The November 29, 2006 American
at Sotheby's has a diverse group of good paintings in many categories
and is highlighted by a great snow scene sketch by Frederic Edwin
Church, three very fine genre paintings, an excellent Western
scene by Worthington Whittredge, an impressive ocean picture by
Thomas Moran, a fine painting by Edward Steichen, a very good
landscape by Dwight Tryon, a pleasant Mary Cassatt, two impressive
drawings by William Glackens, two fine watercolors by Maurice
Prendergast, a large painting by Edward Hopper, an important sculpture
by Paul Manship, a good Grandma Moses, and two good paintings
by Norman Rockwell.
The jewel of the auction is Lot
on the Hudson River near Catskill, New York," by Frederic
Edwin Church (1826-1900), depicting a scene near his famous home,
Olana. An oil on paper, it measures 8 by 10 inches and was painted
about 1868. Though small, this work has a magnificent sweep and
fabulous light. It has a very conservative estimate of $60,000
to $80,000. It sold for $660,000 including the buyer's
as do all results mentioned in this article.
The sale only sold
about 72.7 percent of
the offered lots, but many lots sold considerably over their high
estimates and the sale total was a very impressive $82,805,200.
Lot 123 is a great genre
painting by Eastman
Johnson (1824-1906) that is entitled "The Peddler (Nantucket)."
It is on oil on board that measures 18 by 22 1/2 inches and was
painted in 1873. The subject was popular with the artist and there
are numerous studies of the figures. This is a great composition
and very painterly. It has a modest estimate of $300,000 to $500,000.
It sold for $352,000.
The consolation prize for those
who fail to
get Lot 123 is Lot 141, "Warming Her Hands," a charming
picture by Eastman Johnson that is an oil on canvas that measures
18 by 14 1/4 inches. Painted in 1871, it has an estimate of $200,000
to $300,000. It sold for $329,600, which is rather remarkable
considering that it was smaller and not as great a composition
as Lot 123.
Thomas Waterman Wood
(1812-1913) was a good
genre painter, though not in the same league as Johnson, but here,
in one of his very best works, he comes close in "Sunday
Morning," Lot 142. An oil on panel that measures 19 3/4 by
15 3/4 inches, it is dated 1877. It has a very conservative estimate
of $25,000 to $35,000. It failed to sell!
Lot 124 is a good night scene
for the Night on Mansfield Mountain" by Sanford Robinson
Gifford. An oil on canvas, it measures 10 by 16 1/2 inches and
was painted circa 1860. It has been consigned by the Adirondack
Museum and has an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. It failed
Lot 174 is a marvelous stormy
seascape by Thomas
Moran (1837-1926) that is entitled "A Norther in the Gulf
of Mexico." An oil on canvas, it measures 25 by 51 inches
and is dated 1884. It has a modest estimate of $400,000 to $500,000.
It failed to sell.
Lot 121 is a very fine and
entitled "Beached Ship" by Albert Bierstadt (1930-1902).
An oil on canvas, it measures 17 by 23 1/2 inches and was painted
in 1859. It has a conservative estimate of $125,000 to $175,000.
It failed to sell.
Samuel Colman (1832-1920) is an
but very competent Hudson River School painter who traveled
Lot 122, "Shipping on the Hudson," is a fine and very
dramatic work by him that is an oil on canvas that measures 15
by 24 1/4 inches. It has a modest estimate of $50,000 to $70,000.
It sold for $192,000.
Dwight William Tryon
(1849-1925) is a great
Tonalist painter and Lot 80, "Sunset," is one of his
most colorful, beautiful and poetic works. An oil on panel, it
measures 12 by 16 inches and was executed in 1919. It has a very
modest estimate of $15,000 to $25,000. It sold for $48,000.
Worthington Whittredge was not
only a major
Hudson River School painter but also an important painter of Western
landscapes, especially around the Platte River. Lot 202 is one
of the finest Platte River paintings and is an oil on canvas that
measures 14 3/4 by 22 1/2 inches. It has a modest estimate of
$350,000 to $400,000. It sold for $408,000.
Edward Steichen, the great
a magnificent Tonalist painter. Lot 74, "Moonlight in the
Garden at Versailles," is a good example of his somber but
romantic poetry in paint. An oil on canvas, it measures 15 by
18 inches and was painted in 1902. It has an extremely conservative
estimate, given the rarity of his paintings, of $25,000 to $35,000.
It sold for $36,000.
with a Cat," is a charming and very good work by Mary Cassatt
(1845-1926). An oil on canvas, it measures 32 by 39 1/2 inches
and was painted in 1908. It has a modest estimate of $2,000,000
to $3,000,000 since it sold at Sotheby's December 3, 1998 for
$2,972,500. It sold for $3,376,000.
