By Carter B. Horsley
many of the other major sales this auction has few masterpieces
but several important watercolors and a nice selection of good
paintings across the broad range of this category.
It is highlighted by two large watercolors by Winslow Homer
Lots 10 and 14, both consigned from "a distinguished Southern
Lot 10, "Fresh Flowers," shown at the top of this article,
is a 1885 watercolor by Homer that measures 14 1/2 by 21 inches
and was sold at Sotheby's December 1, 1988. It is a fine example
of Homer's luminous work in the Bahamas and an excellent composition
that is notably for its angled building line, the marvelous treatment
of the pink color of the building's base, the strong punctuation
of the vertical and horizontal lines of the balcony railing and
shutters, and the very fine handling of the young man trying to
sell a few flowers in his raised hand. It has an estimate of $1,500,000
to $2,500,000. It failed to sell. The first session of this
auction was fairly successful with almost 80 percent of the 88
offered lots selling for a total of $14,785,450. Fine Hudson River
School paintings and good still lifes did exceptionally well.
The catalogue notes that "an engraving of Fresh Flowers
appeared in 1887 as an illustration for a comprehensive article
on Nassau in Century Magazine.
"Sponge Fishermen, Bahamas," shown above, is a 11-by-20
1/8-inch watercolor, gouache and pencil on paper by Homer, circa
1884-5. A freer and looser work than Lot 10, this watercolor shows
Homer's great affinity for the sea. It has an estimate of $1,000,000
to $1,500,000. It sold for $996,000 including the buyer's
as do all results mentioned in this article.
"The subject of sponge fishing provided Homer with an ideal
means to depict the extraordinary landscape of Nassau while providing
factual information about the island., As such, they have become
some of his most celebrated works," the catalogue remarking,
adding the following quotation from H. Hooper's 1986 book, "Winslow
"In both subject and technique, Homer's scenes of the local
sponge fishing industry define his Bahamas work. The palette of
Sponge Fishing, Nassau.[is] brighter, the washes more and more
transparent. One also sees a greater exploitation of accidental
effects, and an increased suggestiveness, fluidity and freedom
Homer is America's greatest artist.
"Green and silver - The Bright Sea, Dieppe," shown above,
is a fine watercolor and gouache on paper, 10 by 7 1/8 inches
by James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), circa 1883. The catalogue
notes that the work was "possibly re-worked and signed again
in 1885. It bears two of the artist's famous "butterfly devices"
with which he used to "sign" his works for much of his
career. "Margaret MacDonald notes that the right side, with
the original butterfly, was concealed when the picture was first
framed for exhibition in 1886, adding that "The narrow format
emphasized the striking diagonal of the beach and gave the composition
more impact.The brushwork is wild and full of life." This
lot has a very conservative estimate of $150,000 to $250,000.
It sold for $600,000.
Lot 36, "Palazzo Labbia, Venice," by John Singer Sargent,
watercolor on paper, 10 by 14 inches, is a nice example of the
artist's work in Venice and has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000.
While not as colorful and dramatic as some of his other Venetian
watercolors, it is a full composition. It failed to sell and
was "passed" at $75,000.
Sargent watercolor, Lot 31, "A Palace and Gardens, Spain,"
shown above, is considerably more dashing than Lot 36. This watercolor
measures 18 1/8 by 12 1/8 inches and has the same $100,000 to
$150,000 estimate as Lot 36. It failed to sell and was
Sargent is also represented in the auction by a very nice "Portrait
of Caspar Goodrich," Lot 25, an oil on canvas, 26 1/8 by
19 1/8 inches. It has an estimate of $1,000,000 to $1,500,000
and is a fine example of the artist's bravura painterliness. It
sold for $1,546,000. It was the back cover illustration of the
has two fine watercolors by John James Audubon (1785-1851), Lots
4 and 19, both consigned by "an important private collection."
The former, "A Pair of Boat-Tailed Grackles," shown
above, is a watercolor, ink, pencil and pastel on paper, 10 5/8
by 14 inches. These birds are among the largest in North America
and the males can grow to almost a foot and a half in length.
