By Carter B.
For the first time in several
is a broad selection of 19th Century American art in the important
fall auctions. In recent years, the auctions have had scant choices
of Hudson River School landscapes and good Western landscapes.
This auction, for instance, has
very good landscapes
by Asher B. Durand, Sanford Gifford, John F. Kensett and George
Inness, a very fine and impressive Western scene by Albert Bierstadt,
and a great John Twachtman.
It also has rare works by
Joseph Decker and John Haberle, and good works by Mary Cassatt,
William Merritt Chase, Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, Childe Hassam,
Ernest Lawson, Rembrandt Peale, and Frederick Remington.
The auction had rather
mixed results reflecting
this season's quite "selective" market. Only 76 percent
of the lots sold, which is not terrible, but considering the generally
quite high quality of the works being offered and the buoyant
state of the economy was certainly a bit disappointing.
Lot 84, "Buffalo Hunt," by
Bierstadt (1830-1902), is a 33 ¾-by-44-inch oil on canvas,
shown above. Painted between 1860 and 1865, the catalogue notes
that this dramatic composition combines features of the Yosemite
Valley in California and the Wind River Valley in Wyoming. This
is a superb example of Bierstadt’s grandiloquence and his
painting style here is at its best. The painting includes an Indian
on horseback charging a buffalo herd by the river, whose reflected
light is particularly effective. The painting, which is the back
cover illustration of the catalogue, has a conservative high estimate
of $1.5 million. Unfortunately, it was withdrawn over some
allegations that the attribution was wrong and that the painting
might be a work by Herman Herzog. As a result of the allegations,
the owner, David Rockefeller, was refunded his purchase money
by the dealers who had sold it to him. While Herzog was a prolific
and good artist, this work is much better than most of his and
looks much more like a good Bierstadt.
Another Bierstadt in the
auction is Lot 87,
"Liberty Cap, Yosemite," a 30-by-22-inch oil on paper
laid down on board. It is a very dramatic and unusual composition
for Bierstadt and depicts a furious waterfall that runs almost
the full length of the painting. The quite sketchy
has a high estimate of $600,000 but is far sketchier than Lot
84. It sold for $420.500 including the buyer's premium as do
all sales prices in this article. Yet another Bierstadt, Lot
90, "Western Landscape," is a 17 ½-by-24-inch
oil on canvas that is a evening scene with some prowling animals
in the dark foreground and snow-capped peaks in the background
illuminated by the last rays of the day. The work is a bit lackluster
and has a high estimate of $180,000. It sold for $288,500.
The auction includes two superb
works by Georges
Inness (1825-1894), the great American Tonalist. Lot 49. "The
Pond," is a 37 ½-by-29-inch oil on canvas, dated 1886.
It is a fine example of one of his favorite themes of tree-trunks
in late autumn afternoon.
Although Inness’s early work
was a crisp
Hudson River School style, but he evolved his own brand of
that borrowed a bit of Barbizon school poetic landscape style
but used more dramatic compositions.
"Beginning in 1884," the
noted, "Inness was able to achieve a complete synthesis of
his innovative formal means and his goal of poetic expression.
The central component of this synthesis was color, which he described
as ‘the soul of a painting.’ Forms, on the other hand,
though still based in the observation of nature, were softened
by atmosphere and dissolved by light. Inness also began to emphasize
the flatness of the painting surface; it became a geometric field
across which the artist would arrange passages of contrast, accent
and repose….The painting is thus a sum of opposites –
sunlight and shade, blossom and decay, even moistness and dryness,
just as is the time of year – autumn – that it represents.
All of these qualities, however, are merely suggested, evoked
by a subtle variation of texture, brushstroke and value. The
Pond reveals a landscape that evokes the patina of use and
age, while conveying an aura of irreducible mystery."
The painting, which is a
composition in this series with quite a sketchy sky, has a high
estimate of $250,000. It sold for $189,500.
