Published: December 22, 2020
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy James Cox Gallery
WILLOW, N.Y. – Artwork from five prominent collections and seven estates was gathered together for an online-only auction conducted on December 13 by the James Cox Gallery. Jim Cox said he scheduled the sale to occur between Thanksgiving and Christmas because it was “a time that has proven ideal for online sales.” Registered bidders numbered 431 on LiveAuctioneers and 536 on Invaluable. There were phone bidders as well, and the international contingent lined up bidders from 11 countries. Of the 250 lots offered only 14 were passed and the sale totaled $119,285.
Notable in the season of giving was the gallery’s continued custom of contributing a portion of its proceeds to nonprofit organizations, a tradition Cox began 35 years ago when he was director of the Grand Central Art Galleries in New York. These sales included auctions to benefit New York’s historic Salmagundi Club, the Dutch Treat Club and the New York City Heart Association. “The Heart Association fundraiser was conducted annually at the city’s famous 21 Club,” Cox noted.
Cox, who opened his gallery in Woodstock in 1990, kept this tradition going, and auctions were conducted to benefit Family of Woodstock, the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum and the Woodstock School of Art. In addition to Woodstock’s famous art school, the December sale also raised funds for Ulster County’s Habitat of Humanity in Kingston.
Pieces from private collections included work consigned by several distinguished heirs, including Sandy Scott, whose father, John Locke, a prominent art agent, represented many well-known American and European illustrators, including Jean Michel Folon and Ronald Searle. Local Woodstock benefactor Doug James also offered pieces from his collection, including an Eve Arnold photograph of Marilyn Monroe taken on the set of The Misfits.
Paintings by Robert De Niro Sr (1922-1993), father of the famous actor, were consigned from the collection of Robin Scherm and Adi Gevins, along with a special group of etchings and watercolors of life in Florida, circa 1930s. It was a De Niro Sr painting, in fact, that led top sellers in the sale, going to the trade for $5,400. “Man in Artist’s Studio,” 1969-1971, a pastel on paper, 29½ by 39½ inches, was signed upper right and framed.
Estates represented in the auction included prominent Woodstock artists Konrad Cramer and Tomas Penning; Margery Ryerson, well-known pupil of Robert Henri and author of The Art Spirit; Outsider artist Joseph Garlock; midcentury abstract painter Elaine Wesley; James Chapin, whose work was often featured on covers of Time magazine; and Jason McWhorter, a member of New York’s renowned Pushpin Studio.
“I find it really interesting how these various niches develop,” said Cox in characterizing the sale. “It’s about people’s locale. For example, we had two or three pieces from Florida and from back in the 1930s and 1940s, and they just really went high. And I think it’s because there’s just so little available from that time period by really fine artists.”
Other prominent artists were featured in the auction. Jules Olitski (1922-2007) was represented by an untitled oil on canvas abstract from around 1970, 24 by 20 inches, that brought six times its high estimate, selling for $4,200 to a private collector in California. “There’s a woman we know here in Woodstock whose husband was one of the great restorers in New York City,” said Cox. “He died some 20 years ago, and she consigns things to me from his studio, and that’s where that piece came from.”
With auction proceeds going to Ulster County Habitat for Humanity, a Robert van Vorst Sewell (1860-1924) landscape, “Rocky Inlet – Monhegan Island, Maine,” circa 1915, 24 by 30 inches, went out at $3,240. Another oil on canvas by the artist, a mural study for the “Canterbury Tales,” circa 1910, 35 by 51 inches, with an estate stamp on verso, made $3,000. Its proceeds also go to Ulster County Habitat for Humanity.
Fetching $3,120 was a portrait by Rae Sloan Bredin (1880-1933). “Girl in a White Hat” (Katharine Rosen Warner), 1912, was an oil on board measuring 10½ by 8¼ inches. Signed lower right and framed, it had Salmagundi Club Thumb-box and Allentown Art Museum exhibition labels on verso.
Walter Ronald Locke (1883-1949) was an etcher best known for his landscapes. He resided in Florida and many of his surviving works are of Florida scenes, and in this sale an unframed etching, “Curio Shops – Tarpon Springs, Florida,” 1935, 10¼ by 7¾ inches, was bid to $3,000.
Another prominent artist represented was Romare Bearden (1911-1988), recognized as one of the most creative and original visual artists of the Twentieth Century. Three of his serigraphs from the “Odysseus Suite,” 1979, came from a close friend of Cox and were offered, ranging from $2,150 to $2,280. They were “Sirens Song,” “Home to Ithaca” and “Circe Turns a Companion of Odysseus into a Swine.”
Presented in an elaborate frame, that is, a figurative one that was carved and polychromed, “Still-Life with Elaborate Frame” by Joseph Garlock, 1951, paint on Masonite, 12 by 9¾ inches, signed lower left, that brought $2,040. Also notable as the first Judaica for the Outsider artist at auction, “Synagogue Interior with Ceremony,” 1952, paint and graphite on paper, 16½ by 10½ inches, was bid to $1,080.
Rolph Scarlett (1889-1984), a Canadian artist known for both his abstract paintings and jewelry designs, is a gallery favorite. Here, he was represented by a fiery untitled watercolor and gouache on paper abstract, 18 by 23 inches, that took $2,400.
Nell Walden Blaine (1922-1996) overcame a severe childhood cross-eyed nearsightedness to become a noted abstract artist. Blaine studied at the Richmond School of Art (now VCU) and in 1942, moving to New York City to study painting under Hans Hofmann, where she adopted a non-painterly style. Her “Forest,” 1957, an ink wash on paper, 14½ by 17¾ inches, was propelled from a $100/200 estimate to finish at $2,400.
An etching by Gene Kloss (1903-1996), “Apricot and Chokecherry Tree,” 6 by 8 inches, earned $2,040, while a two-lot offering of “Head of a Laborer,” 1940, oil on board, and “Study of a Workman I,” 1943, pencil on paper, by James Chapin (1887-1975) found a buyer at $1,800.
Of special interest in the sale “for various reasons,” according to Cox, were two lots by Philippe Lejeune, chine colle prints of New York City subjects that brought $600 and $540; a rare woodblock print by John Flannagan of Woodstock’s famous “Maverick Horse” earning $540; and a Konrad Cramer sympalmagraph created by his invention, an automatic drawing machine that rendered precise, geometric forms, which fetched $480.
Additional sale highlights included the first “small” painting from the artist Elaine Wesley’s estate to come to auction, “Patterned Circles,” 1994, oil on canvas, 26 by 28 inches, going out at $1,560; a small lithograph of broncos by Ethel Magafan of Woodstock and Colorado Springs, Colo., making $840; one of five pieces from the estate of Ronald Searle’s New York City art agent bringing $420; and a painting by Marion Greenwood, the Woodstock artist known for her ethnic subjects, “Portrait of a Woman Reading,” circa 1950, oil on board, which sold for $1,680.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For additional information, 845-679-7608 or www.jamescoxgallery.com.
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