“There is twice the amount of energy for this sale than we saw at our last auction,” commented Gene Shannon moments prior to Shannon’s May 4, auction of Fine American and European Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture. A record number of phone and absentee bids had been registered for the auction and an emotionally charged crowd was in the gallery awaiting the first lot to cross the block.
“There is a wonderful synergy here; I am thinking that we can expect to see a lot of record prices tonight,” stated Shannon as he glanced around the preview area. And, as predicted, when the dust had settled in the waning hours after the auction, a tally of 29 record prices paid for individual artists had been established, as well as a record price achieved by the auction house itself as one lot eclipsed the $1 million mark.
Shannon attributed the rise in interest to several factors. “The stock market is up, the art market is up, there are a lot of happy people out there,” he said. “The people that are with us are true collectors, they are confident and want to be involved and to participate,” said Shannon with a smile on his face and a glint in his eye. “They trust the system and they trust this auction house.”
A quick tour of the preview area and the auctioneer rattledoff numerous impressive pieces, pointing first and foremost to theHenri Fantin-Latour. “This should be the star of the show. Weshould see quite a battle for it,” he stated with confidence. Nextto it was a large Alfred Thompson Bricher luminous view of theshoreline of Bailey’s Island, Maine, that evoked an appreciativesmile across his salt-bearded face. Pointing out the GiovanniBattista Torrigilia interior scene, he commented, “All the Italianswant him.”
“We have two Granville Redmond’s in the sale, but this one is exceptional,” he said pointing toward a painting titled “Wildflowers by the California Coast,” and then on to Emile Gruppe’s “Gray Day at Gloucester” of which he said was “painted when [Gruppe] painted like a painter.”
As the auction got under way there was a moderate sized crowd of perhaps 100 people seated along with an additional 20 of Shannon’s personnel handling the huge bank of telephones. A short while later there was barely a seat in the house as the crowd had more than doubled and bidders stood lining the rear of the gallery.
The first few lots to be offered would set the tone for thesale as a Carl William Peters handily exceeded estimates selling at$10,775. The next lot, a Freeman Willis Simmons view of RockportHarbor, established a record for the artist when it sold at $3,385.A couple lots late George Clough’s “East Side of Owasco Lake,Durham, N.Y.” more than doubled estimates, bringing $14,340. Ashort while later Clough’s “A view of the Bridge,” estimated at$8/12,000, realized $21,510.
The first of the major lots to cross the auction block were two large western oils by Granville Redmond. The first of the lots, a luminescent painting titled “Sunlight over the Marsh,” sold just above the low estimate at $62,235 going to a phone bidder. “Wildflowers by the California Coast” followed and it opened to the floor at $45,000. Bid actively by a gentleman in the room and a telephone bidder, the painting sold for $119,500 going to the buyer in the room.
The highlight of the evening came as Henri Fantin-Latour’s”Bouquet d’Hiver” was offered. The painting, estimated at$150/250,000, depicted a bouquet of flowers in a glass vase.Bidding on the Fantin-Latour opened at $70,000 with several biddersin the gallery chasing the lot.
For a brief time, it appeared the painting would fall short of its estimates, until a woman seated in the rear of the gallery, communicating on her BlackBerry, got into the action.
Competing with several phone bidders the woman methodically raised the bid with each and every advancement from the telephones. As the lot hit the $300,000 mark the advance increased to $20,000 and at $340,000 a new telephone bidder jumped in to try his/her hand. At $500,000 the bids were still coming strong from the two players and the advance was increased to $25,000. The action never slowed with the lady claiming the lot with a final selling price of $1,027,000 realized.
The Bricher was another lot to do well also easily surpassing the $100/150,000 presale estimates. Titled “Evening Glow,” the large 15 by 32 inch oil on canvas was an impressive luminous sunset scene of the shoreline of Bailey’s Island, Maine.
Provenance for the painting was merely listed as a private New Jersey collection, perhaps adding to the freshness and desirability. Bidding on this lot was also brisk with it selling at $218,500.
Another of the top lots was the Giovanni Battista Torrigiliainterior scene that once again listed a provenance of simply aprivate New York collection. Bidding on this lot was active with itsurpassing the $80/120,000 estimates as it hammered down at$141,500.
A record price at auction was paid for Emile Gruppe’s “Gray Day at Gloucester.” Painted circa 1925, the atypical picture attracted quite a bit of interest with it readily surpassing the $20/30,000 estimates as it brought $52,580. The previous record for the artist of just under $40,000 was established by Blackwood March in 2002.
After bringing substantial prices in Shannon’s previous auction, a selection of six Luigi Lucioni oils were offered. The first to be sold was a “Toccata in Yellow” that opened for bidding at $16,000 against a $15/25,000. Bidding on the lot was quick paced with the painting establishing a record price paid at auction for the artist at $83,650. Other prices of the artist ranged from $19,120 to $8,962.
The first of two Johann Berthelson paintings to cross the block was a large scale oil that had a provenance of a South Carolina private collection. “The Green Bus Fifth Avenue,” an early work, sold at the high end of the estimates bringing $31,070. “Times Square,” another Manhattan snow scene by the artist, sold for $26,290.
Record prices paid at auction for other artists includedLillian Westcott Hale’s “Spring By The Wayside” that realized$76,480, Arnold Brasz, $31,070, and a John Sharman painting of awoman on a porch realized $38,240. The previous record for Sharmanhad been established at Treadway’s at $7,000.
“I have always had a personal fondness for Americans in Italy,’ said Shannon as he looked over the William Stanley Haseltine oil on canvas depicting “Mt Vesuvius and The Bay of Naples” with smoke billowing from the mountain top. “I’m going there next year for a vacation,” he said, followed by, “Let’s hope Vesuvius isn’t smoking.” The painting did well, selling between estimates at $22,705.
Prices include the 19.5 percent buyer’s premium. The next auction for Shannon’s will be October 26, consignments are being accepted through August. For further information contact Shannon’s at 203-877-1711 or www.shannons.com.