2007 American Paintings auction at Sotheby's November 28, 2007
is highlighted by two fine watercolors by Winslow Homer, an impressive
work by Andrew Wyeth and a nice selection of 19th Century landscape
paintings by such artists as William Merritt Chase, John Twachtman,
David Johnson and Francis A. Silva.
Lot 8 is
a large and fine 1881 watercolor by Winslow Homer (1836-1910)
entitled "Fishergirls coiling tackle." It measures 14
by 19 3/4 inches and has an estimate of $4,000,000 to $6,000,000.
It sold for $4,521,000 including the buyer's premium as do
all results mentioned in this article.
1881, Homer went to England and settled in a small fishing village
of Cullercoats on the northeastern cost of England.
entry for this lot notes that "In the Cullercoats watercolors
Homer's technique changed - he began building up washes of color,
and scraping away paint from the page. Most importantly, he now
approached the medium in a way previously reserved for oil painting.
Rather than create watercolors on site, he prepared preliminary
sketches, executing the finished work in his studio which allowed
time for the works to be completed on a grander scale. These
changes ultimately lend the Cullercoats watercolors a monumentality
would make many pictures of the fisherwomen in Cullercoats that
highlighted their strong work ethic and athletic bearing, his
earlier portraits of women tended to be more lyrical, contemplative
and beautiful. Lot 15, for example, is an 1875 watercolor entitled
"Portrait of a Lady." It measures 12 by 8 inches and
has an estimate of $2,000,000 to $3,000,000. It sold for
entry provides the following commentary"
in 1875, Portrait of a Lady depicts a young woman in an elegant
white dress, trimmed with a patterned detail, and accessorized
with a black scarf at her neck, a dark belt at her waist and a
black ribbon in her hair. This same figure and dress appear in
a series of watercolors that Homer painted in 1875, believed to
have been executed on his first trip to Prout's Neck, Maine. Several
of these, such as Fiction (Detroit Institute of Arts) display
the technical variety and free approach Homer sometimes experimented
with in his watercolors. This "sketchy" treatment was
often the focus of critical attention in Homer's work. When exhibited,
critics praised the individuality of these watercolors, but often
expressed dissatisfaction with their unfinished qualities....The
spot of red on her finger suggests that the woman has just pricked
it on the rose branch that falls in front of her. In his depictions
of young women, Homer often featured the figure looking away from
the viewer, face in profile, body turned slightly away. Only rarely
did he depict this particular model's full face, as seen in Young
Girl at the Window (1875, New Britain Museum of American Art)....Homer
is known to have used floral symbolism to convey specific meanings,
which gained widespread interest in the Victorian era. Abigail
Booth Gerdts has noted that contemporary critics who saw Portrait
of a Lady described the roses as being white. She speculates,
"It is possible Homer changed the roses' color, or that he
had used white pigment which has oxidized to the color we now
see" (Abigail Booth Gerdts and Lloyd Goodrich, Record of
Works by Winslow Homer, vol. 2, p. 360). The rose has long been
used as a symbol of love, with varying meaning attributed to the
color. A white rose would have indicated "I am worthy of
you," whereas a blush rose could have indicated "perfect
happiness." Regardless of the color of this rose, Homer appears
to be conveying a cautionary message regarding love with the prick
of the thorn. Though still unexplained, scholars have speculated
that the red haired model must have been important to Homer, given
her repeated appearance in his work, and dramatic disappearance
from Homer's oeuvre in 1878....With their far off gazes and serious
expressions, many of these depictions of thoughtful young women
have an air of loneliness about them. This loneliness may partially
have been Homer's - he had difficulties in relationships and never
married - however, his fascination with painting women stayed
with him throughout his artistic career."
Lot 81 is
a very fine and striking tempera on panel entitled "Sparks"
by Andrew Wyeth (b. 1917). It was painted in 2001 and measures
44 by 47 3/4 and is in a frame designed by the artist.
entry notes that the work is "rife with autobiographical
references, both overt and coded, depicting the grand stone hearth
of his Chadds Ford mill house. Within the hearth, a metaphor for
home and a vital, creative center, a fire, a dichotomous symbol
of destruction and provision, rages. Sending forth burning embers
and trails of smoke, the fire interrupts the clean, cool interior.
