By Carter B.
Winslow Homer (1836-1910) is
artist and this auction has an extraordinary number of his works,
including a fabulous watercolor and gouache, Lot 21, "The
Farmyard Wall," that is the cover illustration of the catalogue.
This masterpiece, shown below
and in a detail
above, which is property from the G. Frederick Stork Family, was
executed in 1873, most likely in Gloucester, Mass., and measures
7 1/4 by 13 3/4 inches. It has a very, very
estimate of $1,000,000 to $1,500,000 since it shows his own great
impressionism to fabulous advantage. It sold for $1,545.750,
including the buyer's premium as do all sales results in this
article. That is a respectable price, but actually something of
a disappointment considering how well the previous day American
Painting auction at Phillips did, albeit with not such grand paintings,
and how strong the art market has been despite the slump in economic
markets. This is a quintessential Homer watercolor of the highest
quality, far, far better than the good Adirondack watercolor that
recently sold at auction for more than $4 million. Its price,
indeed, well reflects, the somewhat lackluster results of this
auction in which most lots sold within their pre-sale estimates
and only 78.35 percent of the offered lots were sold.
Rathbone, the head of Sotheby's
American Paintings Department, said after the sale that "while
there were disappointments...overall the sale was strong with
ten lots selling for over $1 million and records set for Ralph
Albert Blakelock and John Sloan." "The fact that works
which had been on the market within the last five years sold for
far higher prices today shows how strong the market is for revered
works of art and how the American paintings market is evolving,"
Mr. Rathbone added.
Apart from its bravura flecks
of light and
great charm, this is a rather unusually long horizontal composition
for Homer as well as one that is quite boldly abstract especially
in its treatment of the vertical slats on the structure at the
Incredibly, Sotheby's has
placed a higher estimate
on another 1873 by Homer, Lot 10, "How Many Eggs?, a 13-by-9-inch
watercolor and gouache on paper, that sold at Christie's, Dec.
4, 1996. It is a strong and startling composition and a fine work,
very vibrantly colored, but it cannot compare with the virtuosity
and freedom of "The Farmyard Wall." It has a conservative
estimate of $1,200,000 to $1,800,000. It sold for $1,389,750,
a good price, but much too close to that of Lot 21, a definitely
Many of the other Homer
watercolors did not
do very well, a reflection largely of their quality. Lot 56, "In
Autumn Woods," is a pleasant Homer watercolor and pencil
on paper, 11 by 7 1/2 inches, shown above, that was executed circa
1877 and has an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. It sold for
$203,750. One of Homer's most fantastic female portraits was
of a very elegant woman in a similar autumnal scene on a slope
but it was a large oil with a far richer palette and was one of
the jewels of the Paul Mellon collection for many years. This
is much more sketchy and the woman's figure is not well articulated
or drawn, which is unusual and the woman's face does not have
the usual beauty that Homer endowed his models with at this time.
Homer would return to
Gloucester in 1880 and
his work of that period demonstrates a fine mastery of water
but is generally paler in palette because of overcast weather
and his focus on bay scenes. Lot 45, "The Lobster Pot,"
is a very pleasant 9 1/2-by- 13 1/4-inch watercolor of this period
and has a conservative estimate of $600,000 to $800,000. It
failed to sell.
Lot 59, "A Sloop at a Wharf:
is a 9-by-13 1/2-inch watercolor, shown above, circa 1880 signed
Homer that has a rather abstract design that highlights the white
hull of a sailboat moored at a pier on which several children,
drawn with very little detail, are playing. Both this and Lot
45 are a bit heavy-handed for Homer in the treatment of distant
shores and the clouds. It has an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000.
It sold for $203,750.
Lot 74 is a 7-by-5-inch
by Homer of his brother, Charles Savage Homer Jr. It was painted
about 1860 and has great charm and a conservative estimate of
$40,000 to $60,000. It was once in the collection of John Wilmerding.
It failed to sell.
Lot 75, "Starfish," is a 7
ink wash, gouache and pencil on paper by Homer of a woman bending
over on beach to pick something up. It is excellent although mostly
monochromatic in browns. It has a conservative estimate of $150,000
to $200,000 and the catalogue maintains it was executed in 1881-2.
It sold for $104,250.
