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American Paintings

Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg

2PM, May 21, 2002

Sale 866

"Star Light in Harbor," by Fitz Hugh Lane

Lot 72, "'Star Light' in Harbor," by Fitz Hugh Lane (1804-1865), oil on canvas, 24 1/4 by 36 inches, circa 1855

By Carter B. Horsley

This American Painting auction at Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg is distinguished by a superb collection of marine paintings assembled by Glen S. Foster and a very lovely group of early Hudson River School landscapes.

The Glen S. Foster Collection

In a catalogue essay on "American Marine Art from the estate of Glen S. Foster," Daniel Finamore, Russell W. Knight curator of Martime Art and History at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass., noted that Glen Foster "was not interested in pictures by casual coastal artists, those who painted a seascape one day and a meadow the next." "The sea requires a faithfulness and practice on the part of the artist to achieve the level of credibility that Glen sought. All of the artists he collected were specialists in their craft, and Glen's eye brought him to the best of their work. A visit to the home of Kay and Glen Foster was like a day at sea. He gave vivid descriptions of the vessels portrayed and recounted events as if he'd been there on race day. But I'm sure that, even when taking such delight in his unparalleled collection, he would rather have been out sailing."

The highlight of the auction and the Foster Collection is Lot 72, "'Star Light' in Harbor," by Fitz Hugh Lane (1804-1865), a masterwork of American Luminism. The 24 1/4-by-36-inch oil on canvas was painted circa 1855 and has a conservative estimate of $800,000 to $1,200,000. It was acquired by Mr. Foster at the December 3, 1998 American Paintings auction at Sotheby's (see The City Review article) for $772,500 where it had been consigned by the Masco Corporation of Chicago. It sold for $772,500 including the buyer's premium as do all the prices mentioned in this article.

The catalogue provides the following commentary:

"The painting's brilliant clarity of light and resultant translucence of sky and water offer a paean to commerce, technology and progress. The only discordant notes are struck by the broken mast floating in the water and the two stevedores at the lower right, who appear to be animatedly engaged. These incidents offer a degree of complexity to an otherwise overwhelmingly optimistic, orderly presentation. Barbara Novak has persuasively argued that Lane was deeply aware of design, order, and structure in his paintings, and his horizontal alignments of objects, people, or bits of nature within the picture can almost be plotted across with a ruler.......The flawless pyramidal composition stabilizes the clipper ship in a cool, classical treatment that belies the instability and risk of the sea. Lane's painting suggests that the technology and strength of the clipper humbled nature itself; in that belief, he would not have been alone....In spite of its luminist stillness, Lane's 'Star Light in Harbor' contains a narrative aspect that renders it unusual in the artist's oeuvre. His harbor scenes often contain a number of ships and dinghies at varous stages of loading and unloading, arriving and departing, but almost never in so direct a progession as is presented here. In this work, three ships are the centerpieces of the composition, dominated by the Star Light at the center. At the right, a ship arrives escorted by a steam tug, while, at the left, another has turned to depart under sail. Lane's implied narrative is very similar in the form of simultaneous narrative famously employed by Martin Johnson Heade in his 1868 Thunderstorm Over Narragansett Bay.... Heade deployed a series of identical boats headed for the safety of shore in order to convery his narrative. The present work suggests a precedent in American art for Heade's later ocmposition. In contrast to Heade's boats fleeing the wrath of nature, Lanes' narrative conveys the Star Light's preparedness for adversity, simultaneously asserting her predominance over her more dimunitive sisters."

Lane painted another "Star Light" painted which is 30 by 50 inches and in the collection of the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio and is reproduced in the catalogue as is Heade's Thunderstorm Over Narragansett Bay."

Another superb, but more atmospheric Lane is also in the sale, Lot 23, see below.