He drew a similar pair in 1821 on a trip on the Mississippi River
and that watercolor, a vertical composition, is in the collection
of the New York Historical Society and about 10 years later did
another composition that was engraved by Robert Havell for "The
Birds of America," Audubon's masterwork. "Audubon frequently
made multiple watercolors of the same species of birds, often
re-working poses and subjects before selecting the most characteristic
composition for the final, engraved image. Of the known extant
watercolors of the Boat-Tailed Grackle, the example in the New
York Historical Society relates closely to this image, with the
pose of the birds altered here to create a dramatic, horizontal
composition.Here, however, the artist also places the male in
front of the brown-feathered female, and overlaps the tails of
the birds, and depicts both with crisp, precise details, finished
with exceptionally refined pencil lines to create a vivid iridescence
on the feathers of the grackles. And, with a naturalist's touch,
Audubon includes the species' egg in a corner of the composition,"
the catalogue notes.
This lot has a conservative estimate of $100,000 to $150,000.
It sold for $226,000.
Lot 19, "A Chaffinch, Bullfinch and Greenfinch on a Branch
of Budding Chestnuts," by John James Audubon is a watercolor,
ink, pencil and pastel on paper, that measures 14 3/4 by 10 3/4
inches and is dated 1827. It has an estimate of $150,000 to $250,000.
It sold for $248,000.
of Audubon's birds might also find considerable interest in Lot
17, "Partridges in a Landscape," by Rubens Peale (1784-1864),
a 20 1/4-by-27-inch oil on canvas. The artist was one of Charles
Willson Peale's 17 children and unlike his brothers, James, Raphaelle
and Titian, took up painting late in his life. He did a series
of game pictures, such as this in the 1860s. It has an estimate
of $150,000 to $250,000. It failed to sell.
has several good Hudson River School landscapes. Lot 3, "Landscape
with Waterfall," is a very nice oil on canvas, 9 7/8 by 8
inches, by John Frederick Kensett (1816-1872. The painting which
is reminiscent of some of his depictions of Bash-Bish Falls has
an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for $110,000.
Lot 6, "Mount
Merino On The Hudson," is a very fine oil on canvas, 7 1/2
by 15 1/2 inches, by Sanford Robinson Gifford (1823-1880). A classic
Gifford, it has an estimate of $70,000 to $100,000. It sold
(1793-1856) is believed to have been the first American artist,
according to the catalogue, "to devote himself exclusively
to landscaping painting, and his romantic depictions of the Northeast
reflect a unique bond between man and nature." Lot 18, "Autumn
Landscape," is a very large painting by Doughty, an oil on
canvas that measures 56 1/2 by 70 1/2 inches, shown above. It
is signed and dated "Boston 1835." Doughty's work are
quite poetic and have a soft, almost pastel-like palette. This
work, which was consigned by "a European collection,"
has a somewhat ambitious estimate, probably reflecting its large
size, of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold for $292,000.
Trost Richards (1833-1905) was a very prolific painter, mostly
of coastal scenes, whose best work are exquisite small watercolors.
Lot 22, "Harbor Entrance on Bull Point, Newport, Rhode Island,"
is a dramatic oil on canvas, 32 by 55 7/8 inches that was executed
This painting was commissioned by Isaac Hallowell Clothier, a
founder of the famous Strawbridge & Clothier Department Store
in Philadelphia for their home, "Ballytore," in Wynnewood,
Pennsylvania. It shows their Newport "cottage" that
the catalogue notes was probably designed by C. L. Bevins who
had designed the nearby "cottage," "Marbella,"
for Joseph Wharton, Clothier's close friend and "fellow Philadelphia
Quaker." The catalogue provides the following interesting
quotation from Jamestown Affairs: A Miscellany of Historical
Flashbacks by S. Maden and P. Hodgkin, published in 1996:
"Any voyager sailing into Narragansett Bay for the first
time during the last years of the 19th Century or the first 66
years of this might have thought he was seeing double - two almost
identical mansions, each graced by a domed tower, and each standing
prominently on a headland on the Conanicut shore. A closer look
would have shown that they were not quite as much alike as it
might at first have seemed and of course they were not really
mansions, only large summer 'cottages,' and very modest by Newport
standards. 'Marbella,' now called 'Horsehead,' stood and still
stands on Southwest point; and 'Harbor Entrance,' later named
'Ragged Edge,' but more commonly known simply as the Clothier
House, stood on Bull Point."
