is the smallest of the three major American Paintings auction
offerings this fall, but it includes 33 paintings from the
Collection, which was shown at the Metropolitan Museum and was
the first major European collection of 19th Century American paintings.
The auction has the nicest group of Hudson River School landscapes
of the three major auction houses this season as well as a splendid
group of New York Scenes.
The Thyssen-Bornmesza collection is not parting with all of its
jewels but there are some fine works including the following from
the Thyssen-Bornemesza collection:
The star lot of this grouping is unquestionably Lot 18, "Study
for 'The Icebergs,'" shown above, by Frederic Edwin Church
(1820-1900), an oil on paperboard mounted on canvas that is a
dramatic small study for one of his most famous works that is
now in the collection the Dallas Museum of Art. This study measures
8 by 13 inches and was executed circa 1860. It has a quite conservative
estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. It sold for $427,500
the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article.
quite a successful sale with 76.38 percent of the 72 offered lots
selling, a respectable ratio, for a total of $11,587,421, including
the buyer's premiums, nicely above the pre-sale low estate of
$8,961,000. About half of the lots that sold went above their
Church, a student of Thomas Cole, the founder of the Hudson River
School of landscape painting, became America's great artist-explorer
who created heroic and grandiloquent works that combined the artist's,
the naturalist's, and the explorer's awe of magnificent nature.
The 10-foot-wide major painting of "The Icebergs" was
completed in 1861 and is one of his most dramatic compositions.
Church's main rival for predominance as the American painting
of Manifest Destiny was Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902) and he is
represented in this group by Lot 17, "Mountain Scene,"
an oil on canvas that measures 22 by 30 5/8 inches. Executed in
the 1870s, it is a fine and impressive composition although not
the best example of the artist's painterliness. It has a modest
estimate of $140,000 to $180,000. It sold for $152,500.
Bierstadt studied in Europe and did many fine paintings of the
Alps but is best known for his spectacular sunset scenes of the
Martin Johnson Heade spent a lot of time in South America where
he became entranced with jungles, orchids and hummingbirds. He
is equally famed for his landscapes of Massachusetts, salt marshes,
stormy beach scenes, magnolias, and his orchid and hummingbird
pictures. Lot 38, "Orchid and Two Hummingbirds," by
Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904), an oil on panel that measures
15 3/4 by 20 inches was executed in 1872. It is one of his most
splendid such works and has a modest estimate of $500,000 to $700,000.
It sold for $867,500.
The Thyssen-Boremesza group in this auction also has some classic
Hudson River School landscapes.
Lot 15, "View on the Hudson," by Samuel Colman (1832-1920),
oil on canvas, 15 by 20 1/8 inches, painted circa 1865-9. This
is an exquisite and classic Hudson River School work by an important
member of the school's second generation whose works have begun
to increase recently in value. It has an estimate of $75,000 to
$125,000. It sold for $113,525.
"A Catskill Brook," by Thomas Worthington Whittredge
(1820-1910), is a lovely oil on canvas, 20 3/8 by 44 1/2 inches,
circa 1875. Whittredge is one of the major 19th Century American
landscape artists and whose best works are like this one, dense
forest scenes. This has a conservative estimate of $175,000 to
$225,000. It sold for $229,500.
Lot 7, "View Near Sherburne, Chenango County, New York,"
is a dramatic oil on canvas by Jasper Francis Cropsey (1823-1900)
that measures 24 1/4 by 41 1/2 inches. Executed in 1853, it has
an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold for $185,500.
The catalogue provides the following commentary:
"'View near Sherburne, Chenango County, New York,
wit its towering mountain rising as a backdrop to a bucolic scene
teeming with human activity, is far removed from Cropsey's more
topographical views of the gentle valley. The canvas, with its
shifting perspectives, forms a montage of details celebrating
the virtues of industry, harvesting and leisurely pleasure - including
picknicking figures in the right foreground - and takes on a fanciful
tone. The enchanting quality of the Chenango Valley was jocundly
described by the artist as looking 'like the Land of Beulah
only I don't see the figures with shining wings.And the celestial
city owing to much dust on the road, and a hazy atmosphere, is
not distinctly visible - but I think it may be seen from the church.'