Lot 76, "The Fog Horn," which
dated 1883, is a 14-by-21 inch watercolor that is representative
of Homer's interest in fisherwomen. Here, two of them stand
on a foggy beach rather sullenly, one of them handing a beautiful,
bright red horn. Some of his depictions of women during this period
get a little sloppy and bulky and not terribly refined, but these
two are stoic and handsome and the horn centers and saves the
picture that has an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000. It
The sale also has two Homer
oils, one a masterpiece
and the other a rather murky, unresolved picture.
The former is Lot 33, "Uncle
Ned at Home,"
a 14-by-22-inch oil on canvas, shown above, dated 1875. Reminiscent
a bit of Eastman Johnson's famous farmyard scene at the New York
Historical Society, this is a magnificent depiction of a very
elegant black man carrying a pail and standing in front of a sloping
wooden farm structure whose roof is festooned with several delightful
birdhouses. It is a marvelous, busy composition with plenty of
angles and highlights, four children, many birds and a few cats.
It has been widely exhibited and published. It has a very conservative
estimate of $2,000,000 to $3,000,000. It sold for $2,875,750.
In 1993, this painting sold at auction for $992,500.
The latter, Lot 130, which is
in the afternoon
section of the auction, is a 8-by-10-inch oil on canvas, "The
Haycart" and the catalogue maintains it was painted between
the late 1860s and the early 1870s. It has an estimate of $60,000
to $80,000 and bear's the artist's initials.
This auction has several
important works that
are not by Homer including several superb paintings of New York
City, one by John Sloan (1871-1951), one by William Merritt Chase
(1849-1916), one by Everett Shinn (1876-1953), William J. Glackens
(1870-1938), George Bellows (I 882-1925) and Jasper Francis Cropsey
The Sloan, Lot 55, is one of
highlights, a great urban scene, entitled "Bleecker Street,
Saturday Night," a 26 1/4-by-32-inch oil on canvas, executed
about 1918. The work has a conservative estimate of $1,400,000
to $1,800,000. It sold for $2,205,750, an auction record for
the artist. The catalogue provides the following quotation
from the artist about the work:
"This old thoroughfare in the
Village section was once a fashionable residence street. It has
maintained a great deal of old architecture. On Saturday nights
the small shops and sidewalk merchants do a lively business. The
amputated building shown had recently been curtailed in cutting
through the new 7th Ave. downtown. A cheerful, happy street, there's
many another bleaker." Sloan is famous for his rooftop and
ferry scenes but this and his "City From Greenwich Village,"
now in the collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington,
DC, are his great night-time street scenes. This painting was
formerly in the collection of the IBM International Foundation.
The Chase, Lot 60, is a 10
on panel, shown above, that is a very beautiful and almost abstract
scene of a meadow with a skyline, presumably Central Park South,
in the distance at the top of the picture. Chase's smaller works
are among his best and his is a very bold composition and quite
lyrical in its soft green and pink palette. It has a very conservative
estimate of $80,000 to $120,000 and the catalogue maintains it
was painted around 1889-1890. It sold for $192,750.
61, incidentally, is a charming pendant for Lot 60 as it is a
7 1/2-by-12 1/2-inch pastel on paper, "The Garden Wall,"
shown below, that is also quite abstract and has a similar soft
green palette with several tree-trunks against a beige wall. It
has a very conservative estimate of $30,000 to $50,000. It
sold for only $22,600.) (See
Review article on the major exhibition in the summer of 2000 on
William Merritt Chase at the Brooklyn Museum, the Art Institute
of Chicago and the Museum of Fine Art in Houston.)
The Shinn, Lot 65, "Washington
Park, New York, is a superb 15 1/2-by-20-inch oil on canvas, dated
1952 that is a very painterly and lovely view from the southwest
of the park's famous arch. It has a conservative estimate of $40,000
to $60,000. It sold for $66,875. (The auction has
very fine Shinns, Lots 80 and 81. The former is a Parisian street
scene, a 25 1/2-by-36 1/4-inch pastel and charcoal on canvas,
that has a modest estimate of $50,000 to $70,000. It was
The latter, "He's The Man For Me," is one of his
classic clown paintings, a 30-by-24-inch oil on canvas, that has
a modest estimate of $40,000 to $65,000, and was formerly in the
IBM International Foundation collection. It sold for $87,000.)
A perfect pendant for Shinn's
Lot 65 is Glacken's
"29 Washington Square," Lot 52, a 25-by-30-inch oil
on canvas, shown below, executed circa 1911-2. This charming and
fine Glackens shows red apartment buildings on one side of the
park with several children playing as one adult woman stands watch
in the foreground. It has a conservative estimate of $700,000
to $900,000. It sold for only $487,750.