The auction has a nice
collection of works
by the Ash Can School and related artists. Lot 4, for example,
is a fine pastel on board by Everett Shinn (1876-1953) that is
entitled "Admiral Farragut Statue, Madison Square."
It measures 18 by 24 inches and was drawn in 1943. While it was
executed relatively late in his career, it has all the earmarks
of his classic, dashing style and for those who enjoy a good drink
under his large paintings at the Oak Bar in the Plaza Hotel this
is a nice New York scene by this facile, theatrical and gifted
artist. It was consigned by the Collection of Arthur G. Altshul.
It has a modest estimate of $70,000 to $90,000. It sold for
Another Shinn from the Altschul
is Lot 3, "Street Fight," a pastel on board that measures
18 by 22 inches. Executed in 1910, it is a fine work and has a
modest estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $262,400.
are also two great drawings
by William J. Glackens (1970-1938) that have also been consigned
by the Altschl Collection. Lot 11, "For the Championship
of the Back-lot League (The Football Game)," is a black ink
and watercolor on paper that measures 23 by 17 inches. Executed
in 1911, it is a very colorful and raucous scene that wonderful
displays the illustrative foundation of the Ash Can School. It
has a modest estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for
as much fun is Lot 10,
"Curb Exchange No. 2," a crowded Financial District
scene by Glackens that was executed circa 1907-1910. A crayon
and watercolor on paper, it measures 24 1/2 by 17 1/2 inches.
It has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for
8, "Hughie The
Poet," a very poetic and vibrant portrait by Robert Henri
(1865-1929) sold for $800,000, four times its high estimate. It
is an oil on canvas that measures 24 by 20 inches and was painted
Lot 156 is a very good Venetian
scene by Maurice
Prendergast (1858-1924). Entitled "The Porch with the Old
Mosaics, St. Mark's, Venice," it is a watercolor and pencil
on paper that measures 16 by 11 1/4 inches and was executed circa
1898-9. It has a modest estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. It
sold for $587,200.
Another excellent watercolor by
is Lot 149, "West Church, Boston." It measures 22 1/4
by 15 1/4 inches and was painted circa 1900-1. It is in excellent
condition with strong colors. It has an estimate of $1,500,000
to $2,000,000 and was consigned by the Collection of Arthur G.
Altschul. It sold for $1,920,000.
Lot 79 is a very impressive New
York snow scene
entitled "East River, New York, Winter," by Frederick
Usher de Voll (1873-1941). It is immensely better than any of
the ubiquitous and boring and not well done New York snow scenes
by Guy Wiggins. An oil on canvas, it measures 32 by 36 inches.
It was exhibited by the Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915 in San
Francisco where it was awarded a silver medal and is distinguished
by its remarkable treatment of falling snow. It has an estimate
of $30,000 to $50,000. It sold for $66,000.
Lot 66 is a superb
by Childe Hassam (1859-1935) that is entitled "Harvest Moon
(Marsh and Meadow)." An oil on canvas, it measures 18 by
22 inches and was painted circa 1903. It has an estimate of $300,000
to $500,000. It sold for $363,200.
is a spectacular small
landscape painting by Marsden Hartley (1878-1943) that is entitled
"Carnival of Autumn." An oil on board laid down on panel,
it is 12 inches square and was painted in 1908-9.
of color and confidence in exploring formal relationshps is
in Carnival in Autumn," the catalogue entry for the
lot notes, adding that "He channels nature's latent power
into muscular forms virtually resisting each other within the
confines of the pictue plane." "The mountains, sky and
clouds, activated by staccato brushstrokes and vibrant color,
are packed into the scene, creating a formal tension he would
continue to explore thoughout his career. The birches are evidence
of his disinterest in Western conventions of perspective; acting
as a screen-like device, they at once suggest and deny recession
into space." The brushwork in this work is sensational. It
has a very modest estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold
Lot 48, is a very vibrant and
life entitled "Lemons" by Marsden Hartley. An oil on
board, it measures 24 by 19 1/2 inches and was painted in 1928.
It has a modest estimate of $300,000 to $400,000. It sold for
Lot 53, "Ghost Ranch Cliffs,"
a good landscape by Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986). An oil on canvas,
it measures 16 by 30 inches and was executed in 1952. It has a
very conservative estimate of $350,000 to $450,000. It sold
Lot 25 is a fine oil on
canvasboard by Stuart
Davis (1892-1964). Entitled "After-study," it is an
oil on canvasboard that measures 16 by 12 inches and was executed
in 1959. The catalogue notes that is relates to two 1955 works,
each 56 1/2 by 44 inches, by the artist: "Ready-to-Wear"
at the Art Institute of Chicago and "Cliché"
at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. The lot has a
modest estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold for $716,000.