Cropsey was not only referring to Bunyan's epic (now entitled
Ideal Landscape: Homage to Thomas Cole,
Collection) that was utilized for Kyle and Dallas' Panorama of
Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress."
illustration for the auction catalogue is Lot 57, "Sunshine
and Shadow," by Irving Ramsey Wiles (1861-1948), an oil on
canvas, 13 1/2 by 16 1/2 inches, circa 1895. This fine painting
was one of the great highlights of the exhibition at the Metropolitan.
Wiles is an extremely fine late American Impressionist and this
is extremely charming by any standards and rather modestly estimated
at $200,000 to $300,000. It sold for $207,500.
is one of the greatest painters of the American West who is best
known for his spectacular views of the Grand Canyon and Yosemite.
Lot 44 is a particularly dramatic and unusual composition by him
of the Dakota Badlands. An oil on canvas that measures 20 by 30
inches, it was painted in 1901. It has an estimate of $700,000
to $900,000. It sold for $999,500.
Other important Thyssen-Bornemesza consignments includes two other
Western scenes, Lots 41 and 43. Lot 41 is "Winnebagos Playing
Checks," an 1842 oil on canvas by Charles Deas (1818-1867).
It measures 12 1/2 by 14 1/2 inches and has an estimate of $350,000
to $550,000. It sold for $724,500. Lot 43, "A
of Suspense," is a fine 1911 oil on canvas by Henry F. Farney
(1847-1916). It measures 24 by 16 inches and has an estimate of
$500,000 to $700,000. It sold for $889,500.
The Thyssen-Bornemesza consignment also includes three paintings
of New York City that particularly fine and would make a great
start for a collection of 20th Century American Art depicting
Lot 65, "The City, 1920," by Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975),
oil on canvas, 33 1/4 by 25 inches, 1920. This scene of Madison
Square Park at Fifth Avenue and Broadway has an American Flag
and Benton's marvelously sinuous style. It has an estimate of
$150,000 to $250,000. It sold for $229,500.
According to catalogue commentary provided by Marianne Berardi,
1920 "was a time of major stylistic change for Benton, and
marks the point at which he began to move away from derivative
forms of modernism, such as Synchronism and Futurism, to develop
a personal style."
"Just the year before," the catalogue entry continued,
"Benton had started marking clay models in preparation for
his paintings, to aid in developing a dynamic rhythm of form.
He first utilized this technique to design self-consciously artificial
compositions that he described as 'figure organizations,' but
very soon he also began to use this method to record the American
scene. The City was one of the earliest, if not the
of Benton's urban scenes to be based on this technique of clay
models. As a consequence, it characterizes Benton's mature, signature
style, with boldly simplified forms, a rhythmic organization of
every element, and a slightly titled perspective. These abstract
qualities, however, are combined with vivid observation of daily
American life, to create an effect that feels earthly and immediate.
Indeed, the boldly caricatured figures, and such humorous touches
as the man racing to escape a speeding car, bring to mind the
popular cartoons of the period. Thus, the painting seems to represent
a synthesis of two different aspects of Benton's background that
he had previously keep separate: his training as a modernist,
and his experience as a popular cartoonist for The Joplin
Lot 72, "New York, 1927," by John Marin (1872-1953),
watercolor, gouache and charcoal on paper, 26 3/8 by 21 1/4 inches.
This is a strong Cubistic jumble of city buildings and Marin is
one of the greats and this is a very good one. It has an estimate
of $150,000 to $250,000. It sold for $328,500.
The catalogue commentary by Beth Venn for this entry provides
the following commentary:
"Marin, who had worked in an architect's office when he was
in his twenties, delighted in studying the structure of some of
the world's most technologically advanced buildings and bridges
going up at a rapid pace throughout lower Manhattan. But he also
saw their lyric beauty. To him, there was as much interest and
beauty in the urban scene as in some of the most idyllic landscapes
of New England, also a favorite subject for the artist. Despite
a centuries-old bias for paintings in oil, Marin persevered in
his love of the watercolor medium. He even chose to be represented
by watercolors - images of New York's newly completed Woolworth
Building - in the legendary Armory Show of 1912. By the time Marin
painted New York in 1927, he had captured many of the city's iconic
features - the Brooklyn Bridge, the famous skyscrapers, the churches
and the ferryboats - in his energetic and expressionistic watercolors.