This painting has an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. It
to sell and was "passed" at $170,000.
One of the
auction's highlights is Lot 28, "Flora de Stephano, The Artist's
Model," a superb pastel on paper, 20 1/2 by 18 1/4 inches,
by Robert Frederick Blum (1857-1903). Blum was a master of pastel
and was a founder, along with William Merritt Chase and J. Carroll
Beckwith in 1882 of the Society of Painters in Pastel. "Pastels
such as Flora de Stephano depict startlingly beautiful images
by the artist that capture an almost jewel-like quality of light.
His subject here is his close companion and romantic love of many
years, Flora de Stephano. She appears in numerous works. In this
dramatically drawn pastel, Blum's use of brilliant vermilion highlights
on her dress offers a tour de force of his control
handling of color. The reddish-orange tint dances across the surface
of the pastel, creating a sumptuous effect.With characteristic
wit and truthfulness, Oscar Wilde is reported to have remarked
to this friend, 'Blum, your exquisite pastels give me the sensation
of eating yellow satin,'" the catalogue noted.
This lot has a conservative estimate of $100,000 to $150,000.
It sold for $303,000.
illustration of the catalogue is Lot 35, "Orchid and Hummingbird,
After a Storm," a very fine and luscious oil on canvas, 15
by 20 inches, by Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904). This painting
was once in the collection of Mr. and Mrs. George Arden of New
York and has an estimate of $800,000 to $1,200,000. It sold
for $1,326,000. Heade is known for his fine marsh landscapes
of New England, his sultry landscapes of Florida and South America,
his lush floral still lifes, particularly magnolias, and his
hummingbirds and orchid studies, such as this.
William Michael Harnett (1848-1892) is the most famous American
trompe l'oeil painter and Lot 7, "Still Life with
Lobster, Fruit, Champagne and Newspaper," is a fine small
work by him. An oil on canvas that measures 10 by 8 1/4 inches,
it was painted in Munich in 1882 and has a modest estimate of
$120,000 to $180,000. This work is quite impressive given its
small size. It sold for $182,000.
Fruit wrapped in tissue paper were a favorite subject of William
McCloskey but Lot 9, "Still Life with Oranges and Raisins"
demonstrates that such subjects were also treated with great skill
by some other artists. This very nice oil on canvas measures 9
1/8 by 13 1/8 inches and was painted in 1890 by Lemuel Everett
Wilmarth (1835-1918) and has an estimate of $60,000 to $80,000.
It sold for $154,500.
American Impressionists are represented with good works by Childe
Hassam (1859-1935), John Henry Twachtman (1853-1902) and Julian
Alden Weir (1852-1919).
Lot 62, "Dock Scene, Gloucester," shown above, is a
24-by-20-inch oil on canvas that is dated 1896. It has a slightly
ambitious estimate of $1,000,000 to $1,500,000. It sold for
$1,051,000. "Through Hassam's Impressionist gaze,"
the catalogue entry observed, "the timeless beauty and tranquility
of the quiet fishing village of Gloucester is poignantly recorded
in Dock Scene, Gloucester. Gloucester, like Appledore and Cos
Cob, Connecticut, offered Hassam the ability to escape from the
oppressive and mundane life in the city and allowed his mind to
wander and retreat into the depths of his own imagination."
"Autumn Mists," shown above, is an excellent and poetic
landscape by John Henry Twachtman. An oil on canvas that measures
25 by 30 inches and has a modest estimate of $150,000 to $250,000.
It sold for $248,000.
Lot 70, "The Lace Maker," by Julian Alden Weir, is a
lovely oil on canvas, 30 1/4 by 25 3/8 inches, that was once in
the collection of Mrs. Percy Uris. It has a modest estimate of
$100,000 to $150,000. It failed to sell.
(1867-1938) is consistently impressive for his very bold palette
and strong compositions and Lot 83, "Evening Tones,"
shown above, is an excellent example of his style. An oil on canvas,
it measures 14 1/8 by 20 inches and was executed 1911-1917 and,
according to the catalogue, was also titled "Bronx River
at Mt. Vernon." It has a modest estimate of $50,000 to $70,000.