The latter, Lot 24, "May Day in
Park," is a 18-by-22 inch oil on canvas executed around 1905
that is a very strong and vibrant park scene with many children
dressed in white beneath a bright orange decoration with a meadow
in the background. It has an estimate of $700,000 to $1,000,000.
It sold for $885,750.
The Cropsey, Lot 97, "A View in
Park - The Spire of Dr. Hall's Church in the Distance," dated
1880, is a 17 1/4-by- 1 2 1/4-inch oil on canvas mounted on board.
Dr. Hall's church is the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church that
still stands on 55th Street. It has an estimate of $25,000 to
$35,000. It sold for $29,5000.
There are several other New
York pictures in
the auction including a nice "Brooklyn Bridge" by Joseph
Stella, Lot 184, a 14-by-11-inch watercolor, shown above, that
has a conservative estimate of $20,000 to $30,000. It sold
Other important highlights
include a very major
western landscape by Ralph Albert Blakelock (1847-1919), a very
fine park scene and a pleasant girl and cat picture by Mary Cassatt
(1844-1926), a spectacular painting by Richard Edward Miller
a great floral painting by Maria Oakey Dewing (1845-1927), a beautiful
river scene by Frederick C. Frieseke (1874-193 9), a lovely orchard
scene by Theodore Robinson (1852-1896), some fine paintings by
Jane Peterson (1876-1965), an interesting Middle East painting
and a good painting of Corfu by John Singer Sargent (1856-1925),
a fine impressionist work by John H. Twachtman (1853-1902), a
great portrait of his wife by William Merritt Chase and a sumptuous
work by Robert Henri (1865-1929), a very nice landscape by Sanford
Robinson Gifford (1823-1880), an excellent shore scene by John
F. Kensett (1816-1872), a striking Indian portrait by Charles
Bird King (1785-1862), and a major painting by Charles Sheeler
The Blakelock, Lot 155, "Indian
Along the Snake River," is a 47 1/2-by-84-inch oil on canvas
that is dated 1871 and is being sold by Phillips University, Inc.,
in Enid, Okla.
Blakelock is one of America's
whose reputation has been marred by questions of forgeries. He
is best known for his dark moonlit scenes of silhouetted trees,
often with Indian encampments and these works together with Albert
Pinkham Ryder's famous marine pictures and George Inness's better
Tonalist paintings comprise the core of very poetic, exotic,
mystical abstraction that many later modern artists would find
This is the largest known
painting by Blakelock
and could be easily be mistaken for a major Albert Bierstadt landscape
of the west.
The catalogue provides the
about this work by Robin E. Kelsey:
"Both the picture’s size and
meticulousness of its execution suggest, quite correctly, that
it represents a vital moment in the artist’s oeuvre.
Blakelock was not only recording his impressions of the West,
but also adopting and modifying the painterly conventions of his
day. The tenebrous foreground framed at the sides by blasted trees,
the careful massing of foliage, the sunlit waterway that arcs
through the middle distance, the pale mountains, tinted with lavender,
to which the water leads – in rendering these elements Blakelock
asserted his mastery over the bucolic, Claudian scheme favored
by the Hudson River school. Yet even as Blakelock displayed command
of these conventions, he introduced pictorial elements and inflections
of style that foreshadowed the distinctive qualities of his later
work. We see this in the vigorous touches that enliven the sunlit
areas along the river. We see this also I the treatment of the
figures, their imbrication in the landscape, their nuanced gestures,
and the subtle suggestions of a narrative that binds each group
of figures to the next. From far away the present picture offers
a bravura depiction of the West as Arcady; up close, it reveals
signs of the innovative and enigmatic style that characterizes
the best of the artist’s production of later years."
The painting has a very
of $300,00 to $400,000. It sold for $3,525,750, or what a
quality and size painting by Albert Bierstadt should sell for.
It was a remarkable but not really unreasonable price given its
quality and size. Towards the end of his life, Blakelock
from considerable mental anguish even as his paintings were selling
for as much as $20,000, the highest amount at that time for American
artists. The sale price at this auction set a record for Blakelock.
