2005 American Paintings auction at Christie's is highlighted by
a superb work by Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000), two good paintings
by Stuart Davis, a very nice painting by Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902),
a very good Mary Cassatt, a wonderful Louis Ritman and good Louis
Comfort Tiffany, a lovely work by Alfred Thompson Bricher (1837-1908),
and an fine George de Forest Brush (1855-1941).
City Review article) was a very important
American artist with
a great flair for composition and social comment. His
brightly colored works are a blend of realism and abstraction
and have a kindred spirit with the oeuvres of Stuart Davis and
Ben Shahn, but his inventive eye places him with Monet in the
pantheon of those artists gifted with infinite riches of compositional
creativity. He was the subject of an excellent retrospective exhibition
that was shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art from November
8, 2001-February 3, 2002.
"U.S.O. show," is a 21 3/4-by-30-inch gouache and watercolor
on paper that Lawrence painted in 1945 while on duty with the
U. S. Coast Guard. It has a conservative estimate of $200,000
to $300,000 and is clearly one of his masterpieces, a work that
resonates with the the spirit of the Jazz Age, Art Deco, and Lawrence's
simple but elegant style. The work has been widely exhibited and
has considerable literature. The catalogue entry for the work
quotes an article from the Whitney Museum exhibition catalogue
about the artist's World War II pictures from the Christian
Science Monitor that notes that "there is some abstraction,
some primitive mannerism, and much expressionistic vigor."
It failed to sell.
illustration of the catalogue is Lot 22, "Still Life with
Flowers," an oil on canvas by Stuart Davis. It measures 40
by 32 inches and was painted in 1930. It is property of the New
Trier Township High School, District 203, Winnetka," the
catalogue noted, "to represent the United States abroad in
the 1946-7 exhibition, Advancing American Art. Although the exhibition
was well-received abroad, the abstract qualities of the works
and the assumption by congressmen of leftist sympathies held by
many of the artists forced the exhibition to close and the paintings
returned to the United States. Subsequnetly, the paintings were
sold in 1948 to tax supported instituitons, where the work has
remained until today."
had a preview at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and other artists
in the exhibition wre Georgia O'Keeffe, Charles Sheeler, Max Weber,
Adolph Gottlieb, Philip Guston, Marsden hartley, and Arthur Dove.
has an estimate $2,000,000 to $3,000,000. It sold for
including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this
article. About 76 percent of the offered lots sold for a total
of $31,757,000, about half the total sold the day before at Sotheby's.
Lot 23 is
a nice, small oil on canvas by Stuart Davis, entitled "Yellow
Café." It measures 12 by 17 inches and was executed
in 1930. It was formerly in the collections of S. J. Perelman
and Barney Ebsworth. It has an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000.
It failed to sell.
Lot 48 is
a classic and excellent oil on canvas by Mary Cassatt. Entitled
"Mother and Two Children," it was painted in 1906 and
measures 29 1/4 by 36 1/4 inches. It is the back-cover illustration
of the catalogue and is being sold "for the benefit of a
university art museum," according to the catalogue. It has
a somewhat ambitious estimate of $3,000,000 to $5,000,000. It
sold for $4,272,000.
Lot 99 is
a superb small oil on board by Albert Biertstadt, entitled "Sunglow."
It measures 14 by 20 inches and has a very modest estimate of
$150,000 to $200,000. It sold for $486,400. It is
by a marvelous sense of light and its strong and complex composition.
"Famed for his majestic landscapes of the West, Albert Bierstadt
creates in his painting Sunglow one of his most
luminous and atmospheric works. The light is rich and vivid,
Bierstadt's vision of he west as an untouched, American Eden,"
the catalogue entry for this lot observed, adding that the painting
"stands out in Bierstadt's oeuvre for the understated reverence
of the scene...."
Lot 102 is a majestic painting
of the War Party" by George de Forest Brush. Although only
medium in size - it is 14 3/4 by 28 3/4 inches - it has a monumental
quality and nobility that rises above its brilliant academic technique.
Brush studied at the National Academy of Design in New York from
1870 to 1874 and with Abbott Thayer then studied in Paris with
Jean-Léon Gerome. He returned after six years to join his
brother in Wyoming and by 1881 lived with the Shoshone and Arapahoe
tribes before moving to Montana to live with the Crow Indians
and contributed pictures of Native Americans to Harper's
and Century magazines.
