After several quite
successful American paintings auctions, Phillips de Pury &
Luxembourg did not hold one in the spring of 2003, but it is back
with an early fall auction that is highlighted by several lovely
Hudson River School landscapes, a strong, small winter scene by
Ralph Albert Blakelock (1847-1919), and very good still lifes
by Joseph Decker (1853-1924) and George Forster (1817-1896).
Although it does not contain any blockbusters, the offering is
of generally high quality.
Lot 9, "Near Sunset," for example, is a very fine small
oil by John Frederick Kensett (1816-1870). The work was executed
circa 1850s and is on artist's board. It measures 9 ¼ by
14 inches, and is a classic lake scene with a beautiful, Luminist
handling of light. It has a modest estimate of $40,000 to $60,000.
It failed to sell and was passed at $38,000. The sale was a
major disappointment with less than 54 percent of the offered
Sanford Robinson Gifford
(1823-1880) is another major Hudson River School painter who is
valued highly for his luminist works. Lot 21, "A Sketch of
Manchester, Mass.," is a fine oil on canvas that measures
8 7/8 by 18 5/8 inches. Dated 1865, it is one of 10 oil sketches,
according to Ila Weiss, that "Gifford in the company of James
Suydam and Worthington Whittredge painted along the Massachusetts
coast during July and August, 1865." The catalogue notes
that "Although Gifford described Manchester's scenery as
'simple, without being monotonous,' his innate Luminist sensibilities
enabled him to transcend this straightforward description. It
has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It failed to sell
and was passed at $85,000.
Suydam (1819-1865) has in recent years been revalued as an excellent
Luminist painter. Lot 33, "Conway Meadows," is a very
nice oil on canvas that measures 11 by 20 inches and was exhibited
at the National Academy of Design's Annual Exhibition in 1858,
Boston Atheneaeum in 1858 and the Washington D.C. Art Association
in 1859. It has an estimate of $150,000 to $250,000. It sold
for $174,500 including the buyer's premium.
The catalogue provides the following commentary:
"Conway Meadows is almost certainly a scene of the North
Conway Meadows in New Hampshire, with the Presidential range including
Mount Washington in the far distance, and the Saco River in the
foreground. Compared to what had already become the more familiar
scenery of the area, such as Mount Chocorua and Moat Mountain,
Suyden's expansive sunstruck meadow belies the height of the distant
mountains, and emphasizes instead the pastoral qualities of the
landscape and the brilliant light of a late summer day. By placing
the viewer at grounjd level, Suydam also resists the easy temptation
of a symbolic 'prospect,' first enclosing us with golden-hued
trees, quietly rippling waters, and long, cooling shadows, before
we discover the majestic vista beyond. The empty rowboat on the
riverbank seems to invite the conclusion that it is we who have
just disembarked to enjoy both the warmth and the scenery, and
to meditate upon the simple gifts of natural beauty that our travels
with the artist have afforded us."
Durand (1796-1886) is one of the principal painters of the Hudson
River School, which was founded by Thomas Cole. Lot 18, "Hill,
Dale and Bracken," is a pleasant Durand landscape. It is
an oil on canvas laid down on masonite. It measures 20 by 30 1/3
inches and has a very modest estimate of $10,000 to $15,000. It
sold for $13,145.
(1847-1908) is best known for his small and highly detailed landscapes.
Lot 19, "Ossipee Lake, N.H., is a very nice oil on panel
that measures 7 ½ by 12 ½ inches. Dated 1872, it
has a modest estimate of $15,000 to $25,000. It sold for $19,120.
known than Johnson is Hermann Fueschel (1833-1915). Lot 14, "Log
Cabin along the Hudson," is a very handsome and colorful
oil on canvas by him that measures 20 by 36 inches. It has an
estimate of $15,000 to $20,000. It failed to sell and was passed
many very competent landscape painters whose works remain relatively
obscure. Lot 2, for example, is a very good oval oil on canvas
by Walter Mason Oddie (1808-1865). Entitled "Autumn afternoon,"
it measures 25 by 29 ¾ inches and is dated 1851. It has
a modest estimate of $8,000 to $12,000.
The auction has some early landscapes.
Allston (1779-1843) is one of America's first romantic painters
and his works are very rare. Lot 1, "Landscape," is
a charming small work by Allston that the catalogue notes "appears
to be a variation of a similar larger work that is in the collection
of the Detroit Institute of Arts. This oil on canvas measures
13 by 11 ¾ inches and was executed circa 1830. It has a
very modest estimate of $7,000 to $10,000. It sold for $17,925.