"Ships in Boston Harbor at Twilight" by William Bradford

Lot 68, "Ships in Boston Harbor at Twilight," by William Bradford, oil on panel, 13 by 19 inches, 1859

William Bradford (1823-1892) is famed as the best American painter of the Artic and for his dramatic marine paintings. Lot 68, "Ships in Boston Harbor at Twilight," is an atypical work by him that is a major masterpiece of American luminist painting. The oil on panel measures 13 by 19 inches and it was executed in 1859. It has a conservative estimate of $175,000 to $225,000. It sold for $459,000, one of many lots in this auction that significantly exceeded their high estimates. The auction was extremely successful with 87.5 percent of the lots selling and established a much higher plateau of values for 19th Century American art. This museum-class painting has the still clarity of the finest luminist works by Fitz Hugh Lane, but is remarkable for its palette of oranges and blues and it is also a very splendid composition.

The catalogue notes that Bradford studied for a while with Albert Van Beest, who had arrived in New Bedford from Rotterdam where he had been trained in the traditions of Dutch sea painting and for threeyears the two shared a waterfront studio overlooking New Bedford harbor. "In 1857," the catalogue continued, "the pair went to Boston to collaborate on a large harbor view reminiscent of those by Fitz Hugh Lane. They may have known Lane from his visit to new Bedford that year to observe the New York Yacht Club's regatta in Buzzards Bay, a spectacle amply recorded in a large painting by Bradford and Van beest, four separate paintings by Lane and a number of sketches and wash drawings by each of them. The two paintings in the Foster Collection illustrate the diffrering influences of Van Beest and Lane on Bradord's work. In The 'Mary' of Boston Returning to Port (1857) the choppy waves, scudding clouds and general animation of the scene reflect the tutelage of Van Beest, while Ships in Boston Harboar at Sunset (1858), with its measured placement of vessels, luminous rendering and light and the pervasive stillness of the scene derives in part from close acquaintance with Lane's work."

"The 'Mary' of Boston Returning to Port" is Lot 67, an oil on canvas laid down on panel that measures 19 3/4 by 29 3/4 inches. Painted in 1857, it has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $134,500.

Remarkably, this auction also has another very fine and somewhat similar Bradford, Lot 11, see below.

"View of Boston Harbor" by Robert Salmon

Lot 87, "View of Boston Harbor," by Robert Salmon, oil on panel, 9 5/8 by 11 5/8 inches, 1843

One of the gems of the Foster collection is Lot 87, "View of Boston Harbor," by Robert Salmon (1775-after 1845). This 9 5/8-by-11 5/8-inch oil on panel is the front-cover illustration of the catalogue. Executed in 1843, it has a modest estimate of $125,000 to $150,000 considering its very high quality and geographic specificity. It was acquired by Mr. Foster at Christie's May 26, 1988 where it had been offered with an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for $552,500.

"Chapman Dock and Old Brooklyn Navy Yard" by James E. Buttersworth

Lot 74, "Chapman Dock and Old Brooklyn Navy Yard, East River, New York," by James E. Buttersworth, oil on panel, 7 3/4 by 18 1/8 inches, circa 1870

More than half of the 28 paintings from the Foster Collection in this auction are by James E. Buttersworth (1817-1894), the foremost American yachting painter of the 19th Century.

Virtually all of the Foster Buttersworths are superb. Lot 74, "Chapman Dock and Old Brooklyn Navy Yard, East River, New York" is one of the more interesting because it shows considerable detail of the old Navy Yard. The oil on panel measures 7 3/4 by 18 inches and was executed circa 1870. It has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $200,500. Lot 81, "'Puritan' Leading 'Genesta,' America's Cup, 1885," by Buttersworth sold for $728,500.