Hopefully, this great painting
will begin to
restore Blakelock to the pantheon of great American artists even
though this is not what he is really "about" it is a
knockout worthy of hanging in the same room as Albert Bierstadt’s
"The Rocky Mountains" (at the Metropolitan Museum of
The Cassatt, Lot 14, "Lydia
A Porch, Crocheting," a 15-by-24 1/4-inch oil on canvas,
shown above, painted around 1882, is a very strong composition
with a lovely cool palette. It has an estimate of $1,000,000 to
$1,500,000. It sold for $1,215,750 and had sold for $860,500
in 1996. Cassatt is unfortunately best known for her
of mothers and children, but her other subjects, such as this,
are her much, much better than the formula ones.
Richard Edward Miller’s
Lot 46, shown above, is a dazzling masterpiece that may well be
the best pretty woman painting of the early years of the century,
at least by an American. Miller lived for several years in France
and summered at Giverny. "By 1914, Miller, acclaimed for
his virtuosic brushwork, vivid color and appealing subjects, had
sold four paintings to the French Government for its museums,"
the catalogue noted. The 39 ½-by-32-inch oil on canvas
was executed in 1913-4 and has a very modest estimate of $1,200,000
to $1,800,000. It failed to sell! At his best,
usually pretty often, Miller melds the best aspects of Impressionism
and Post-Impressionism with memorable sentiment and bravura
that transcends periods or styles.
The auction has three other
should hang in the same room as "Tea-Time," Lots 27,
38 and 41.
Lot 27 is "On the River," a 25
oil on canvas by Frederick C. Frieseke that depicts a woman in
an elegant blue and white striped dress and very large hat seated
by herself in a rowboat at a river’s edge looking directly
at the view who also seems her reflection in the water. Frieseke
is not as consistent as Miller and his style is a bit stiffer
but at his best his dappled impressionism is frequently lovely
and this is one of his very best works. It has an estimate of
$800,000 to $1,000,000. It sold for $1,215,750 and had sold
for $519,500 in 1994.
Lot 38 is "In The Orchard," a
oil on canvas by Theodore Robinson that was painted in 1895 and
is considerably brighter than many of his works and has a lovely
ambiance. It has an conservative estimate of $500,000 to $700,000,
which probably reflects his slightly disappointing recent auction
performance despite his importance. It sold for $687,750, a
respectable price since many fine Robinsons have not fared well
at auction recently.
Lot 41 is "In the Arbor," a 24
oil on canvas by Jane Peterson that was painted circa 1913-4 and
has an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. Peterson studied at the
Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, the London School of Art and traveled
to Paris and then Venice where she painted with F. Hopkinson Smith
who arranged for her to meet Joquain Sorolla y Bastida, the Spanish
impressionist and they painted together and then traveled to Oyster
Bay on Long Island where they visited Louis Comfort Tiffany who
commissioned Sorolla to paint his portrait and invited Peterson
to stay for the summer. She would return to Paris in 1912 where
she became acquainted with Miller and Frieseke, the catalogue
noted. Peterson has three other paintings in the auction, Lots
1, 2, shown above, and 8, extremely lovely Venetian scenes, the
first two in beautiful gilded and painted frames. Each of these
works is estimated conservatively at $25,000 to $35,000 and were
painted about 1920 and they show Peterson’s more mature and
much simplified impressionistic style that has always been very
appealing with cool, bluish palettes. Lot 1 sold for $49,625
and Lot 2 sold for $52,500.
Landscape oils by John Singer
fairly rarely on the auction market and usually are a bit muddy.
This auction has two good examples, Lot 47 and 70. The former,
"The Dead Sea," is a very fine Sargent landscape, 22
by 28 inches, painted in 1905, that has quite an abstract dynamic
and bravura brushwork and the head of man in the lower right corner.
It has a conservative estimate of $300,000 to $400,000. It
failed to sell. The latter, "Olive Trees, Corfu,"
a 20 ¼-by-24 ¼-inch oil on canvas painted in 1909
is a fine and unusually fluid work with a lovely sense of motion
in the wispy, Barbizonisque trees and its overall composition.
It has a conservative estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It
sold for $192,750.
John Twachtman is America’s
although he is uneven and was nowhere near as productive as Winslow
Homer, William Merritt Chase or Childe Hassam, the other "giants."
At his best, Twachtman took Impressionism to an abstract extreme
that was delicate and lyrical, but also quite powerful. His snow
scenes tend to be a bit dull, but his summer landscapes are very
fine and Lot 58 is an excellent example. Entitled "Weir’s
Farm," this 19-by-15-inch oil on canvas is probably a depiction
of property owned by Julian Alden Weir, one of two painter sons
of Robert Weir, who taught painting at West Point for four decades.
