1962), drew $5,938. The circa 1937 oil on canvas depicting workers gathering and moving bales of cotton measured 16 by 24 inches and bore an estate stamp lower left and had been professionally relined.
Fetching $5,313 was a dreamy landscape of trees and mountains, “Atascadero,” 2013, by Richard Mayhew (b 1924). Atascadero, Calif., is just off the Pacific Coast midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. This hand-pulled silkscreen on handmade cotton paper was edition 44/150; 30 by 39¾ inches and signed lower right.
“Banjo Player-Civil War,” circa 1860s, by Henry E. Brown (1843-1911) went out $4,063. The enigmatic oil on canvas depicted an African American man playing a banjo in a fireside encampment of Confederate soldiers, a lone African American child standing left and an adult female figure in the distant right looking on. It was signed lower left. Brown served in the Civil War in General Joseph Hooker’s 12th Corps. The work had some interesting provenance as it came from the estate of Eric Weissberg (1939-2020), who wrote and recorded “Dueling Banjos” for the movie Deliverance.
There were several wall hanging sculptures in the sale by Peter Collingwood (1922-2008), two of which sold. The Twentieth Century artist used woven linen and stainless steel to create the tall wall hangings. Among the pieces offered, “M. 84 – No. 87,” 70 by 8½ inches, brought the highest price, $4,375.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. Next sale will be in the spring. For information, www.jamescoxgallery.com or 845-679-7608.
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