is highlighted by a great watercolor and a greater oil by Maurice
Brazil Prendergast (1859-1924), a couple of superb works by Childe
Hassam (1859-1935), and excellent works by Georgia O'Keefe and
watercolor, Lot 11, "The Stony Beach," shown above,
is the cover illustration of the catalogue and is the property
of the very important collection of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur G. Altschul
of New York. It measures 20 7/8 by 14 inches and has an slightly
ambitious estimate of $2,000,000 to $3,000,000. It sold for
$3,526,000 including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned
in this article. Although for many years identified as a
of Ogunguit, Maine, the catalogue suggests it may be Nahant,
It quotes Richard Wattenmaker that in this work, which dates circa
1897, "Prendergast took a step in a new direction, to a large-scale
color ensemble of both delicacy and power, in which the irregular
patterns of rocks, figures, umbrellas, water, and sky are interspersed
and titled like a page from a Persian miniature."
Lot 56 is
one of Prendergast's finest oils. Measuring 26 by 32 inches, it
was painted between 1910 and 1913 and is the property of the estate
of Edith K. Ehrman. Entitled "The Bathers," it has a
very conservative estimate of $1,000,000 to $1,500,000. It
failed to sell and was "bought in" at $650,000!
was familiar with the work of CÚzanne, who was famous for
his series on bathers, and Matisse, who was famous for his series
on dancers, and in this work Prendergast, the catalogue, notes,
"manipulates a bold, highly saturated fauvist palette of
rich blues, greens, pinks, yellows and reds" and the "figures
and the landscape are described in a variety of jewel-like colors."
"The brilliant color scheme is applied in a variety of brushstrokes,
a departure from his earlier preference for the same brushwork
within a single picture.The artist's interest in the tactile properties
of oil is evident in the heavily encrusted surfaces of works such
as The Bathers, in which thickly applied layers of contrasting
pigments create a brightly hued, tapestried effect, and serve
to further emphasize the flatness of the canvas. Here, the interwoven
patterns of brilliant color mold the figures that populate the
banks of Prendergast's familiar cove." The catalogue also
comments at length on the work's unusual "trellis" composition.
This is a magnificent painting and while the "influence"
of both CÚzanne and Matisse is evident, both artists, and
Derain, surely would have not considered this work derivative
but quite wonderful in its own right because of its extraordinarily
rich colors and very strong composition and its overall sense
of joy in both the subject matter and the painted object itself.
watercolor and oil styles are quite different, the one light and
the other heavy.
any other famous American painter, Childe Hassam experimented
with many different style. While there are occasional formulaic
lapses in quality in his oeuvre, at his best Hassam produced some
truly stunning pictures and Lot 13 is one of those. Entitled "Moonrise
at Sunset, Cape Ann," it is dated 1892 and the oil and canvas
measures 18 by 22 inches. It was once in the collection of Mrs.
Stanford White and has a very conservative estimate of $250,000
to $350,000. It sold for $369,000.
provides the following commentary:
particular work is one of the first paintings in oil in which
the artist seeks to capture the elusive effects of light on the
Atlantic coast in a boldly structured, even abstract composition.
Most of these works were painted during the summer he spent in
New England on the Island of Appledore, off the New Hampshire
coast just north of Cape Ann. This workwas likely completed at
the home of Celia Thaxter, a poet whose home at Appledore became
a salon for many artist and writers. Thaxter and Hassam often
collaborated together, most famously on Thaxter's book, An
Island Garden, illustrated by the artist. Thaxter also wrote
a poem in 1891 entitled "Moonlight, which was based on another
picture by Hassam which was published with her poem in The
Hassam is Lot 35, "Houses of Parliament, Early Evening,"
a 13-by-16 3/8-inch oil on canvas, dated 1898. The lot has a
estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold for $314,000.
of Parliament, Early Evening is a quintessential example of
Hassam's translation of the urban landscape into a poetic arrangement
of color and light. He was keenly interested in weather and atmosphere.