In this work, Marin pays homage not to a well-known landmark,
but rather to the everyday hustle and visual congestion that can
be found on many of the city's streets. Here, buildings appear
stacked on top of one another, with just a few slivers of sky
and a lone tree fighting to survive amidst the tumble of the dynamic
cityscape. Objects are skewed and dislocated on titled axes, bracketed
by the frame-within-frame device that Marin began to use in the
early 1920s. Diagonal lines, the juxtaposition of darks and lights,
and the jagged outer border all contribute to the mood of the
"New York 1913," by Max Weber (1881-1961), oil on canvas,
40 by 31 5/8-inches. This is a very great Cubist portrait of the
city and worth its estimate of $500,000 to $750,000, although
it may stay within its estimate because Weber is not fully appreciated
widely. It sold for $1,659,500.
The following commentary is provided by Dr. Percy North in the
"Max Weber's painting New York generated a flurry of media
attention when it was first exhibited in London shortly after
it had been panted in 1913. Included in the third Post-Impressionist
exhibition that opened at the Alpine Club on the closing day of
the Armory Show in New York, the painting brought international
attention to Weber for the first time as one of American's foremost
modern artists. Weber and Wassily Kandinsky were the only non-English
artists invited to exhibit by Roger Fry with the Grafton Group
of English Modernists who had promulgated the designation
for their first show in 1910. Weber was the best represented artist
in the show and New York was its uncontested star. New
York's radical style with its futuristic overtones elicited
some jibes from unsophisticated critics who described as "a
concertina that, inextricably mixed up in some fashion with the
stars and stripes, has met with a violent end and had stakes driven
through it afterwards' and 'nothing but two huge and twisted pythons
and series of organ keyboards.' More thoughtful responses, however,
noted its abstract beauty, Weber's born colorism, and the influence
of Futurism. New York was Weber's breakthrough into
and forcefully personal mode of modernist painting integrating
the elements of Cubism and Futurism with American subjects and
themes. For Weber as well as Stieglitz, New York represented the
city of ambition, the quintessential, ever changing modern arena.
Billowing clouds of smoke and swirling patterns of wind in Weber's
painting express the city's dynamism pulsating with power and
energy made possible by innovative technology."
Other important consignments in the auction include a fine Sanford
Robinson Gifford and a major John F. Kensett.
"A Sketch of Mount Chocorua," by Sanford Robinson Gifford
(1823-1880), is a 9 3/8-inch-by-15 1/2-inch oil on canvas. Executed
1854-1863, it has an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. The catalogue
entry comments on Gifford's "radiant luminosity," adding
that "The painting, with its sophisticated composition, effulgent
color and light, and mood of optimism, epitomizes Gifford's
to nineteenth-century American landscape art." It sold
dramatic is Lot 23, "Sunset over Lake George," by John
Frederick Kensett (1816-1872). This 28-by-46-inch oil on canvas
was executed in 1867 and has an estimate of $600,000 to $800,000.
It sold for $537,500.
The catalogue provides the following commentary by Dr. Bruce Chambers:
"Indian Summer, Lake George, is, by any standard,
one of the most extraordinary works in Kensett's oeuvre. Like
the White Mountain, Newport and Niagara paintings, these rare
Lake George pictures constitute a distinct and important body
of work in Kensett's career. In 1867, Kensett had reached the
height of his powers as a painter of quiet, luminist coastal and
lake scenes. Yet Indian Summer both looks back
to his earlier Hudson River style while simultaneously anticipating
the painterly radiance of his 'Last Summer's Work.' The sky, the
clouds, and the distant hills beyond are all consumed by an exultant
sunset, whose effulgent glow shapes and controls both the palette
and design of the entire composition. Although Indian Summer
still retains the specificity of place and season for which Kensett
was so often praised in his lifetime, it is clear that the artist
is here already exploring pictorial effects that would reach their
culmination in such 'Last Summer' works as Sunset on the Sea (1872):
The Metropolitan Museum of Art). As a post-Civil War painting,
however, Indian Summer's revisitation of Edenic
seems to convey a mood of lost innocence, rather than of Paradise
"At River's Bend," a small but very pleasant oil on
canvas by James Augustus Suydam (1819-1865) soared above its high
estimate of $55,000 and sold for $141,500. Lot 14, a lovely still
live by Helen Searle (1830-1884), sold for $45,410, more than
twice its high estimate.