By Carter B.
The fall auction painting
season got off to
a strong start with this modest sale of American Paintings and
Sculpture at Christie’s East.
Usually a mixed bag of several
this auction had only 221 lots and 181 sold, many at quite high
The catalogue cover
illustration, shown above,
Lot 115, for example, a pleasant 1914 oil on canvas, 60 1/4 by
43 inches, by William Henry Kemble Yarrow (1891-1941), sold for
$145,500. It had had a high estimate of only $30,000. Warmly and
well painted, this is a very nice "lady in a white dress"
work that was a bit unusual for the very bold striped pattern
of the umbrella and the fact that the composition cut off part
of her feet, the chair, the umbrella and a book on a table. Yarrow
is not a well-known artist and while the quality of this painting
is quite high this genre, whose most famous popularizers are Edward
Tarbell, Robert Benson and Robert Reid, whose best work still
is not as poetic as Thomas Dewing, who predates them a bit, nor
as original in palette and brushwork as Louis Rittman and Richard
Miller, who are a bit later. None of them are as good, of course,
as Monet whose lady in a white dress with a parasol remains the
shining example of these paens to proper, romantic feminity around
the turn of the 20th Century.
Another work that fared very
also only for the popularity of the genre was Lot 73, "Jonathan
and a Client - The Lady with the Green Pocket-Book," an oil
en grisaille on cardboard, 18 1/2 by 14 inches, by Howard Pyle
(1853-1911). This sold for $27,600 and had had a high estimate
of $12,000. Pyle is one of several late 19th and early 20th Century
illustrators whose work was rarely artistic but widely disseminated
in popular magazines and has achieved disportionately high value
in the marketplace in recent years. Whereas the Yarrow was a fine
painting of its genre, this work has little discernible quality.
It illustrated a story written by the artist that appeared in
Harper’s New Monthly Magazine in 1890.
A few of the other top prices
were more predictable.
Lot 7, a 12-by-20 1/8-inch oil
and pencil on
canvas by Jasper Francis Cropsey (1823-1900), "Sunset on
a River Inlet," fetched $77,300 and had had a high estimate
of only $20,000. The 1870 painting was very lovely and rather
atypical for this famous painter of autumnal landscapes. It had
a very dramatic and luminous sky and was one of his bolder compositions
as the clouds and foreground were off-center to the left. The
estimate was generally correct for this size, and the good realized
price perhaps indicates that the Hudson River School painters
will once again begin to get their proper due in the marketplace
after several "off" years. Cropsey, of course, ranks
only behind Thomas Cole and Frederic Church in quality and consistency.
David Johnson (1827-1908) is a
excellent Hudson River School painter and his "Waterfall
at Norwich, Connecticut," Lot 2, a 9 3/4-by-13 3/4-inch oil
on canvas, is a good example. It sold for $16,100, more than double
its high estimate of $7,000.
Further evidence of rebounding
for these landscapes was Lot 40, "Cattle Watering,"
a 16 1/2-by-13 1/2-inch oil on canvas by William M. Hart (1823-1895),
a very pleasant but formulaic small work of which there are many
examples. It had a high estimate of $3,500 and sold for $8,050.
A 12-by-16-inch oil on canvas
by Edward Henry
Potthast (1857-1927) almost doubled its high estimate and sold
for $57,500. This sketchy but colorful beach scene with canoes
and sailboats was a pleasant change from his formulaic and very
popular beach scenes with children.
One of the nicest paintings in
was Lot 65, "Couple by a Waterfall in the Catskills,"
by George Henry Hall (1825-1913), shown above. This 33-by-24-inch
oil on canvas that was dated 1899 was not only romantic but also
very impressive for its angled perspective and the monumentality
of the small cliffs by the waterfall. It sold just under its high
estimate for $14,950, a respectable amount for this little known
artist and such a late landscape.
Another excellent work was Lot
Patterns," by Robet Vickrey (b. 1926), a 17 1/2-by-22-inch
gouache and pencil on board. It sold for $2,990 just short of
its low estimate despite the fact that it was a very, very strong
work by this always consistent and interesting artist who tends
to like the hats of nuns.
One of the best paintings in
the auction was
Lot 107, "Smuggler’s Landing," a 36-by-38-inch
oil on canvas by Frederick Judd Waugh (1861-1940), shown above.
Unlike his many shore scenes of breaking waves, this very powerful
and almost abstract work depicted a small inlet between two beaches
with steep rocks under a pink and gray sky. A superb painting
that would intimidate many of John F. Kensett’s beach scenes
and probably fascinate and challenge Mark Rothko, this painting
sold for $16,100, just above its $15,000 high estimate.
Another jewel in this auction
Factory," Lot 211, by George L. K. Morris (1905-1975), a
work, shown below, somewhat similar to a fine Morris painting
that was in "The American Century Part I" exhibition
this year at the Whitney Museum of American Art (see illustration
in The City Review article on that
This 24-by-16-inch oil on canvas had a high estimate of $12,000
and sold for $27,600, a signal that perhaps he is beginning to
get the recognition he deserves as a major mid-century figure.
Other works that did well were
Lot 136, "Crossing
the Bar," by Max Bohm (1868-1923) that sold for $14,960 and
had had a seemingly appropriate high estimate of only $6,000,
Lot 137, "View of Northeast Harbor," by Charles Morris
Young (1869-1964) that sold for $28,750 and had had a high estimate
of only $6,000, Lot 138, "A Corner of Gloucester Harbor"
by Paul Cornoyer (1864-1923), that sold for $11,500 and had a
high estimate of $6,000. Yet another unimpressive urban snow scene
by Guy CarletonWiggins (1883-1962) exceeded its high estimate
and sold for $27,600.
The auction also included
several nice examples
of tonalist works by Robert Bruce Crane (1857-1937) and John Francis
Murphy (1853-1921) and some good genre works by Louis Moeller
(1855-1930) that all sold within or slightly above their estimates.
Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902) is
as the grandiose and spectacular painter of the West, but he lived
in New York and along the Hudson River. Lot 25, "Passaic
River," a 14-by-20-inch oil on canvas, is one of his blander
and more quiet bucolic compositions but without the drama and
surety of stroke of his great works. It sold at almost twice its
high estimate for $59,700.
A small, pleasant Labrador
coastal scene by
William Bradford (1823-1892), Lot 38, sold for $20,700, nicely
over its $15,000 high estimate, reflecting its strong composition
and lovely sky by this major artist of the Artic.
Still lifes continued to be a
sector. A very nice "Peaches, Grapes and Melon" by George
Forster (active 1850-1890), Lot 52, sold for $12,650 and had had
a high estimate of $7,000. It was a 8 3/4-by-11 1/2-inch oil on
Among the few passes was Lot
Scene," by Joseph Rusling Meeker (1827-1889), a painter best
known for his bayou scenes. This 15 3/4-by-35-inch oil on canvas
that depicts a blinding sunset with camels and large birds is
signed and dated 1856 and is very unusual for the artist and the
period and very dramatic and would have been a bargain at its
high estimate of $7,000.