A low ceiling and rustic wooden beams slope steeply towards the
hearth and its grid of sand stone tiles cut a sharp diagonal path
towards the fire. The frame, designed by the artist, further emphasizes
this dramatic use of perspective."
It has an
estimate of $2,500,000 to $4,500,000. It failed to sell.
is a marvelous "Study of a Birch," by David Johnson
(1826-1908). An oil on canvas, it measures 16 by 26 inches. While
Johnson and other Hudson River School painters such as Asher B.
Durand often did quite accomplished studies of trees, this is
extremely dramatic and compelling. It has an estimate of $30,000
to $50,000. It failed to sell.
is a beautiful luminist painting of "Sailboats at Sunset"
by Francis A. Silva (1835-1886). An oil on canvas, it measures
14 1/4 by 26 1/4 inches. It has an estimate of $250,000 to $450,000.
It sold for $391,000.
is a good autumn woodland scene by Jervis McEntee (1828-1891).
An oil on canvas, it measures 16 by 28 inches and was painted
in 1865. It has an estimate of $30,000 to $50,000. It failed
is an early seascape by Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902) entitled
"Beached Ship. An oil on canvas, it measures 17 by 23 1.2
inches and was painted in 1859. It is property from the collection
of 7-Eleven, Inc. It was exhibited at Hirschl & Adler Galleries
in 1980. It has a modest estimate of $60,000 to $80,000. It
sold for $103,000.
193, "Iceberg," by Albert Bierstadt, oil on canvas,
21 by 48 inches, 1884
Lot 193 is a large and dramatic painting of a iceberg by Albert
Bierstadt (1830-1902) made on a voyage to England aboard the S.
S. Gallia in May, 1884. An oil on canvas, it measures 21 by 48
inches. It has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold
is a lovely and classic beach scene by Alfred Thompson Bricher
(1837-1908) entitled "Evening at Scituate - Low Tide."
An oil on canvas, it measures 15 by 33 inches and was once in
the collection of Gloria and Richard Manney. It has an estimate
of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $121,000.
is a nice landscape by Robert Salmon (1775-1844) entitled "Scottish
Sunset." An oil on board, it measures 8 by 9 1/2 inches and
has an estimate of $30,000 to $50,000 and is dated circa 1821.
It failed to sell.
is a pretty coastal scene by James Renwick Brevoort (1832-1918).
Entitled "Half Moon in a cove at Gloucester Bay," it
is an oil on canvas that measures 18 by 30 inches. It has an estimate
of $25,000 to $35,000.
is an excellent work by William Holbrook Beard (1823-1900) entitled
"Bear Carousal." An oil on canvas, it measures 18 by
24 inches. It has superb provenance and was formerly in the collection
of Frederick Sturges and William Henry Osborn and William Church
Osborn. It has an estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. It sold
is a nice small hummingbird painting by Martin Johnson Heade
Entitled "Racket-tail, Brazil," it is on oil on canvas
mounted on board that measures 12 1/4 by 10 1/2 inches and was
painted circa 1863-5. It has an estimate of $300,000 to $400,000.
It sold for $701,800.
is a superb coastal painting by William Trost Richards (1833-1905)
entitled "Blue Waters." An oil on canvas, it measures
18 by 32 inches and is dated 1884. It has an modest estimate of
$40,000 to $60,000. It sold for $121,000.
Lot 53 is
a lovel oil on panel by James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) entitled
"Blue and Opal: Herring Fleet." It measues 4 3/4 by
8 1/2 and is signed with the artist's butterfly monogram. It was
painted in St. Ives, Cornwall, England, in early 1884. It has
a modest estimate of $300,000 to $400,000. It sold for
Merritt Chase (1849-1916) is considered to be one of the finest
American Impressionists and his Shinneock Hills scenes are highly
desired. Lot 1 is a nice oil on canvas that measures 6 1/4 by
9 1/4 inches. It has an estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. It
sold for $127,000.
Lot 2 is a very good landscape by John H. Twachtman (1853-1902)
that is entitled "Grey Day." An oil on panel, it measures
15 3/4 by 20 inches and was painted circa 1887-8. It sold for
Lot 79 is
a nice watercolor entitled "Venice" Traghetti-Battelli"
by Maurice B. Prendergast (1858-1924). It measures 10 3/4 by 15
inches and is dated circa 1898-9. It has a somewhat ambitious
estimate of $900,000 to $1,200,000. It sold for $937,000.
