Published: April 11, 2023
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Brunk Auctions
ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Brunk Auctions welcomed spring with three days of auctions March 23-25, offering 1,236 lots that saw a sell-through rate of 90 percent and a total tally of $3,587,636. Trade bidders were the successful buyers of several of the auctions’ top lots, a reassuring sign for those that follow the auction industry.
Institutions also stepped up to the table and bid with gusto, including an unidentified one paying $405,900 and the sale’s highest price for a large – 38 by 60 inches, excluding its 53-by-74-inch period gilt wood and composition frame – view of West Point from Fort Putnam, painted in 1867 by David Johnson (American, 1827-1908). Not only did the vast landscape have a Shreveport, La., exhibition in its history but the sale’s catalog documented two private collections as well as New York City dealer Berry-Hill Galleries among its provenance.
“It was a wonderful painting and had everything you’d want in a Heade: a tropical sunset and little birds on rocks, a great frame and was in good condition,” said Nan Zander, Brunk Auctions’ specialist in charge of American fine art. She was speaking about “Twilight in the Tropics” by Martin Johnson Heade (American, 1819-1904), which sold to a trade buyer for $221,400, the second highest result of the auction. A finely executed and detailed landscape like the Johnson, the comparison between the two stops there, as the oil on paper on board Heade offered a more manageable size at just 6¾ by 13-7/8 inches.
In several recent previous sales, Brunk Auctions has sold numerous works by Winfred Rembert (American, 1945-2021) and this sale proved no exception, with two works on offer to meet the demand for the African outsider artist whose tooled leather works are in high demand from collectors, institutions and trade buyers alike. The same trade buyer paid $209,100 for “Chain Gang Picking Cotton #3” and $147,600 for “Cotton Pickers.” Both paintings had provenance to the estate of Litchfield, Conn., dealer Peter Tillou, who had helped discover and promote Rembert to prominence.
“The market and demand for Rembert is absolutely still strong,” Zander confirmed. “It hasn’t yet peaked, and we will continue to offer them. People continue to look to us, and we seem to be setting the market for his works at auction.”
Zander was delighted to share with Antiques and The Arts Weekly that George Inness’ (American, 1825-1894) 1897 oil on canvas titled “Durham, Connecticut” sold to the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, Conn., for $61,500. The 18-by-26-inch composition not only had provenance to the artist’s estate and the collection of New York City dealer/collector Alice Osofsky, it was included in the December 1894 George Inness Memorial Exhibition and will be featured in the forthcoming supplement to Michael Quick’s catalogue raisonné. In a letter Quick wrote describing the painting, he says, “…the softness of the foliage may be an attempt to suggest the feathery young leaves of early spring…Using both lines of black or deep brown paint and lines of white or pink, Inness created the active, staccato pattern that gives Durham, Connecticut its lively, almost excited quality.”
Another painting that had been in Osofsky’s collection was “The Woods, Monhegan Island” by Robert Henri (American, 1865-1929). During the preview, Zander said that someone from a museum who had been working on a project to identify all of Henri’s Monhegan works told her they had been unaware of the work previously. The painting was linked to several exhibitions, including at Milch Galleries, Montross Gallery, the Philadelphia Sketch Club, the Chicago Art Institute, the Milwaukee Art Museum and the National Arts Club. After considerable competition, it went out the door with a trade buyer, who paid $24,600.
One of the bargains of the day was the $49,200 paid by a “very happy private collector” for “Fisherman by a Stream” by Thomas Worthington Whittredge (American, 1820-1910). It came to Brunk from a private collection in Florida and sold just shy of its low estimate, despite being, in Zander’s opinion, “a beautifully painted intimate scene with beautiful light and a wonderful frame.”
Decorative arts also saw some strong results throughout the weekend. Leading the furniture category at $39,360 was an Eighteenth Century Chippendale figured mahogany blockfront chest of drawers, attributed to the Boston area, that came to Brunk’s from a private North Carolina collection; a trade buyer had the winning bid.
An international client, bidding online, paid $35,840 for a Russian silver tankard made in Moscow, 1883, that bore the assay marks for Vasily Aleksandrovich Petrov, (1883-1893). With provenance to the Knowlton Collection, formerly of Hilton Head, the tankard was embellished by an elaborate arabesque decoration, a view of the Kremlin, a gilt interior and a steeple finial.
A private collection from Richmond, Va., was the source of several wonderful things, including a pair of painted cast metal figural allegorical torchieres that measured 66½ inches tall. Cataloged as American or Continental, Nineteenth Century, the pair represented Native American figures and inspired bidding to $19,680; the pair found a new home with a private collector.
The same Richmond collection also offered a circa 1625 map titled Virginia. Discovered and Described by Captain John Smith… that had been published in London. A trade buyer prevailed over competition to take it for $18,900, more than double the lot’s high estimate.
Interest in Southern works continued with a circa 1860 Edgefield, S.C., storage jar attributed to the enslaved potter Dave Drake. Made at the Lewis Miles Stoneware manufactory, the 13¾-inch-tall stoneware jar retained an olive green alkaline glaze and a slightly tilted ovoid form that had been previously authenticated by Edgefield stoneware expert Terry Ferrell. It sold to an unidentified institution for $15,360.
The Try-Me Collection of Richmond, Va., offered nearly four dozen lots across all three days of sales. A highlight of the collection was several works by Oscar Bach, including a lustre art bowl compote, three ornate Art Deco fire screens that generated significant interest among private collectors, and a brass mounted vargueno cabinet, which sold to a private collector for $5,535.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.
Brunk Auctions will sell Asian Art on April 20-21 and the Collection of Jean and Jim Barrow on May 20, as well as a Premier Auction on May 19. For more information, 828-254-6846 or www.brunkauctions.com.
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