By Carter B. Horsley
This auction is highlighted by a fine group
of watercolors and pastels from the collection of Arthur and Holly
Magill, an important abstract oil by Marsden Hartley, and a fine
oil by Georgia OKeefe.
The Magills began collecting modernist works
when they moved to Greenville, S.C., in the early 1950s, but most
of the major works being auctioned by them were acquired from
two New York galleries, Kennedy Galleries and Hirsch & Adler,
in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The cover illustration of the separate catalogue
for the Magill Collection is Lot 14, shown at the top of this
article, "The Balloon," by Maurice B. Prendergast (1859-1924),
a 20 ¾-by-15 ½-inch watercolor and pencil on paper,
The catalogue notes that the artist "appears
to have folded under the bottom 2 ¼ inch portion of The
Balloon, thus reducing part of the beach and figure at center.
At a later date, he then seems to have uncovered this part by
unfolding the sheet and then visibly singing the watercolor a
second time. Intricately layered with figures, parasols, boasts
and balloon that sweep upwards toward a high horizon line and
emphasize the vertical tilt of the composition, Prendergast must
have finally decided to expand the format
composition is fixed at the center by the brilliant accent of
the red parasol around which are oriented all other surrounding
elements. The magical sparkle of bright color is further heightened
by Prendergasts use of raw paper showing through which also
serves to unify the pattern of color washes across the pictures
surface. Fluid, transparent strokes of color extend beyond the
borders of the well defined pencil under-drawings and create a
feeling of immediacy and sense of spontaneity characteristic of
Prendergasts most fully developed watercolors but which
believes the highly sophisticated and calculated organization
The large and very colorful watercolor is a
splendid example of the artists very decorative style that
celebrates pageantry and a festival spirit. It has an estimate
of $2,000,000 to $3,000,000. It sold for $1,655,750 including
the buyer's premium as do all results in this article.
The Magill collection is particularly rich
is superb works by John Marin (1870-1953), who fashioned his own
very dynamic brand of Cubism that caught much of the vertiginious
excitement of the early skyscraper age in New York.
Lot 54, "Related to St. Pauls New
York," shown above, is a 26-by-30-inch oil that is dated
1928 and one of the artists finest works. It has a conservative
estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. It sold for $610,750.
The catalogue provides the following commentary:
"Drawing on themes he had explored in
watercolor over the previous decade, the present work uses broken
lines and abstract forms to express the frenzy and vitality Marin
saw in the buildings and streets of New York. In 1913, Marin described
his visceral response to the city and its impact on his work in
an essay for Camera Work in which he wrote: You cannot create
a work of art unless the things you behold respond to something
within you. Therefore, if these buildings move me, they too must
have life. Thus the whole city is alive; buildings, people, all
are alive and the more they move me the more I feel them
to be alive
.Marins images of New York celebrate
the accomplishments of man in the contest of the early 20th-century
urban landscape, fragmenting the architectural forms of the city
into geometric shapes and fields of color. Klauss Kertess writes,
In the twenties, the effusive spontaneity so visible I the
watercolors and oils of the mid-teens was joined by Cubist architectonics
mow more dramatically than I the paler Lower Manhattan
scenes done between 219112 and 1914. Broader thrusting strokes
fly into prismatic flux. The contours of the buildings are overlaid
with open and closed triangular planes that frame the skyscrapers
with monumental vectors of energy. Emphatic black lines defining
silhouettes or simply driven by their own concerns underscore
a more vivid palette. Marins Cubism has a wacky vicariousness;
it veers and turns into irreverent configurations whose seemingly
electrified calligraphy shows little respect for the cool clarity
and regularity of most of other Cubists planes."
Lot 43, "Street Movement, New York City,"
is a 17 ½-by-21 ½-inch watercolor by Marin that
is particularly striking because of its yellow background and
its collage-like composition. It has a conservative estimate of
$120,000 to $180,000. It sold for $104,250.
