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Important American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture

Christie's

10AM, December 2, 2004

Sale 1440

"The Red Maple at Lake George" by O'Keeffe

Lot 99, "The Red Maple at Lake George," by Georgia O'Keeffe, oil on canvas, 36 by 30 inches, 1926

By Carter B. Horsley

This American Art auction at Christie's December 2, 2004 is highlighted by two fine paintings by Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986), two good works by Childe Hassam (1859-1935), and fine works by Robert Henri (1865-1929), Everett Shinn (1876-1953), and George Bellows (1882-1925), a rare and excellent painting by Edward Steichen (1879-1973) and a fine New York City scene by Ben Shahn (1898-1969).

Georgia O'Keeffe is one of the great American modernists whose magnified depictions of nature were voluptuous and wonderfully abstract. She was very prolific and her compositions were consistently intriguing and interesting, although the works varied considerably in painterliness. The two O'Keeffes in this auction are outstanding.

Lot 99, "The Red Maple at Lake George," is a very vibrant O'Keeffe that is an oil on canvas that measures 36 by 30 inches and was executed in 1926. It is a study of a red maple leaf in autumn that is startling because of its sharp edges and rich blacks that give it a formality and elegance that intensifies its focus. It has a modest estimate of $600,000 to $800,000 and it sold for $2,191,500 including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article.

The auction was reasonably successful with 85 percent of the 130 offered lots selling for a total of $24,561,420, but there was considerable inconsistency in the prices realized.

"Road to the Ranch" by O'Keeffe

Lot 104, "Road to the Ranch," by Georgia O'Keeffe, oil on canvas, 24 by 30 inches, 1964

Lot 104, "Road to the Ranch," shows a completely different side to O'Keeffe. Rather than a magnified confrontation with a small segment of nature that is boldly organic, this is a subtle and very poetic, expansive and abstract landscape. An oil on canvas that measures 24 by 30 inches, it was acquired from the artist in 1983 by Calvin Klein.

The catalogue provides the following commentary:

"In December 1945, O'Keeffe bought a house in Abiquiu, New Mexico, subsequently named Ghost Ranch, overlooking the Chama River Valley and a short distance from the high desert. In 1948, after several years of renovation, the house became her permanent residence for the next thirty-five years and the locale became the source of inspiration for her late works....Road to the Ranch was painted in 1964 and depicts the winding road leading to Ghost Ranch with a view of the Abiquiu Mesa in the distance....The beauty of Road to the Ranch lies not only in the abstract quality of a minimalist landscape, but also in the artist's exploration of color, form and light. The canvas depicts a minimally layered landscape consisting of plains, hills, mesas and mountains in the far distance. Their form is defined by the simultaneous presence and lack of color. The plains in the foreground are formed by a pure white field which bleeds into the orange hue of the nearby hills. The mesa beyond is a solid purple mass, which abuts against the pale blue presence of distant mountains.,......Through this minimalist landscape runs the ranch road, a simple, snake-like line which slithers into the distance, leading the viewer toward's O'Keeffe's unseen Ghost Ranch. The simplicity and power of an undulating line to define something as physical as a road, was termed by O'Keeffe's teacher and mentor, Arhtur Wesley Dow as 'round-corneredness - the power generated when a curve and an angle combine.' The line creates a rhythmic effect which was a major component in Okeeffe's later pictures."

The lot has a modest estimate of $500,000 to $700,000. It sold for $545,100.

"Equestrian Portrait of George Washington" by Rembrandt Peale

Lot 16, "Equestrian Portrait of George Washington," by Rembrandt Peale, oil on paper laid down on board, 30 by 25 inches

Lot 16 is a very good equestrian portrait of George Washington by Rembrandt Peale (1778-1860). An oil on paper laid down on board, it measures 30 by 25 inches. It has an estimate of $600,000 to $800,000. It sold for $1,071,500.

The catalogue provides the following commentary on this lot:

"One of the last artists to paint George Washington from life, Rembrandt Peale produced his first likeness of President Washington in 1795, at just seventeen years of age. At the artist's request, the sitting was arranged by his father, Charles Willson Peale, both men aware that this portrait sketch...could serve as a model for subsequent paintings...."

"Newport Harbor and the Home of Ida Lewis" by Kensett

Lot 3, "Newport Harbor and the Home of Ida Lewis," by John F. Kensett, oil on canvas, 10 1/2 by 19 1/2 inches, circa 1870

The auction has a nice selection of 19th Century landscape paintings. Lot 3 is a very nice work by John F. Kensett (1816-1872), entitled "Newport Harbor and the Home of Ida Lewis." It is an oil on canvas that measures 10 1/2 by 19 1/2 inches and was executed circa 1870. "Kensett," the catalogue entry noted, "was acquainted with the family of George Jones, a prominent New Yorker and long-time pillar of Newport. George Jones was the father of Edith Newbold Jones Wharton, the great American novelist who would immortalize New York and Newport society in classics such as The Age of Innocence. Newport Harbor and the Home of Ida Lewis depicts Newport Harbor from the lawn of the home of George Jones. In the middle distance is the home of Ida Lewis, the famed Harbor Mistress of Newport and the first woman to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor."