It sold for $380,000.
Another good modernist work is Lot 88, "Synchromist Nude,"
by Morgan Russell (1886-1953), an oil on canvas, 25 1/8 by 19
3/4 inches. Executed in 1913, this very strong and colorful work
has a modest estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for
Western works is a very fine oil on canvas, 12 by 18 1/4 inches,
by Cornelius Krieghoff (1812-1872) entitled "Indian Campfire
at Big Rock," Lot 49, shown above. It has a conservative
estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for $41,125.
There are also several good works by Charles Marion Russell (1864-1926).
Lot 51, "The Battle Between the Blackfeet and the Piegans,"
is a strong watercolor, gouache and pencil on paper by Russell
that measures 14 3/4 by 21 1/4 inches and is dated 1897. It has
an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. It failed to sell and
was "passed" at $190,000.
Another excellent Russell watercolor is Lot 39, "Indian Scouting
Party," an 1897 watercolor on paper that measures 20 3/4
by 29 1/4 inches and has an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000.
It sold for $380,000.
Lot 42, "The Attack," is a 18 1/2-by-24 3/8-inch oil
on board by Russell that is dated 1900 and was once in the collection
of the Amon Carter Museum of Western Art in Fort Worth, Texas.
It has an estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It sold for
One of the
highlights of the 65 American works from The Forbes Collection
that are being auctioned immediately after the above sale, and
which are included in a separate catalogue, is Lot 121, "Buffalo
Hunt," a major oil on canvas, dated 1897, by Charles Marion
Russell. The 23 7/8-by-36-inch painting, shown above, has an estimate
of $800,000 to $1,200,000. It failed to sell.
The catalogue provides the following commentary on this lot:
"Buffalo hunt epitomizes Russell's mission of glorifying
and preserving the spirit of the West. Russell's dramatic use
of composition and color further accentuates the heroic imagery
of the buffalo hunt. Staged against the sweeping plains of Montana,
Russell charges the foreground with intense energy and movement
captured in the escaping buffalo and charging horses."
Russell moved from St. Louis to Helena, Montana in 1880 at the
age of 16 and worked as a ranch hand and cowboy and in 1893 decided
to become an artist. His work is much more authentic and colorful
and energetic than that of Frederick Remington.
auction was not as successful as the earlier session at Christie's
the same day and less than 79 percent of the lots sold for a total
of $4,587,075, and many of the better lots sold below their low
The Forbes Collection has a good selection of Western Art and
one of the other highlights is Lot 114, a set of eight drawings,
each 14 by 10 1/2 inches, by George Catlin (1796-1872) of "North
American Indians from the Duke of Portland Album. The lot has
a modest estimate of $60,000 to $80,000. It sold for $41,125.
Lot 111, "Moose at Waterhole," is a quaintly primitive
oil on canvas, not as finely drawn as the drawings, by Catlin
that measures 19 by 26 3/4 inches and is dated 1854. It has an
estimate of $60,000 to $80,000.
Lot 115, "Putting on the War Shoes," is a good oil on
canvas, 24 1/8 by 29 1/4 inches, by Eanger Irving Couse (1866-1936).
It has a modest estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for
Lot 120, "Beginning of a Lonely Night," is a good oil
on canvas, 40 3/4 by 50 inches, by Frank Tenney Johnson (1874-1939).
It has a modest estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It failed
Lot 107, "Grand Canyon," is a 10 1/4-by-12 3/8-inch
oil on canvas by Thomas Moran (1837-1926) that is one of the artist's
more muted scenes of the canyon, which was one of his favorite
subjects. It has an estimate of $150,000 to $250,000. It sold
Lot 106, "Western Trail, The Rockies," is a good oil
on paper, 14 by 19 1/8 inches, by Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902)
that shows a covered wagon ascending a trail high up in the mountains
with a stunning vista of a snow-capped peak nearby. It has a modest
estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $94,000.
"Mount Moran," shown above, is a 22 1/2-by-31-inch watercolor
on paper by Edward Hopper (1882-1967) that was once in the collection
of Stephen C. Clark. The mountain is named after Thomas Moran,
the artist, see above, and is located in the Grand Tetons in Wyoming.