Lots 44 and 45, "Downtown New York"
and "Fantasy, New York," are smaller Marin watercolors
that are also excellent. They each have estimates of $15,000 to
$25,000. The former was executed circa 1925 and the latter is
dated 1937. Lot 44 sold for $29,500 and Lot 45 failed to sell.
Marins greatness as a watercolorist is
also evident in Lots 68 and 75. The former, entitled "Alpine
District, New Jersey," is dated 1938 and is an extremely
dense but intensely colorful composition. It has an estimate of
$40,000 to $60,000. It sold for $41,000. The latter, entitled
"Palisades, No. 2," is dated 1922 and is boldly dramatic
and abstract. It has an estimate of $30,000 to $50,000. It
sold for $28,350.
Charles Burchfield (1893-1967) is also well
represented in the Magill Collection. Lot 70, "The Butterfly
Tree," a 15-by-19-inch watercolor, shown above, is one of
his strongest works with its vibrant yellows and blacks and has
a conservative estimate of $60,000 to $80,000. It sold for
$192,750. Lot 46, "Sultry Moon," has a higher estimate
of $250,000 to $350,000, reflecting its much larger size of 33
by 40 inches, although it is a bit somber compared to Lot 42,
"Wild Sweet Peas in a Summer Rain," which has the same
estimate of Lot 46 but is perhaps a bit more interesting because
of its broader palette and its vertical treatment of rain. "Sultry
Moon" is the back cover illustration of the separate Magill
catalogue. Lot 46 sold for $214,750 and Lot 42 sold for $511,750.
Lot 53 is a very simple but strong, 13 ¾-by-19
¾-inch watercolor by Edward Hopper (1882-1967), entitled
"Freight Car at Truro," that was executed in 1931 and
has a conservative estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold
The Magill Collection also has several works
by Charles Demuth (1883-1935), the most notable of which is Lot
47, "Vaudeville-Bird Woman," an 11 ½-by-9 ¼-inch
watercolor, dated 1917. It has an estimate of $125,000 to $175,000.
It failed to sell.
The collection also has two magnificent works
by Everett Shinn, Lot 32, "Window Shopping," a pastel
on paper, 14 ¼-by-18-inches, dated 1903, shown above, and
estimated at $80,000 to $120,000, and Lot 33, "Chinese Restaurant,"
a gouache on paper, 8 ½ by 13 ¼ inches, dated 1899,
shown below, and estimated at $75,000 to $100,000. Lot 32 sold
for $192.750. Lot 33 sold for $92.750.
A fine companion piece to Shinns "Chinese
Restaurant" is Lot 35, "Scene on the Lower East Side,"
by William J. Glackens (1870-1938), executed circa 1905-1910,
shown below, and estimated conservatively at $30,000 to $50,000.
It sold for $55,375.
Lot 34, "The Reception," is an exceptionally
fine oil on board, 20 by 15 inches, by Guy Péne du Bois
(1884-1958), that was painted circa 1916 and has an estimate of
$125,000 to $175,000. It sold for $269,750. This work,
shown below, which has part of an American flag in the background
and the central figure doffing his top hat, is very painterly
and not as stylized as much of his later work in which figures
tended to become ovoid caricatures. The artist was also in influential
Lot 73, "The Defaced Portrait," by
Ben Shahn (1898-1969) is a 40-by-27-inch tempera on canvas that
is a superb work by this underrated artist that shows his bravura
draftsmanship and unusual composition sense. It has an estimate
of $50,000 to $75,000. It failed to sell.
The Magill Collection also has a nice pastel
sketch by Mary Cassatt (1844-1926," Lot 24, "Margot
in Big Bonnet and Red Dress, that was executed circa 1902 and
has an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000, and a more finished work
by her, Lot 21, entitled "Maternité," depicting
a mother suckling her baby, that has an ambitious estimate of
$800,000 to $1,200,000. Lot 24 sold for $253,250 and Lot 21
failed to sell.