The lot has a modest estimte of $100,000 to $150,000. It failed to sell.

"Coming Rain on Lake George" by Gifford

Lot 21, "Coming Rain on Lake George: a Sketch," by Sanford Robinson Gifford, oil on canvas, 11 by 19 1/4 inches, 1873

There are three good works by Sanford Robinson Gifford (1823-1880) in this auction. Lot 21 is a preliminary study for a major work known as "A Sudden Storm, Lake George," which is in a private collection. This painting is an oil on canvas that measures 11 by 19 1/4 inches and is dated 1873. It has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold for $220,300.

Lot 12, "The Beach at Cohasset," is a fine coastal scene by Gifford that is an oil on canvas that measures 9 1/2 by 19 1/4 inches. Dated 1864, it has an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000. It failed to sell.

Lot 2, "Mount Whiteface from Lake Placid" is a good Gifford oil on canvas that measures 6 1/4 by 12 1/4 inches. It has an estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. It sold for $107,550.

"Nevada Falls" by Bierstadt

Lot 78, "Nevada Falls," by Albert Bierstadt, oil on paper laid down on canvas, 22 1/2 by 15 3/4 inches

The auction has several works by Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902). The best is Lot 78, "Nevada Falls," a scene often painted by Thomas Hill. This painting is an oil on paper laid down on canvas. It measures 22 1/2 by 15 3/4 inches. It has a modest estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. It sold for $101,575.

"Landscape, Rockland County, California" by Bierstadt

Lot 70, "Landscape, Rockland County, California," by Albert Bierstadt, oil on paper laid down on canvas, 19 1/4 by 26 1/2 inches, circa 1872

Lot 70 is an interesting landscape composition by Bierstadt of Rockland County, California. An oil on paper laid down on canvas, it measures 19 1/4 by 26 1/2 inches. It was executed circa 1872. It has an ambitious estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. It failed to sell.

Lot 75, "Campfire Site, Yosemite," is an impressive night scene by Albert Bierstadt that was painted circa 1873 and measures 30 by 24 inches. It has an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. It sold for $522,700.

Lot 1, "Forest Interior," is a fine autumnal scene by William Trost Richards (1833-1905). An oil on canvas that measures 12 by 10 inches, it has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for $276,300.

"Sailing a Dory" by Homer

Lot 65, "Sailing a Dory," by Winslow Homer, watercolor, pencil and gouache on paper, 9 1/4 by 13 1/4 inches, 1880

Lot 65 is a strong, unsigned watercolor, pencil and gouache on paper by Winslow Homer. Executed in 1880, it mesaures 9 1/4 by 13 inches and is entitled "Sailing a Dory." It has an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. It was offered at Christie's May 25, 1999 when it had an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000 and was then passed at $431,000. A more famous marine artist, of course, is Winslow Homer, and Christie’s has two of his watercolors, Lots 11 and 21. The 1999 catalogue quoted Helen Cooper from her 1986 book, "Winslow Homer Watercolors," as noting that that year "Homer’s use of color took a great leap forward, and whole sheets became embodiments of a new found coloristic energy...Simplifying his palette to Prussian blue, cobalt, vermilion, yellow ocher, and black and selecting a heavily grained wove watercolor paper, Homer began each watercolor study over the barest graphite sketch, relying on color alone, blocking the principal masses and tones, and accomplishing the overall structure of the composition in color rather than in line." The composition in this unsigned work is very strong, although the sky lacks subtlety. It was exhibited at the National Gallery of Art in Washington in a Homer retrospective in 1958-9. This auction catalogue provides the following commentary: "Sailing a Dory retains delicately toned washes that typify Homer's best watercolors. The reflections that dominate the foreground are filled with varied washes of blues. He has used innovative techniques such as sponging and scaping to animate the surface of the sheet. This technique effectively evokes the gentle movement and shimmer of the water and the canopy of blue sky overhead. Homer has enlivened his dramatic tonal coloring with subtle, brilliant touches of orange and yellow, especially in the delicate mast and its reflection, and the straw-colored hat on the boy's head. To formulate the figure, Homer first carefully drew in pencil and then painted the delicate tones. The entire composition is unified by Homer's careful observation of light and atmosphere." This lot sold for $679,500.

"Cathedral Spires, Spring Morning" by Hassam

Lot 49, "Cathedral Spires, Spring Morning," by Childe Hassam, oil on canvas, 36 by 26 inches, 1900

Lot 49 is a very nice scene of Fifth Avenue in New York with the spires of St. Patrick's Cathedral in the background by Childe Hassam. An oil on canvas that measures 36 by 26 inches, it was painted in 1900 and was consigned by the University of Southern California, which has been given it as a bequest by the family of Frank Sinatra. It has an estimate of $2,000,000 to $3,000,000. It failed to sell.

"Mrs. Hassam in the Garden" by Hassam

Lot 29, "Mrs. Hassam in the Garden," by Childe Hassam, oil on canvas, 24 by 19 3/4 inches, 1896

Lot 29 is a very pleasant painting by Childe Hassam of his wife in a garden. An oil on canvas, it mesaures 24 by 19 3/4 inches and was executed in 1896. It has an estimate of $2,500,000 to $3,500,000. It sold for $2,471,500.