Lot 99, "Apple Orchard, Spring
a 22-by-36-inch oil on canvas, dated 1883, is an even greater
example of the artistry of Inness. A sublime work, it is being
sold by the Warner Collection of the Gulf States Paper Corporation,
which had amassed one of the country’s best collections in
the 1970’s and 1980’s and has a conservative high estimate
of $500,000. It failed to sell, perhaps reflecting its
dark palette. Nevertheless, this is a sensational Inness.
At his best, as he is here,
Inness puts just
about all American Impressionists to shame. The white blossoms
of a large apple tree spread across the misty deep blue background
in an early evening reverie with a solitary figure.
Lot 70 is a good and rare
oil on canvas 21 ¼ by 25 inches, by famed photographer
Edward Steichen (1879-1973). The painting is dated "MDCCCCVII"
and shows several figures beside a large tree with a setting sun
in the distance. It has a conservative high estimate of $60,000.
It sold for $189,500, perhaps indicating a belated awakening
to the genius of this great master whose paintings are exceeding
A painting that would make a
very nice companion
to Inness’s "Apple Orchard, Spring Showers," is
Lot 103, "The Pigeon Coop," by Ernest Lawson (1873-1939).
This 30 by 25 ¼ inch oil on canvas is aflutter with white
birds against a luminous landscape that includes the coop and
the Harlem River. A member of The Eight, the group of artists
also known as The Ashcan Group, Lawson’s oeuvre was under-appreciated
for several decades in large part because most examples that came
on the market were not his best and were often rather muddy and
very busy. In recent years, however, some of his better paintings,
such as this, have begun to surface and clearly he is due for
This work was greatly
appreciated by Duncan
Phillips, the founder of The Phillips Collection in Washington,
who observed that in it "The sun is romancing through the
sky, and the young earth is in love with it," adding that
"A lazy luxury of spring permeates the senses." Frederic
Fairchild Sherman, a prominent critic, once wrote that "certainly
The Pigeon Coup is a poem."
"Underscoring the visual impact
Pigeon Coup is Lawson’s unique handling of pigment, color
and light that have become hallmarks of his finest works,"
the catalogue noted. "Incorporating suffused light with jewel-like
blues, greens, lavenders and whites coupled with a deliberate
and heavy handed application of paint, Lawson in The Pigeon
Coop creates an atmosphere that is at once tranquil and
His canvas poignantly reflects the rapid transformation of a landscape
at the crossroads of urban development," it continued.
The work has a conservative
high estimate of
$350,000. It sold for $266,500.
The cover illustration of the
Lot 11, a pleasant but unexciting Shinnecock Hills, Long Island
scene by William Merritt Chase (1849-1916), an oil on canvas,
28 3/4 by 31 1/2 inches, that has an ambitious high estimate of
$1,500,000. It sold for $1,652,000.
Far more thrilling is Lot 80,
in the Yellowstone," a 30-by-25-inch oil on canvas by John
Henry Twachtman (1853-1902). At his best, as demonstrated here,
Twachtman is America’s best Impressionist and this bold and
free composition well illustrates his ability to abstract a scene
that is decades ahead of his peers. This masterpiece has a conservative
high estimate of $450,000. It sold for $497,500.
Another excellent, though less
is Lot 10, a very pleasant "Summer Landscape," 14 ¼
by 22 1/8 inches, that has a high estimate of $80,000. It
Asher B. Durand (1796-1886) is
one of the founders
of Hudson River School and Lot 96, "View in the Catskills,"
a 38 1/8 by 54 ¼ inch oil on canvas is a classic example
of his serene, bucolic spirit. Finely painted, it is a bit unusual
in its composition with a large, multi-truck tree dominating the
center of the picture. Two figures on horses are in the background.
"View in the Catskills
approach to creating a national school of landscape painting.
