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American Paintings

Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg

December 3, 2002 2PM

Sale NY030202

Study for "The Icebergs" by Church

Lot 18, "Study for 'The Icebergs,'" by Frederic Edwin Church, oil on paperboard mounted on canvas, 8 by 13 inches, circa 1860

By Carter B. Horsley

This is the smallest of the three major American Paintings auction offerings this fall, but it includes 33 paintings from the Thyssen-Bornemesza 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 including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article.

It was 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 high estimates.

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 American West.

"Orchid and Two Hummingbirds" by Heade

Lot 38, "Orchid and Two Hummingbirds," by Martin Johnson Heade, oil on panel, 15 3/4 by 20 inches, 1872

Like Church, 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 Whittredge

Lot 25, "A Catskill Brook," by Thomas Worthington Whittredge, oil on canvas, 20 3/8 by 44 1/2 inches, circa 1875

Lot 25, "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, Thyssen-Bornemesza Collection) that was utilized for Kyle and Dallas' Panorama of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress."

"Sunshine and Shadow" by Wiles

Lot 57, "Sunshine and Shadow," by Irving Ramsey Wiles, oil on canvas, 13 1/2 by 16 1/2 inches, circa 1895

The cover 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.

"Badlands of the Dakota" by Moran

Lot 44, "Badlands of the Dakota," by Thomas Moran, oil on canvas, 20 by 30 inches, 1901

Thomas Moran 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 Moment 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 the city.

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 first, 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 American."

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 scene."

"New York 1913" by Weber

Lot 73, "New York 1913," by Max Weber, oil on canvas, 40 by 31 5/8 inches, 1913

Lot 73, "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 catalogue:

"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 Post-Impressionism 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 a compelling 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 Gifford

Lot 22, "A Sketch of Mount Chocorua," by Sanford Robinson Gifford, oil on canvas, 9 3/8 by 15 1/2 inches, 1854-1863

Lot 22, "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 contributions to nineteenth-century American landscape art." It sold for $482,500.

"Sunset over Lake George" by Kensett

Lot 23, "Sunset over Lake George," by John Frederick Kensett, oil on canvas, 28 by 46 inches, 1867

Even more 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 retrospectively 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 imagery seems to convey a mood of lost innocence, rather than of Paradise regained."

Lot 4, "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.

See The City Review article on the Fall 2002 American Paintings auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2002 American Paintings auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2002 American Paintings auction at Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg

See The City Review on the Spring 2002 American Paintings auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2001 American Paintings Auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2001 American Paintings auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2001 American Paintings auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2001 American Paintings auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2001 American Paintings auction at Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg

See The City Review article on the Fall 2000 American Paintings auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2000 American Paintings auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2000 American Paintings auction at Phillips

See The City Review article on the Spring 2000 American Paintings auction at Christie's

See The City Review Article on the Spring 2000 American Paintings auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 1999 American Paintings auction at Christie's

See The City Review on the Fall 1999 American Paintings auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review Article on the Spring 1999 American Paintings auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the May 27, 1999 auction of American Paintings at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 1998 Important American Paintings Auctions at Sotheby’s and Christie’s

See The City Review article on the Spring 1998 Important American Paintings Auctions at Sotheby’s and Christie’s

See The City Review article on the Fall 1997 Important American Paintings auctions at Sotheby's and Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 1997 Important American Paintings auctions at Sotheby's and Christie's

 
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