Lot 20 is
a 10-by-6 1/2-inch watercolor and ink on paper by Childe Hassam
(1859-1935) entitled "Flag Day, Fifth Avenue, July 4th, 1916."
It has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold for
is a lovely floral still life entitled "Pink and White Roses"
by John Ferguson Weir (1841-1926), one of two artist sons of Robert
Weir, who taught painting at West Point. This oil on canvas measures
16 by 12 3/4 inches and has the same soft draftsmanship and palette
as his brother, Julian Alden Weir. It has an estimate of $50,000
to $70,000. It sold for $88,000.
Lot 29 is
a striking work by Stanton Macdonald-Wright (1890-1973) entitled
"Au Café (Synchromy). An oil on canvas, it measures
50 by 28 inches and was painted in 1918. It has an estimate of
$400,000 to $600,000. It sold for $2,281,000. In
artist traveled to Paris where he met Morgan Russell and they
studied with Ernest Percyval Tudor-Hart, a Canadian artist and
entry for this lot provides the following commentary:
by European modernism, including the work of the Futurists and
Robert and Sonia Delaunay, the two young Americans published aesthetic
declarations that they designed to lay claim to a theoretical
space for their work. Together, Russell and Macdonald-Wright coined
the term 'Synchromism,' using Greek elements meaning 'system of
combining color'; and they launched their own movement in Munich
and Paris with shows in 1913. They publicized these two shows
with posters and catalogues featuring their own bold theoretical
declarations. For the Munich show at Der Neue Kunstsalon their
statement dismissed the 'brown and white of the Cubists' and promoted
'gradations of color' to express 'the depth of space.' They also
argued that 'The Futurists naively believed they had taken a big
step forward by subordinating the static element in favor of movement.
But static and dynamic qualities in art are two forces that supplement
each other, and their concurrence permits us to feel one or the
other strongly.' For the Paris show at the Bernheim-Jeune Gallery,
the two stressed their emphasis on color as the generating force
of painting and their attempt to create tactile sensation in their
paintings. After the shows in Paris and Munich, Macdonald-Wright
separated from his wife and moved to New York City at the end
of 1913. By early March 1914, the Carroll Galleries there opened
an Exhibition of Synchromist paintings by Morgan Russell and S.
Macdonald-Wright. The artists claimed in this catalogue to have
solved 'the problem of the inherent nature of colors in their
relationship to form,' to have made 'a close study of the harmonious
relation of these colors to one another,' and to have developed
the ability to 'convey the notion of time in painting.' By 1916
Macdonald-Wright had established enough presence on the New York
art scene that he was one of the sixteen men - including Thomas
Hart Benton, Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, Man Ray, Morgan Russell,
and William Zorach (who shared his space with his wife and others)
- featured in the important group exhibition at the Anderson Galleries,
The Forum Exhibition of Modern American Painters, for which
brother Willard was both an organizer and catalogue essayist....The
next year, Alfred Stieglitz gave Macdonald-Wright a solo show
at '291,' the Fifth Avenue address and moniker for his Little
Galleries of the Photo-Secession. By March 1918, Macdonald-Wright
was the subject of another one-person show, this time at the Daniel
Gallery in New York. However, on October 12, 1918, he left to
live and paint in Southern California, where he would become active
as a teacher, work as a muralist, and serve as an important influence
on modernist painters. Macdonald-Wright painted the present Synchromy
in 1918 before he left New York. He considered it such an important
exemplar of his work that he chose to include it in his retrospective
exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum in 1956."
most stunning work is Lot 49, "A Dream of Butterflies"
by Charles Burchfield (1893-1967). A watercolor on paper that
measures 33 by 40 inches, it eas executed in 1962. It has an estimate
of $500,000 to $700,000. It sold for $1,329,000.
Lot 92 is
an almost psychedellic work by Morris Graves (1910-2001) entitled
"Ecstatic Gander." An oil on canvas laid down on masonite,
it measures 38 by 48 inches and was painted in 1952. It has been
widely exhibited. It has an estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. It
failed to sell.