Lot 52 is a good oil on canvas
by Stuart Davis
that is entitled "Landscape with Red Spotlight." It
measures 20 by 28 inches and was painted in 1932. It has an estimate
of $300,000 to $500,000. It sold for $564,800.
Lot 17 is a very good
watercolor and gouache
on paper by Oscar Bluemner (1867-1938) that is entitled "Glare
of Night." While it has not as bold and vibrant as his strongest
works, it has a very composition hightlighted by the titled post
and the curved skyline and anchored by the marvelous tree. It
measures 9 1/2 by 12 3/4 inches and was executed in 1925. It has
an estimate of $125,000 to $175,000. It sold for $144,000.
There are some people who
consider Edward Hopper
(1882-1967) to be America's greatest painter. This observer, however,
would place him considerably behind Winslow Homer, Thomas Cole,
Thomas Eakins, Albert Pinkham Ryder, Georgia O'Keeffe, just to
rattle off some obvious names. Lot 34, "Hotel Window,"
is a good, representative work by Hopper that has a rather dynamic
composition and good palette and its subject is thematically strong
on the artist's interest in alienation and loneliness. Like many,
but not all, of his paintings, it is not very painterly. The woman
is far too elegant for the humble, albeit, spacious hotel room.
It was formerly in the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Fleischman
of Detroit, the Thyssen-Bornermisza Collection in Lugano, and
the Forbes Magazine Collection in New York and such provenance
helps explain its estimate of $10,000,000 to $15,000,000. The
lot, which has been widely exhibited, is the cover illustration
of the catalogue.
It sold for
$26,896,000, an astounding price
that was met with a loud burst of applause in the very crowded
Lot 22 is an impressive bronze
and parcel gilt
sculpture entitled "Celestial Sphere" by Paul Howard
Manship (1885-1966). It is 26 inches high and was executed in
1934. Other examples of this version of the work are at the Fogg
Art Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the St. Louis Art
Museum. In 1939, Manship created a much larger version that is
known as the Wilson Memorial and is installed at the Palace of
the United Nations in Geneva. The lot has an estimate of $800,000
to $1,200,000. It sold for $996,000.
Lot 50 is an excellent
landscape by Maxfield
Parrish (1870-1966) that is entitled "Swiftwater (Misty-Morn)."
An oil on board, it measures 23 by 18 1/2 inches and was painted
in 1953. It was produced by the artist for Brown and Bigelow,
a calendar company. It has a modest estimate of $400,000 to $600,000.
It sold for $744,000.
Lot 96, "Early Morning Sugaring
is one of the best works by Anna Mary Robertson (Grandma) Moses
(1860-1961). A tempera on canvas mounted on board, it measures
36 by 45 inches and was executed in 1944. It has an estimate of
$350,000 to $450,000. It sold for $548,000.
Lot 16 is a good work by Norman
that is entitled "Breaking Home Ties." It appeared as
the cover illustration for the September 25, 1954 edition of The
Saturday Evening Post. An oil on canvas, it measures 44
square. The painting has an interesting history. It was found
earlier this year hidden behind a wall in the Vermont home of
cartoonist Don Trachte who had acquired the painting from the
artist in 1960. According to Sotheby's, a replica made by Mr.
Trachte himself presumably to protect his children's inheritance
while in was divorcing his wife had been exhibited and widely
assumed to be the original since the 1970s. It has an estimate
of $4,000,000 to $6,000,000.
It sold for
$15,416,000! Wonder where the
Another good Rockwell is Lot
to Civvies," an oil on canvas that measures 39 by 30 inches.
It was the cover illustration of the December 15, 1945 edition
of The Saturday Evening Post. It has an estimate of $1,500,000
It sold for
$1,696,000, which pales in comparison
with Lot 16 and makes one wonder what the difference is as the
paintings are artistically quite comparable - both very good examples
of Rockwell's skills.
Obviously the recent
sale of a Gustav Klimt
for $135 million and the more recent reports of the sale of a
great work by Thomas Eakins for $68 million, a sale that has created
a controversy because some people do not want to removed from
Pennsylvania, have significantly spiked values. It is difficult,
however, to make sense of a lot of the values and prices right
now in American Art. While there is never a direct correlation
between price and size or comparable quality or historical importance
or rarity, there is a new growing disparity between some works
that are superhyped, such as the Hopper, and very good and/or
very pleasant works by fine artists.