In this work, the artist exploits his skill in rendering the effects
of the fading evening light on water's surface to convey the specific
mood of evening.
predominant use of blues, grays and pale purples in the atmosphere
recalls his earlier Tonalist works from the mid-1880s. In Houses
of Parliament, Early Evening he punctuates the cool evening
tones with hints of reds and yellows, enlivening the surface and
hinting at the teeming life that inhabits the urban landscape
beneath the veil of evening light."
the same subject, albeit from a different vantage point, for a
famous series of Impressionist paintings (see an illustration
of one in The City Review article on the Spring 2001 Impressionist
Art evening auction at Sotheby's). Hassam's treatment of the water
here is classic impressionism, but his delicate traces of cloud's
around the tower are both subtle and startling and the idyllic
seen is brought back a bit to reality with the smoke pouring out
of two ships in the center foreground and the small, bright, yellow
and red clockface, which is a jarring reminder of modernity. Monet,
on the other hand, is much wilder and freer in his treatment of
the same subject, which leads one to reflect on the fact that
Hassam's oeuvre is, generally, not expansive but contained, almost
frozen. Hassam is rarely concerned with atmosphere and more preoccupied
with pattern and texture. One could argue that this composition
might have been lovely if the lower portion of the picture were
just the river without the foreground embankment and ships in
the lower-right corner. On the other hand, those element do provide
a greater sense of spatial depth and balance to a degree the
Lot 31 is
another, larger Hassam that is bold and painterly but not as charming
as "Houses of Parliament, Early Evening." Entitled "The
East Headland, Appledore - Isle of Shoals," the 30-by-25-inch
oil on canvas is dated 1908 and has an ambitious estimate of $500,000
to $700,000. It sold for $591,000. This is a more
Hassam and the brushwork in the lower left corner is very good
and the horizontal treatment of the water in the right central
portion of the picture and the unusually bold treatment of the
clouds across the top of the picture are also notable. Nonetheless,
this is a rather unresolved work that is not one of the artist's
masterpieces. It has been in the collection of five leading American
"The Quarry Pool, Folly Cove, Cape Ann," is a more appealing
Hassam. The 10 1/8-by-13 3/4-inch oil on canvas is dated 1918
and has a modest estimate of $30,000 to $50,000. It sold for
$43,475. A nude woman looks at herself in a mirror while
on a rock beside a pool. The brushwork here is vigorous and consists
mostly of short straight strokes. The woman is painted with a
nice, statuesque simplicity and the trees, especially those in
the background, are wonderfully handled.
companion piece for Hassam's "Houses of Parliament, Early
Evening," would be Lot 50, "The East River at Night,"
an excellent pastel on paper, 13 1/8 by 21 inches by Everett Shinn
(1876-1953), which was recently shown in the fine exhibition on
Shinn at the Berry-Hill Gallery from November, 2000 to January,
2001. This work, dated 1906, has an estimate of $150,000 to $250,000.
It sold for $149,000. The upper right-hand corner
work is a marvelous abstraction of city lights and the composition
has an interesting, impressionistic sense of motion.
At his best,
John Henry Twachtman (1853-1902) is the best American "Impressionist"
painter, although stylistically perhaps too many American artists
are described as Impressionists and better descriptions are needed.
Lot 1, "Niagara Falls," is a very good Twachtman work,
an oil on canvas that measures 17 3/8 by 14 3/8 inches. Apart
from a few rocks in the foreground, the painting shows only a
touch of sky in the upper left corner and is almost entirely centered
on the cascading rush of water and Twachtman has used an extremely
limited palette of whites, blues and greens. This is a vigorous
and wonderful "action" painting. One easily envisions
the artist energetically applying the almost vertical brushstrokes
in a flurry. Interestingly, he has signed the work with his signature
at an angle that slopes downward from left to right, counter to
the angle of the cascading torrents. Twachtman was way ahead of
his times and this is very conservatively estimated at $30,000
to $50,000. It sold for $58,750.
A nice companion
piece of the Twachtman is Lot 8, "Landscape in Moonlight,"
by Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937). The 10 1/8-by-13 7/8-inch
oil on canvas is dated 1913 and has an estimate of $30,000 to
$50,000. It sold for $70,500. This is a quite
Lot 59, "The Music Lesson," by Thomas Wilmer Dewing
(1851-1938) is an exquisite oil on canvas, 16 by 14 inches, that
shows a woman sitting at a piano looking at the viewer. A marvelous
study in Dewing's most diaphonous style in yellows, greens and
brown, this is an exquisite that has an unusual sense of spatial
depth for the artist. It has an ambitious estimate, given its
size, of $400,000 to $600,000. It sold for $721,000, setting
a new world auction record for the artist. "The
Lesson truly demonstrates Dewing's contention that the
of the artist is to 'see beautifully,'' the catalogue observes.