The composition is filled with a warm, rich light that envelops
he cultivated countryside. Cattle graze peacefully in an open
field as a gentle stream meanders through the composition. Dark
clouds recede beyond the edges of the composition into the upper
right sky and are replaced in the upper left by a reassuring glow
of warm sunlight. Nestled at the foot of the Catskills in the
far distance is a small town, its white church steeple suggesting
the harmonious equilibrium between civilized man and the wilds
of nature, and the peace and plenty that comes from a fee and
democratic nation," the catalogue observed.
The painting has an appropriate
of $250,000. It sold for $167,500.
The auction includes three very
of horizontal coastal scenes by Hudson River School artists. Lot
30, "Thatcher’s Island, is a 9 ¼-by-21 ¾-inch
oil on canvas by Worthington Whittredge (1820-1910) with three
figures that is very charming and has a conservative high estimate
of $50,000. It failed to sell. Lot 29 is a 10 ½
by 19 ½ scene of Newport Harbor and the Home of Ida Lewis
by John Frederick Kensett (1816-1872) that has a high estimate
of $300,000. It failed to sell. Lot 8 is a 9 ¼ by
19 ¼ oil on canvas scene of Manchester (Mass.) Beach, dated
68, by Sanford Robinson Gifford (1823-1880) that has an ambitious
high estimate of $600,000. It sold for $684,500, an auction
record for the artist, a very impressive price inasmuch as this
was only a nice Gifford and not one of his many great paintings.
A very heated Luminist work is
Lot 2, "Evening
in Gloucester Harbor," a 1871 oil on canvas, 20 by 40 inches,
by Frances Augustus Silva (1835-1886). The lovely painting has
a high estimate of $150,000. It sold for an astounding
a world record for the artist and an impressive amount considering
that the painting was slightly damaged in the left sky. Lot
3, "Barnegat Bay, New Jersey," is a smaller oil by Silva
that has a very nice quality to its handling of bright light on
two beached sailboats and a house at the right and a very soft
mist with a boat in the bay on the left. It has a conservative
high estimate of $70,000. It sold for $68,500 and is a
illustration of the disparity in market prices for works by the
same artist as this is a very good painting but did not fall into
the typical Luminist formula.
Lot 17 is a very
impressive and pleasant
gouache and watercolor, 13 by 29 inches, by Alfred Thompson Bricher
(1837-1908) entitled "A Pensive Moment" that depicts
a woman sitting on the side of a beached sailboat. The catalogue
describes this as a "masterwork of American watercolor painting,"
and even quotes Theodore E. Stebbins Jr. that it is "worthy
of Winslow Homer," but its high estimate of $250,000 is ambitious.
It sold for $189,500.
Lot 9, "A View from the
a pencil and watercolor on paper, 9 ¾ by 14 inches, by
John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), is actually more "worthy
of Winslow Homer," and more reasonably priced with an estimate
of $60,000 to $80,000. It failed to sell.
Indeed, Bricher is better
represented by Lot
92, "Looking Out to Sea," a 22 by 32 inch oil on canvas
with a figure of a girl standing by a large rock along the beach.
It is estimated at only $70,000 to $100,000. It sold for
Lot 114, "Sailing off the Coast," is a nice, formulaic
Bricher, a 24 by 48 inch oil on canvas, that has a high estimate
of $90,000. It sold for $169,700.
Lot 85 is a very pleasant and
gouache and pencil, entitled "Along the Hudson," by
Jasper Francis Cropsey (1823-1900), a far more important artist
than Bricher. It has a high estimate of $30,000. It sold for
$40,250, an impressive price since some of his oils sell in that
Two other good Hudson River
School works at
Lot 51, "View of Lake George," by Kensett, a 6 ½-by-12-inch
oil on board, that has an estimate of $25,000 to $35,000 and
sold for $46,000; and Lot 89, "Landscape in the Adirondacks,"
by Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900), an 8 by 13 inch oil on canvas,
that has an estimate of $70,000 to $100,000 and sold for
The auction has an important
and rare watercolor
by John Ludwig Krimmel (1787-1821), Lot 26. This 17 3/8 by 25
3/5 inch work is a "View of the Parade of Victuallers from
Fourth and Chestnut Streets" and is dated 1821. The catalogue
correctly notes that this is one of the finest works of this artist
who was the first genre painter in America. It is particularly
lively because it depicts the livestock parade as it rounds a
corner in the mercantile district of Philadelphia. The work has
an estimate of $150,000 to $250,000. It sold for $189,500.