"Pegeen," by Robert Henri

Lot 53, "Pegeen," by Robert Henri, oil on canvas, 24 by 20 inches, 1926

Lot 53 is a very fine portrait, "Pegeen," by Robert Henri, the leader of the Ashcan School. An oil on canvas that measures 24 by 20 inches, it was painted in 1926. The sitter is Mary Anne Cafferty and other portraits of her by Henri are in the collections of the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery in Lincoln, Nebraska, the Currier Gallery in Manchester, New Hampshire and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. It has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold for $455,500.

"Rock Bound" by Bellows

Lot 50, "Rock Bound," by George Wesley Bellows, oil on panel, 18 by 22 inches, 1913

Lot 50 is a fine and strong oil on panel by George Wesley Bellows that measures 18 by 22 inches and was executed in 1913. Bellows went to Monhegan Island in Maine in 1911 with Robert Henri, his mentor and fellow student Randall Davey. The catalogue provides the following quotation from a letter Bellows wrote that year to his wife Emma: "The Island is only a mile wide and two miles long, but it looks as large as the Rocky Mountains. It's three times as high as Montauk and all black and grey rock. Beautiful pine forests and wonderful varieties of all kinds." The artist returned to the island in 1913 and this time he concentrated on dramatic close-ups of the rugged coast. "The intimacy of Rock Bound, underscored by the direct application of paint that creates a thick impasto on the surface and the overall visually engaging quality of the scene are hallmarks of some of the artist's strongest works during this period," the catalogue entry noted. The lot has an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. It sold for $365,900.

"Washington Square Park in Winter" by Shinn

Lot 48, "Washington Square Park in Winter," by Everett Shinn, watercolor, gouache and pencil on paper, 9 by 10 3/4 inches, 1952

Lot 48 is a classic Greenwich Village scene by Everett Shinn entitled "Washington Square Park In Winter." A watercolor, gouache and pencil on paper, it measures 9 by 10 3/4 inches and is dated 1952. It has a very conservative estimate of $30,000 to $50,000. It sold for $89,625.

"Landscape in Moonlight"

Lot 117, "Landscape in Moonlight," by Edward Steichen, oil on canvas, 25 by 21 inches

Edward Steichen is famous as one of the world's greatest photographers but he was also an excellent painter. His paintings, which are much rarer than his photographs, are very poetic and Tonalist. Lot 117 is a fine example. Entitled "Landscape in Moonlight," it is an oil on canvas that measures 25 by 21 inches. It has a modest estimate of $50,000 to $70,000. It sold for $101,575.

"Portrait of Carolus Duran" by Sargent

Lot 28, "Portrait of Carolus Duran," by John Singer Sargent, ink and pencil on paper, 13 1/2 by 10 3/4 inches

Lot 28, "Portrait of Carolus Duran," is a fine ink and pencil drawing on paper by John Singer Sargent (1856-1925). It measures 13 1/2 by 10 3/4 inches. Carolus Duran was the stylized name of Charles-Emile-Auguste Durand (1838-1917), a painter and teacher who was president of the Societé Nationale des Beaux-Arts in 1898 and was a major influence for Sargent. It has a modest estimate of $30,000 to $50,000. It sold for $724,300, an auction record for a Sargent drawing.

"Farewell to New York..." by Ben Shahn

Lot 94, "Farewell to New York - All That is Beautiful," by Ben Shahn, watercolor on paper, 23 by 40 1/4 inches, circa 1965

Lot 94 is an excellent watercolor on paper by Ben Shahn that was reproduced as a series of serigraphs in 1965 printed in black with hand coloring and with the following text added in the sky: "All that is beautiful. But for remembrance' sake. The art of Pheidias." Entitled "Farewell to New York - All That is Beautiful," this watercolor measures 23 by 40 1/4 inches and was executed circa 1965. The catalogue provides the following quotation from K.W. Prescott's 1973 book, The Complete Graphic Works of Ben Shahn: "Shahn's love of history and respect for the art of ancient civilizations are reflected [in this work]...he has effectively juxtaposed the past and present - a modern city being built through destuction of the old...Shahn describes the inspiration for this [work] as: 'The pain of seeing the city I grew up in being covered by the new wave of concrete and glass'...Shahn [has] created a work that reflects fond memories of his youth and poignantly portrays one of the dilemmas of the contemporary American scene." This lot has an estimate of $50,000 to $70,000. It sold for $47,800.

See The City Review article on the auction of the Rita and Daniel Fraad Collection of American Art at Sotheby's in Fall, 2004

See The City Review article on the December 1, 2004 American Paintings, Drawings & Sculpture Auction at Sotheby's

See The CityReview article on the Spring 2004 American Paintings auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2004 American Paintings auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2003 American Paintings auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2003 American Paintings auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2003 American Paintings auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2003 American Paintings auction at Christie's

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 Fall 2002 American Paintings auction at Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg

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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