The Magill Collection lots are interspersed
throughout the auction, which also has a very beautiful and strong
sketch by Cassatt, Lot 18, "Sara With Her Dog, In An Armchair,
Wearing A Bonnet With A Plum Ornament." Executed in 1901,
this lot has an estimate of $600,000 to $800,000 and is stunning
as are many of her deliberately unfinished works. It sold for
Among the highlights of the non-Magill works
in the auction is Lot 67, "Abstraction," by Marsden
Hartley (1878-1943), shown above, a 47-by-39 ½-inch oil
on canvas that was executed in 1913.
The Hartley predates his spectacular abstract
series of German military uniforms and, according to the catalogue,
is related to "Movements" at The Art Institute of Chicago
and "Painting No. 48" at the Brooklyn Museum of Art,
both also painted in 1913 when the artist was greatly influenced
by Wassily Kandinsky. The painting was an estimate of $2,000,000
to $3,000,000. It sold for $2,205,750.
Another fine early American modern work is
Lot 79, "Road to the Ranch (Road Past The View II),"
shown above, by Georgia OKeefe (1887-1986), a 24-by-30-inch
oil on canvas that was painted in 1964. It was at one time in
the collection of Calvin Klein. It has an estimate of $1,000,000
to $1,500,000. It failed to sell.
Lot 60, "Painting (Still Life),"
by Patrick Henry Bruce (1881-1936), is a 23 ½-by-36-inch
oil and pencil on canvas painted circa 1919. The quite abstract
work has an estimate of $1,000,000 to $1,500,000. It sold for
Lot 22, "Oregon Landscape," is a
quite interesting work by Childe Hassam (1859-1935) because of
the boldness of a narrow yellow band in the horizontal composition.
The 29-by-40-inch oil on canvas is dated 1908 and has an estimate
of only $150,000 to $200,000. It sold for $148,750. Another
Hassam, Lot 26, "Winter Nightfall in the City," a 25
½-by-33-inch oil on canvas, dated "Paris, 1889,"
has an estimate of $1,500,000 to $2,000,000. It sold for $1,545,750.
Lot 20, "Edge of the Emerald Pool, Yellowstone,"
by John Twachtman (1853-1902), shown above, is a superb example
of this artists abstract Impressionism. The 25-by-30-inch
oil on canvas was painted circa 1890 and has a very conservative
estimate of $150,000 to $250,000. It sold for $170,750.
A stunning still life of Iris flowers by John
Ferguson Weir, Lot 4, is very impressive especially since his
brother, Julian Alden Weir, was better known and a highly regarded
American Impressionist. This lovely work has a modest estimate
of $12,000 to $18,000. It sold for $16,800.
Lot 7, "The Milliner," is a fine
example of the very painterly work of Richard Edward Miller (1875-1943).
The 36 ½-inch square oil on canvas has an estimate of $600,000
to $800,000. It sold for $665,750. It is the back cover
illustration of the auctions catalogue.
Lot 125, "A Quiet Pool on a Sunny Day,"
is a pleasant but not too colorful watercolor of a fisherman casting
in a lake by Winslow Homer (1836-1910). The 12 ¾-by-19
¾-inch watercolor and pencil on board has an estimate of
$800,000 to $1,200,000. It failed to sell. Lot 135, "Autumn,
Mountainville, New York," is another Homer watercolor, 13
by 20 inches, that is a pleasant and more colorful landscape with
no figures. It is part of the Collection of Arthur and Holly Magill
and has an estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It sold for $335,750.
The auction has two large and impressive landscapes
by Thomas Hill (1829-1908) who is best known for his many scenes
of Yosemite. Both paintings were executed in 1869 and are of similar
size, approximately 36 by 60 inches. Lot 158 is "Yosemite
Valley" and Lot 159, shown above, is "Mount Washington,"
which is in New Hampshire. Each has an estimate of $125,000 to
$175,000. Lot 158 sold for $346,750. Lot 159 failed to sell.
The sale was quite successful with 81.82
percent of the 209 offered lots selling for a total of $41,162,250.
Lot 157A, "Mount Moran, Teton Range," by Thomas Moran
(1837-1926) sold for $2,535,750. Lot 99, "The Quaker,"
by Andrew Wyeth (b. 1917) sold for $2,205,750.