Another important historical
work is Lot 5,
"Washington Before Yorktown," a 36 by 29 inch oil on
canvas by Rembrandt Peale (1778-1860), that is dated 1823 and
has a high estimate of $500,000. It sold for $1,047,500.
Among the Impressionist works
in the auction
are two important examples by Childe Hassam (1859-1935) and two
nice works by Mary Cassatt (1844-1926).
Lot 18, "The Flower Seller," is
16-by-26- inch watercolor by Hassam that depicts a Parisian street
scene. The work has a strong composition and is quite charming,
though a bit academic. It has a slightly ambitious high estimate
of $500,000. It sold for $387,500.
Lot 74, the other major Hassam,
has the same
high estimate but is a very vibrant and strong oil on canvas,
39 ½ by 74 3/4 inches, that is dated 1941 and entitled
"Autumn Landscape – East Hampton (Garden of Hassam’s
Home)." The catalogue correctly notes that this work, "composed
of varying swatches and strokes of brilliant oranges, reds and
greens of the trees and surrounding vegetation set against an
azure blue sky, changes from a formal recording of a backyard
garden to an explosion of color, texture and light." This
is one of Hassam’s best pictures and should exceed its high
estimate. It failed to sell!
Lot 38, "Two Young Girls with a
is a very lovely Cassatt and one of her better compositions. The
21 ½ by 25 ¼ inch oil on canvas has an estimate
of $700,000 to $900,000. It sold for $992,500.
The other Cassatt is Lot 58, a
nice but brooding
"Sketch of Antoinette (No. 1)," that is a 19 ¾
by 16 ¼ inch oil on canvas that has an estimate of $200,000
to $300,000. It failed to sell.
The most important "modern"
in this auction is Lot 125, a marvelous 20-by-24-inch oil on canvas
by Marsden Hartley (1877-1943)(see The
City Review article on Hartley). Entitled "A Nice Time,"
it was painted in 1916 and exhibited that same year in New York
at the Forum Gallery along with his celebrated "German Soldier"
paintings. This work is one three related paintings that combine
still lifes with words or phrases and are considered to be abstract
portrait homages to friends and stunning examples of Hartley’s
own version of synthetic Cubism that, the catalogue notes, "differed
from analytic cubism is its reliance on combinations of flat,
colored geometric shapes, rather than on the prismatic fragmentation
of three dimensional forms." The other two paintings in this
"series" are in the collection of the Art Museum of
the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and the Brooklyn Museum
of Art. This stunning work has a conservative high estimate of
$1,500,000. It sold for $1,652,500, an auction record for the
Another Hartley work is Lot
Hampshire Autumn Landscape – Hills and Trees," a strong,
later landscape, oil on canvas, 33 by 27 inches, which has a high
estimate of $250,000. It sold for $882,500!
George Bellows (1882-1925) is
a very fine landscape, Lot 118, "Blasted Tree and Deserted
House," an 18 by 22 inch oil on board, that has a conservative
high estimate of $60,000. It sold for $46,000.
Another very fine work being
sold by the Warner
Collection of the Gulf States Paper Corporation is Lot 137, "Running
River," a 20 by 15 inch oil on tin by Arthur Dove (1880-1946).
The painting was exhibited in 1927 by Alfred Stieglitz at the
Intimate Gallery in New York and has a conservative high estimate
of $600,000. It sold for $552,500.