Other Properties

"Ship in Fog, Gloucester Harbor," by Fitz Hugh Lane

Lot 23, "Ship in Fog, Gloucester Harbor," by Fitz Hugh Lane, oil on canvas, 26 by 41 inches, circa 1860

Lot 23, "Ship in Fog, Gloucester Harbor, is another superb work by Fitz Hugh Lane that is more atmospheric and less brilliant than Lot 72, shown at the top of this article, but a stunning and quite sublime work nevertheless. It has a modest estimate of $600,000 to $800,000. It sold for $904,500. The catalogue notes that the artist was born and raised in Gloucester and that "partially paralyzed as an infant, the artist in later life was limited in his ability to travel, but this encouraged him to concentrate upon subjects close at hand." The painting, the catalogue entry continued, "demonstrates the internatinationalism of Lane's luminist idiom," adding that "....many of Lane's works suggest either an awareness of, or relationship with, the art of the German Caspar David Friedrich..., the Russian Ivan Konsantinovich Aivazovsky, and the Danish Christian Kobke, not to mention their British peer Joseph Mallord William Turner, among others." "Theodore Stebbins has shown that all of these artists exhibited in New York, Boston and Phildephia throughout the mid-century, and doubtless came to Lane's attention as they did to the other American luminist painters," the entry stated.

"The palpable, light-filled atmoshere of Ship in Fog, Gloucester Harbor readily places it among the artitst's most emphatically luminist compositions. The characeristic stillness, a frozen moment in time, is pregnant with introspective solemnity. The two men in their boat in the foreground appear less interested in rowing than in the act of looking, acting as surrogates for the painting's viewers."

The auction's two magnificent paintings by Lane are remarkably different in sentiment: "Star Light" is a very proud, very confident depiction of a glorious day with a majestic ship as its main subject, an affirmation of American power and might; "Ship in Fog," painted five years later, is a more pensive work about the close of day and the uncertainty of visibility in which a fog-shrouded sun burns intensely. The ship is no longer the main subject but the veil of fog and the sun here takes on Turneresque abstraction.

"Sunset calm in the Bay of Fundy" by William Bradford

Lot 11, "Sunset Calm in the Bay of Fundy," by William Bradford, oil on academy board, 13 1/8 by 18 7/8 inches, circa 1860

Similar to Lot 68 in this auction, Lot 11, "Sunset Calm in the Bay of Fundy," by William Bradford, is a fine luminist work. An oil on academy board that measures 13 1/8 by 18 7/8 inches, it was executed circa 1860 and has an estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. It sold for $277,500.

"Seabright from Galilee, New Jersey" by Francis Augustus Silva

Lot 26, "Seabright from Galilee, New Jersey," by Francis Augustus Silva, oil on canvas, 21 by 42 inches, 1880

Francis Augustus Silva is an important American luminist painter and the subject of a current exhibition at the Berry-Hill Gallery in New York. Lot 26, "Seabright from Galilee, New Jersey," is a superb example of his late work. It is a 21-by-42-inch oil on canvas that was executed in 1880. It is a very fine composition and has an estimate of $175,000 to $225,000. It failed to sell.

"Solitude" by Louis Remy Mignot

Lot 35, "Solitude," by Louis Remy Mignot, oil on canvas, 17 5/8 by 31 3/8 inches, 1855

Lot 35, "Solitude," is a very beautiful oil on canvas, 17 5/8 by 31 3/8 inches, painted by Louis Remy Mignot (1831-1870) in 1855. It has an estimate of $50,000 to $70,000. It sold for $222,500.

"Greenwood Lake" by Jasper Francis Cropsey

Lot 27, "Greenwood Lake," by Jasper Francis Cropsey, oil on canvas, 24 by 44 inches, 1879

Jasper Francis Cropsey is the American painter of autumn and Lot 27, "Greenwood Lake," is a classic and very fine example of his oeuvre. An oil on canvas, it measures 24 by 44 inches and was painted in 1879. It has an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. It sold for $673,500. While many of Cropsey's works feature spectacular sunsets in a formulaic but always beautiful horizontal composition, this painting has a more unusual composition that is quite bold in his oeuvre. The broad path along which two figures walk with a dog in the foreground rises up to dramatically bisect some gloriously colored trees with a magnificent river scene in the background to the left.