The catalogue provides the
"Council of the War
Party is conceived
with an integrity and introspection that would distinguish Brush
from his peers....With its reflective mood and expansive composition,
Council of the War Party represents Brush's homage
Plains Indian. He has depicted his figures with a heroic monumentality
calling attention to the harmony between native people and nature.
...Council of the War Party stands as an
from from one of America's most distinguished and thoughtful
The work has a conservative
estimate of $300,000
to $500,000. It sold for $2,592,000.
Bricher is best known for his coastal scenes that are invariably
picturesque and handsome although often too formulaic. His non-coastal
scenes, however, often have more interesting compositions and
charm and Lot 67, "Early Autumn on Long Island," is
such an excellent example. The catalogue notes that in 1881 "on
the occasion of his second marriage to Alice Robinson, Bricher
made Southampton, Long Island, his summer home and found a new
enthusiasm for large scaleworks that further explored his familiar
seaside imagery, while expanding on his figural works from the
1870s." "In Early Autumm on Long Island,"
it continued, "Bricher has created a rare scene mingling
landscape and narrative composed of a subdued fall palette and
shimmering layers of laihgt painted over an underlying geometric
composition." It has an estimate of $120,000 to $180,000.
It sold for $120,000.
Lot 69 is
a good and large, unsigned oil on canvas by Asher B. Durand
It measures 25 by 36 1/4 inches and the catalogue notes that it
"relates to two notable works by the artist, The Beeches
(1845, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), and Pastoral
Landscape (1861, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.)
It has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for
Lot 66 is
a nice, small coastal scene by John F. Kensett (1816-1872) that
is dated 1855. It depicts the "Entrance to Newport Harbor,"
and is a view that he often depicted, although usually without
the rocky foreground. It has a slightly ambitious estimate of
$400,000 to $600,000. It sold for $1,248,000.
Merritt Chase (1849-1916) is one of the major American Impressionists
and he spent much time in Shinnecock on Long Island. Lot 35, "At
Shinnecock Hills," is a large oil on canvas by Chase that
measures 25 3/4 by 32 1/2 inches. It is quite an abstract composition
with a muted palette and not one of Chase's masterpieces although
it is pleasant. It has an estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It
was passed at $280,000.
was one of a few prominent American artists who spent time in
Giverny, France, and espoused a jewelly and exotic palette combined
with considerable painterliness. The other well-known artists
were Richard Miller, perhaps the best of the group, and Frederick
Frieseke. Lot 54, "Interior," is a wonderful example
of Ritman's lush style and boldly patterned compositions. An oil
on canvas that is 32 inches square, it was executed in 1918. It
has a modest estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold for
$240,000. The catalogue notes that the work is a fine example
of "intimism" and that "The artist's unique celebration
of the vibrant patterns and texutres of interior furnishings -
wallpaper, upholstery, carpeting, and also costume - set his work
apart from the Intimist interiors of his American peers."
has two wonderful female busts by Hiram Powers (1805-1873), one
of America's great sculptors. Lot 79, "Prosperine,"
is a marble bust that is 22 inches high. It was executed circa
1849 and has a modest estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It
sold for $90,000. Power's works are usually executed in
white marble, as is the case here. Lot 80, "Ginerva,"
is 26 1/2 inches high and even more lovely than Lot 79 because
of the excellent drapery. It has a very conservative estimate
of $30,000 to $50,000. It sold for $114,000.
Tiffany (1848-1933) is best known for his design of lamps and
exotic glasses, but he was an excellent painter although his oeuvre
is relatively small and his paintings, indeed, are rarer than
his lamps. Lot 64 is a very nice oil on board entitled "Boys
Fishing." It measures 16 by 20 inches and was executed circa
1900. It has a modest estimate of $60,000 to $80,000. It sold
"Head of Minerva," is a large study by Elihu Vedder
(1846-1923) for the mosaic, Minerva, in the Library of Congress
in Washington, D.C. The catalogue observes that it "directly
relates to the full length study of the same title in the collection
of the J. B. Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky." It
has a modest estimate of $30,000 to $50,000. It sold for