Another highlight of the modern
group is Lot
131, "At the Golden Swan: Sometimes called ‘Hell Hole,"
a 8 by 10 ½ inch watercolor, dated 1919, by Charles Demuth
(1883-1935) that depicts the famous literary saloon at the corner
of Sixth Avenue and Fourth Street. The artist has shown himself
with Edward Fiske and Marcel Duchamp in the bar that would later
become a haunt for Eugene O’Neil who fashioned some of the
characters in his play, "The Iceman Cometh," on its
patrons. This important work has a conservative high estimate
of $300,000. It failed to sell.
Lot 128, "Acrobats," is another
Demuth watercolor, 13 by 8 inches and dated 1917. Described in
the catalogue as "wonderfully explosive," this fine
work has a conservative high estimate of $180,000. It sold for
$123,500. Another beautiful Demuth watercolor, Lot 134, "Three
Pears," 9 by 13 inches, has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000.
It sold for $90,500.
Another good watercolors in the
Lot 55, "The Green Dress," by John Singer Sargent (1856-1925),
17 1/8 by 13 inches, which has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000
and sold for $420,500; Lot 81, "A Quiet Day in
an amusing 1897 work, 18 by 28 inches by Charles Marion Russell
(1864-1926), which has a high estimate of $240,000 and failed
to sell, and Lot 83, another Russell, "Mourning Her Warrior
Dead," that is very poetic and beautiful, 10 ¾ by
13 ¾ inches, which has a high estimate of only $50,000
and sold for $79,500.
In the Western category, the
auction has two
good works by Frederick Remington (1861-1909): Lot 46, "Pretty
Mother of the Night," a 27-by-40- inch oil on canvas that
depicts two Indians on horses at night and was formerly in the
collection of William Randolph Hearst and has an estimate of $2-
to $3-million, and failed to sell; and Lot 47, a
size work, also formerly in the Hearst collection, entitled "The
Wolves Sniffed Along on the Trail, But Came No Nearer," and
has a high estimate of $1,800,000, and failed to sell, an
perhaps of sanity in the Remington market as these were good works
for this very over-appreciated illustrator.
In the "pretty lady" category
two good works: Lot 109, "The Bouvier Twins," a 40-by-48-inch
oil on canvas by Albert Herter (1871-1950) that is quite lovely
and has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000, and failed to
sell; and Lot 100, "An Idle Moment," a 26-by-34-inch
oil on canvas by John White Alexander (1856-1915) that depicts
a beautiful woman gazing at goldfish in a bowl and has a high
estimate of $250,000, and failed to sell; and Lot
very good painting, "Ladies on a Hill," a 22-by-18-inch
oil on canvas, by Charles Courtney Curran (1861-1942) that has
a high estimate of $240,000, and sold for $222,500.
A wonderful and exquisite
bas-relief in white
marble, Lot 54, 11 ½ inches square, by Elihu Vedder (1836-1923),
depicts the artist’s favorite and very beautiful model. It
has a very conservative high estimate of $30,000. It sold for
Lot 52, "The Old Chest Room –
Horseshoe and Dutch Jar," is a good still life, 40 by 30
inches, by John Frederick Peto (1854-1907), that has an ambitious
high estimate of $600,000, although not as fine as his "Violin,"
Lot 32, a 16 by 12 oil on canvas that has a high estimate of $250,000.
Lot 52 sold for $387,500 and Lot 32 sold for $288,500. Peto
and William Harnett are two of the nation’s best 19th Century
trompe-l’oeil artists. The other is John Haberle (1856-1933),
whose works are consistently more painterly, humorous and interesting
and Lot 21, "A Misunderstanding," a 10 ½ by 16
inch oil on canvas, is a good example, especially since it is
in its original frame, and has a conservative high estimate of
$80,000. It failed to sell.
It would make a fine match for
Lot 93, "Bonnie,"
a masterpiece by Joseph Decker (1853-1924) of his pet squirrel,
a 16 ¼ by 20 ½ inch oil on canvas that has a high
estimate of $350,000. It failed to sell.