This painted is sort of a very bright version of a farmscape by
Albert Pinkham Ryder, American’s great poetic visionary of
the late 19th Century. This work has an ambitious estimate of
$200,000 to $300,000 in light of the market’s overemphasis
on the works of Chase and Hassam, who produced some brilliant
works but fell into popular ruts. It failed to sell.
Lot 42, "Sunset at Shinnecock
is a 33-by-40-inch oil on canvas, shown above, by Chase that shows
a lovely girl in a white dress covering her eyes with one hand
to better see the viewer as she stands in a field. It is a good,
but not masterful, example of Chase’s Impressionism but like
many of his large Shinnecock paintings its composition is not
exciting and a bit bland. The placing of the girl in the lower
left corner helps this painting considerably, but the sky is a
little disappointing. This work has an ambitious estimate of $2,500,000
to $3,500,000. It failed to sell.
Chase is at his best when he is
and Lot 88 is a good example of this looser brushwork. Entitled
"Mrs. Chase in Spanish Costume," it is a 32-by-25-inch
oil on canvas that was painted circa 1896 and is quite lovely.
It is estimated conservatively at $200,000 to $300,000. It
sold for $357,750.
A great pendant for "Mrs.
is Lot 94, "Roshanara," a 32-by-26-inch on canvas, shown
above, by Robert Henri that is fabulous for its wild brushwork
and color. It is a portrait of Roshanara, a dancer whose real
name was Olive Craddock. The catalogue notes that after her death
in 1926, Henri described her as having given "beauty to the
world in her dancing and by her spirit for grace and poise."
The work is very conservatively estimated at $125,000 to $175,000
and is one of Henri’s masterpieces. It sold for $132,250.
Hassam is one of the rare
who worked in many different styles. Lot 29, "Isle of Shoals,"
watercolor and ink on paper, 13 1/2 by 9 1/2 inches, shown above,
is a very beautiful work that is quite different from most of
his oeuvre with his delicate line work in the works and the very
lyrical sunset. It sold for $148,750, nicely above its
While the auction does not have
River School works, it has a couple of superb early landscapes
by such leading painters of the school as Sanford Robinson Gifford
and John F. Kensett. The former is showcased by Lot 118, "Indian
Summer," a 8 ¾-by-15 ¾-inch oil on canvas,
dated 1863, that is a very fine example of Gifford’s golden
touch. The catalogue notes that the painting depicts three Indians
in two canoes in the Androscoggin River in New Hampshire with
the White Mountains in the distance. It is conservatively estimated
at $250,000 to $350,000. It sold for $247,750, which is still
an impressive amount for such a size picture. The latter is
showcased by Lot 137, "Connecticut Shoreline in Autumn,"
a very beautiful beach scene by John F. Kensett. The 14-by-24
½-inch oil on canvas is different from most of Kensett’s
fine shore scenes for its dramatic inclusion of three beautiful
trees in the center of the composition. The work has a conservative
estimate of $100,000 to $125,000. It sold for only $126,750.
Another Gifford in the auction
is Lot 126,
"A Souvenir of the Catskills (Kaaterskill Clove)," a
8 by 9 inch oil on board, shown below, dated 1867. The painting
of this famous landmark waterfall in the Catskill’s is rather
dark with threatening storm clouds and has an ambitious estimate
of $100,000 to $150,000 and is an unusual vista of this important
landmark. It passed.
An important and impressive
portrait of Moanahonga
(Great Walker), an Iowa Chief, Lot 144, by Charles Bird King is
a wonderful 20 ¾-by-16 ½-inch oil on canvas that
is conservatively estimated at $80,000 to $120,000. It was
Charles Sheeler is one of
Modernists and Lot 189 is an excellent example of his stark, almost
Cubist style. Entitled "San Francisco (Fisherman’s Wharf),"
it is a 31 ½-by-21 ½-inch oil on canvas that depicts
two boats seen from above. It has a conservative estimate of $150,000
to $250,000. It sold for $329,750.
by Maria Oakley Dewing, shown above, is fabulous. The 24-by-40
1/2-inch oil on canvas was once in the collection of Mrs. Whitelaw
Reid. The artist studied under John La Farge and married Thomas
Wilmer Dewing, the artist famous for his ethereal portraits of
elegant women. The painting, which has a frame designed by Stanford
White, has a conservative estimate of $200,000 to $300,000 and
is a masterpiece. It sold for a respectable $1,160,750!
quality of this auction
is the highest in many years and it has an unusual number of
ornate and beautiful frames.