Henry Bartlett (1809-1854) is best known for his scenes of the
Hudson River in the early 1840s. Although his style is not as
precise as that of the members of the Hudson River School, his
works are charming and were very popular. Lot 5, "View of
Sing-Sing, Hudson River," is a typical example of his style.
An oil on wood panel, it measures 10 ¾ by 13 ¾ inches
and is dated 1843. It has a modest estimate of $6,000 to $8,000.
It failed to sell. His works are similar to those by William
Wall who was active in the 1820s.
The auction also has several excellent genre lots.
Chapman (1842-1913) is best known for his bright beach scenes.
Lot 3 is a delightful pair of French scenes, one summer, at Trouville,
and one winter, at the Bois de Boulogne. Both works are oil on
palette and measure about 9 ½ by 6 ¾ inches. They
were executed in 1880 and have a conservative estimate of $15,000
to $20,000. It failed to sell.
William Morris Hunt (1824-1879) do not appear often at auction
and Lot 7 is a fine small work. Entitled "Young Girl at Table
with Sculpture," it is an oil on canvas that measures 10
by 14 inches. It has a very conservative estimate of $4,000 to
$6,000. It sold for $4,780.
painted by Hunt in Lot 7 is similar to a degree to the lovely
but older "Little Servant," painted by John George Brown
(1831-1913) in Lot 45. Both are also similar to girls often painted
by Winslow Homer. Brown was one of the most popular genre painters
of the mid-19th Century and his most popular subject was shoeshine
boys. This oil on canvas measures 30 ¼ by 25 3/8 inches.
It has an estimate of $60,000 to $80,000. It sold for $65,725.
fine still life paintings is Lot 31, "Grapes on a White Table
Cloth," an exquisite oil on canvas by Joseph Decker (1853-1924).
The painting was executed circa 1890-5 and measures 9 by 14 inches.
It was exhibited in 1988 at the Coe Kerr Gallery's show on Decker.
It has an estimate of $45,000 to $65,000. It failed to sell
and was passed at $32,000.
excellent still-life is Lot 38, "Fruit Piece with Birds Nest
and Lizard," by George Forster. This very lush and exotic
still life is dated 1844. An oil on panel, it measures 10 ¼
by 7 ¾ inches. It has a modest estimate of $20,000 to $30,000.
It failed to sell and was passed at $17,000.
"Still Life with Fruit," is a lovely and excellent still
life by Mary Jane Peale (1826-1902), a member of the very prodigious
and artistic Peale family of Philadelphia. The oil on canvas measures
12 7/8 by 20 ¾ inches and is dated 1862. It has an estimate
of $100,000 to $150,000. It failed to sell and was passed at
$68,000. Mary Jane Peale was a daughter of Rubens Peale, a
son of Charles Wilson Peale.
Blakelock was one of America's most poetic painters, although
he was overshadowed by Albert Pinkham Ryder, whose works were
both poetic and abstract. Blakelock is best known for his moonlit
scenes with dark emerald-green silhouetted trees. He also did
numerous very small paintings that are exceptionally painterly
and with a richer, brighter and more colorful palette. Lot 27,
"Winter Landscape," is a stunning albeit small oil on
canvas that measures 4 by 6 ¾ inches. It has a very modest
estimate of $5,000 to $7,000. It sold for $6,214.
Bradford (1823-1893) is known for his Artic marine paintings,
many of which are large and very dramatic. He also, however, produced
some brilliant Luminist works as well as some small scenes that
are strongly abstract, an excellent example of which is Lot 41,
"Perce Rock, Gaspé, Quebec." An oil on paper
laid down on board, it measures 9 ¾ by 10 7/8 inches. It
has a modest estimate of $15,000 to $20,000. It failed to sell
and was passed at $10,000.
results were difficult to explain as many of the earlier works
in the beginning of the auction were quite nice and by and large
not unreasonably estimated. The auction house was the subject
of a long article in the November issue of Vanity Fair
magazine that discussed some of its recent financial problems.
The article, however, did not discuss in any detail the American
Paintings Department at Phillips de Pury and Luxembourg, which
up until this auction has been one of its few profitable departments
and had held several excellent auctions.