"Dewing evokes a sense of melancholy through his skillful
and deliberate use of a narrow tonal range. His sitters are presented
as if in a dream world. In the present example, she is dignified
and elegant rather than beautiful, seated on a low bench at the
spinet. Devoid of anecdotal drama, Dewing imbues the scene with
an aura of quietude and tension, recalling the works of Jan Vermeer,
who was much admired at the time," the catalogue continued.
Dewing's poetic works, especially his smaller ones, are very beautiful
indeed but they do not convey melancholy but peacefulness and
the sitter in this work is beautiful and all his subjects are
dignified. Indeed, one can easily tire of the countless "white
ladies" portrayed endlessly by New England Impressionists
around the turn of the century, but never be exhausted by Dewing's
heavenly works of which this is a fine example. Many of the "white
ladies" come across as social butterflies concerned with
their finery and their gardens and their worry-free lives, but
Dewing's ladies are vestigial descendants of Classical and mythological
goddesses whose longings are aesthetically eternal and inherently
graceful. Indeed, grace is their virtue whereas other "white
ladies" are simply well-attired and poised/posed.
"Margaret Under the Elms," is a classic, pretty "white
lady" picture by Edmund Charles Tarbell (1862-1938) and is
quite good of its kind. The catalogue states it "is not only
a masterpiece of Edmund Tarbell's oeuvre, but also typifies the
finest works of the Boston School painters," a group that
was referred to for a while as the "Tarbellites." "Margaret
Under the Elms superbly demonstrates Tarbell's fresh and original
approach to plein air painting. A rich mix of
and light, the work demonstrates Tarbell's early mastery of
techniques, and is "the kind of picture that led to recognition
of Tarbell's leadership in the School," the catalogue entry
added, quoting Dr. William H. Gerdts.
oil on canvas measures 66 1/4 by 36 1/4 inches and has an estimate
of $500,000 to $700,000. It sold for $534,000. Tarbell
is a very good artist and one of his paintings that came up at
auction more than a decade ago was a spectacular painting of a
woman in a large black hat whose face was completely in shadow
and it was the rival of good works by Rembrandt.
group of American Impressionists would adopt a much more colorful
and painterly approach to society portraiture than the "Tarbellites."
Lot 60, for example, is a good work by Richard E. Miller (1875-1943).
Entitled "In the Shadow," the 32-by-25 5/8-inch oil
on canvas has an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. It failed
to sell and was "bought in" for $220,000. "In
The Shadow has been critically acclaimed since it was first exhibited
at New York's Madison Art Gallery as part of the 1910 Exhibition
Paintings from Giverny: Exhibition of Paintings by Frieseke, Miller,
Lawton Parker and Guy Rose," the catalogue noted, adding
extensive contemporary comments on the quite lovely painting.
Miller is one of the most painterly of all American artists and
his best works are voluptuous and dazzling with a palette far
more intense than most other American and French Impressionists.
They are bravura works and this is a strong example.
"The Pink Kimono," is a 32-by-25 5/8-inch oil on canvas
by Frederick Carl Frieseke (1874-1939) that is very lovely and
much more muted and less patterned than his typical works. It
has a conservative estimate of $150,000 to $250,000. It sold
with the pretty ladies, Georgia O'Keefe (1887-1986) is one of
the great early American modern painters and Lot 67, "Black
Cross with Stars and Blue," is one of her major works. The
40-by-30-inch oil on canvas has an estimate of $1,500,000 to
It sold for $4,076,000.
of George O'Keefe's most sophisticated works, Black Cross
Stars and Blue is also among her most powerful and moving
images. Painted in New Mexico in 1929, the work reflects the intense
spirituality and wonder the artist associated with the Southwestern
magnified flower paintings were monumental, despite their often
relatively small size, and wonderfully abstract, her later work
in the Southwest was not as consistent and the subject matter
often dictated relatively drab palettes. This work, however, is
large, bold and strong and reminiscent of some of her great Manhattan
is an O'Keefe flower painting executed one year earlier than "Black
Cross with Stars and Blue." Entitled "Calla Lilies with
Red Anemone," the oil on gessoed masonite measures 48 by
29 5/8 inches and has an ambitious estimate of $2,500,000 to $3,500,000.