This lot has an estimate of $600,000 to $800,000. It sold for
"Piñons with Cedar," is a very stunning oil on
canvas, 30 by 26 inches, by Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986). Painted
in 1956, it has a modest estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It
sold for $314,000.
The catalogue provides the following commentary on this lot:
"As is true with all of Georgia O'Keefe's finest works, the
strength of Piñons with Cedar lies in its careful
balance o realism and abstraction, its intricate layering of objective
and subjective meaning, its wonderful synthesis of form and color.
Painted in 1956, after the artists had settled in New Mexico,
the work reflects the intense spirituality and wonder that she
associated with the landscape. It was during the spring of 1956
that O'Keefe spent two months in Peru. She was fascinated by the
mountainous landscape, and her sketchbooks from the trip were
filled with pencil drawings that captured the striking silhouettes
of her favorite peaks. In this fully realized painting, O'Keefe
juxtaposes the majesty of a tall cedar tree and the lush compactness
of the piñon pine against a similar mountain landscape.The
tree became an important element of O'Keefe's imagery in 1943
when she began to paint the cottonwood trees that spread outside
her bedroom and studio windows at her home in Abiquiu, New Mexico.
She continued to develop this theme throughout her career - the
earliest sharp and angular versions gave way, overtime to more
attenuated and ethereal representations. In Piñons with
Cedar, O'Keefe imbues the trees, particularly the dead cedar,
with this same ethereal quality, creating an almost otherworldly
effect. A neutral palette with characteristically warm earth tones,
broken only the lush green of the pinion pine, contribute to the
overall sense of softness and silence. It is this layering of
visual and spiritual interpretations of the landscape that makes
Piñons with Cedar a characteristically remarkable
cover illustration is a detail from Lot 102, "Moorish Courtyard,"
by John Singer Sargent (1856-1925). This 28-by-36-inch oil on
canvas was executed in 1913. The catalogue notes that in this
work, "the artist examines the juxtaposition of the intricately
carved ornamental details of the building's architecture, with
the rustic function that it serves and with the two donkeys that
inhabit the space.The painting is an intricate, delicate web of
textures.Moorish Courtyard was
in Granada in the autumn of 1912 when Sargent visited Spain with
his sister, Emily, and close friends and frequent traveling companions,
Jane and Wilfrid de Glehn. One of the most striking aspects of
the picture is its unusual perspective. Here, Sargent is clearly
interested in the formal aspects of painting, and by skewing the
perspective he has made the composition as important as the subject
that he depicts.As one of Sargent's finest realizations of his
abstracted architectural subject pictures, Moorish Courtyard
ranks as a monument to his achievement outside of his brilliant
oeuvre of portraiture and establishes his work at the end of his
career as among the most innovative of his day."
It has a modest estimate of $1,000,000 to $1,500,000. It
du Bois (1884-1958) was one of the most stylish and ironic painters
of the 1920s and 1930s and Lot 137, "Filibuster," is
a superb example of his work. An oil on canvas, 20 by 16 inches,
it has a modest estimate of $60,000 to $80,000. It sold for
Lot 136, "Children - Washington Square Park," shown
above, by William James Glackens is a very charming and fine oil
on canvas, 25 by 30 1/4 inches by this colorful Ash-Can School
artist. This painting was one of the highlights of the recent
exhibition, "Homage to the Square: Picturing Washington Square,"
that was held at the Berry-Hill Galleries in New York, May-July,
2001 (see The
City Review article). It has a modest
estimate of $250,000 to
$300,000. It failed to sell.
"Seeing the New Year In," by Paul Cadmus (1904-1999),
certainly must have been a very popular painting for Mr. Forbes
who was a legendary party-giver. An oil and tempera on linen mounted
on panel, it measures 30 by 38 inches and has an estimate of $400,000
to $600,000. It sold for $314,000.
"There is a decidedly personal reason behind every painting
I've ever bought, which is as it should be, because, frankly,
I haven't the knowledge or yen to concentrate on any one period
or artist," Malcolm Forbes, the founder of Forbes Magazine,
is quoted in the preface to the catalogue for this auction. "These
things make you think," the exuberant and zestful publisher,