It sold for $6,166,000, setting a new world auction record for
the artist and for a woman artist! In this work, the
is more distanced than some of her more abstract flower paintings
that tend to be more sensual and striking.
has a nice selection of Western paintings, the best of which is
Lot 80, "Sighting the Enemy," a 21-by-29 1/2-inch watercolor,
gouache and pencil on paperboard by Charles Marion Russell (1864-1926).
It has an estimate of $350,000 to $450,000 and depicts several
Indians on horseback on the side of a bluff. It failed to
and was "bought in" at $200,000!
"Attack on the Supply Train," is a good watercolor and
gouache on paper laid down on stretched paper, 14 by 29 1/4 inches,
by Frederic Remington (1861-1909). Remington is not as good an
artist as Russell and much of oeuvre is merely illustrative. This
work is illustrative but it is an unusually panoramic composition
and good of its kind. It has an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000.
It failed to sell and was "passed" at $180,000.
Farny (1847-1916) is a better artist than both Remington and Russell
and the auction has two good examples of his work, Lots 71 and
72. The former is entitled "Morning of a New Day," and
is a 18 5/8-by-28 5/8-inch oil on canvas that is dated 1906 and
has an estimate of $800,000 to $1,200,000 and is clearly one of
the artist's best paintings. It sold for $748,500. The
latter, "Theodore Roosevelt 'Sage Grouse Shooting',"
is a 14-by-23 1/2-inch watercolor and gouache on paper. It has
an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. It sold for $314,000.
Lot 7, "The
Hudson River Looking Toward The Catskills," is a major and
fine work by Frances Augustus Silva (1835-1886). The 20-by-40
1/8-inch oil on canvas is dated 1871 and has an estimate of $300,000
to $500,000. Silva is an important Luminist painter and this is
a good example at his skills in handling light. It sold for
Luminist painter is Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904) and Lot 21,
"Marshes at Boston Harbor," is a very nice example of
his style. The 10 1/8-by-22 1/8-inch oil on canvas has a lovely
asymmetrical composition accented by a band of pink clouds in
this golden twilight scene. It has an estimate of $150,000 to
$250,000. It sold for $171,000. Heade's oeuvre is
into several major subjects: marsh scenes, such as this, which
are very evocative; hummingbirds and orchids, which are very lush;
magnolias, which are very sensual; and coastal and waterfront
scenes that are often quite unusual in their dark palettes.
Lot 4 is
one of his popular magnolia pictures, "Single Magnolia on
Red Velvet," a 15-by-24 1/8-inch oil on canvas with an ambitious
estimate of $500,000 to $700,000. It sold for $831,000.
A more colorful
floral work is Lot 28, "Peonies in a Breeze," by John
La Farge (1835-1910). This large watercolor measures 37 3/8 by
20 1/2 inches and is dated 1890. It has an ambitious estimate
of $1,200,000 to $1,800,000. It failed to sell and was
at $900,000. "Peonies in the wind with Kakemo Border
(National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.), the stained
glass window that relates to Peonies in a Breeze, was designed
for the Washington, DC residence of the distinguished statesman
John Hay. Hay worked for the administration of President Lincoln
during he American Civil War and later co-authored two authoritative
books on the President. After holding various diplomatic posts
abroad, he served until his death as Secretary of state to President
McKinley and President Roosevelt. An unusually successful combination
of decorative and fine arts, the watercolor is a rich combination
of colors and textures. Having successfully captured the fluid
movement of the delicate flowers and enthralled by the watercolor
medium, La Farge explored the whole range of tones available to
him - from the lightest washes to the oldest opaques."
"Charleston," a watercolor by Edward Hopper, sold for
$1,876,000, setting a world auction record for a work on paper
by the artist. The 16-by-24 3/4-inch watercolor had an estimate
of $500,000 to $700,000.
stragegy of offering a leansale focussing on high-quality pictures
was well received," declared Paul Provost, senior vice present
and director of Christie's American Paintings Department, after
the auction. "The extraordinary price of $6.1 million for
"O'Keefe's beautiful Calla Lillies with Red Anemone
is the highest ever realized at auction for a woman artist and
sets a new standard for great Amerian Modern art in the Stieglitz
circle," he said.
total was $31,607,175 and 75 percent of the 118 offered lots sold.