 

"Cold Spring on Hudson, Near Fishkill Landing," by Jasper Francis Cropsey

Lot 21, "Cold Spring on Hudson, Near Fishkill Landing," by Jasper Francis Cropsey, oil on canvas, 12 by 20 inches, 1871

Another Cropsey, less dramatic and not as chromatically glorious but nonetheless still extremely pleasing, is Lot 21, "Cold Spring on Hudson, Near Fishkill Landing." An oil on canvas, it measures 12 by 20 inches and was executed in 1871. It has an estimate of $70,000 to $90,000. It sold for $118,000.

"View in the White Mountains" by William Trost Richards

Lot 14, "View in the White Mountains," by William Trost Richards, oil on canvas over panel, 13 5/8 by 24 1/8 inches, 1866

Lot 14, "View in the White Mountains," is a classic Hudson River School-style work by William Trost Richards (1833-1905). The oil on canvas over panel measures 13 5/8 by 24 1/8 inches and was executed in 1866. It has an estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. It sold for $178,500.

"Near Noroton, Connecticut" by David Johnson

Lot 31, "Near Noroton, Connecticut," by David Johnson, oil on canvas, 16 by 22 7/8 inches, 1875

Lot 31, "Near Noroton, Connecticut," is a very fine oil on canvas by David Johnson (1827-1908) that is exceptionally bright for the artist, who was noted in the early part of his career for his meticulous detail and Pre-Raphaelite sensibility. It is a nicely dramatic variation on a coastal scene that was popular with many artists such as John F. Kensett. It measures 16 by 22 7/8 inches and was executed in 1875. It has an estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. It sold for $409,500.

"In the Keene Valley, New York, " by Alexander Wyant

Lot 13, "In the Keene Valley, New York," by Alexander Wyant, oil on canvas, 14 1/8 by 22 1/4 inches, circa 1871-2

Lot 13, "In the Kene Valley, New York," is a very interesting and good oil on canvas by Alexander Wyant (1836-1892). It measures 14 1/-8 by 22 1/4 inches and is dated circa 1871-2. It has a conservative estimate of $15,000 to $25,000. It sold for $112,500. This is a very dramatic work that is notable for the quality of the clouds and the water reflections.

"Woodland Scene" by Asher B. Durand

Lot 5, "Woodland Scene," by Asher B. Durand, oil on canvas, 24 1/8 by 17 1/4 inches, circa 1850

Asher B. Durand (1796-1886) is one of the major Hudson River School painters and is noted for his lovely woodland studies, many of which are in the collection of the New York Historical Society (see The City Review article on a recent exhibition on Durand, Thomas Cole and William Cullen Bryant). This is a very lovely Durand and has a very conservative estimate of $15,000 to $20,000. It sold for $88,300.

Lot 3, "Moonlight," by Thomas Doughty (1793-1856), a 15-by-16-inch oil on canvas had an estimate of $5,000 to $7,000 and sold for $37,950.

Lot 8, "Promenade on Ring Rock," a pleasant, bucolic, 8 1/4-by-11 1/4-inch arched oil on paper laid down on paper by Alfred Thompson Bricher (1837-1908) had an estimate of $12,000 to $15,000 and sold for $57,500.

Lot 18, another Bricher entitled "Haying," had an estimate of $8,000 to $10,000 and sold for $21,850. The exquisite, 9 1/4-by-16 1/8-inch oil on canvas was dated 1861.

Lot 15, "Saranac Waters," by John Jameson (1842-1864) had an estimate of $30,000 to $50,000. The 20-by-30-inch oil on canvas was dated 1863 and sold for $211,500.

Lot 25, "Rocky Coast at Sunset," a pleasant scene of the Maine coast by William Hart (1823-1894), had an estimate of $15,000 to $20,000. The 10 1/2-by-18 1/8-inch oil on canvas was painted circa 1860 and sold for $46,000.

See The City Review article on the Spring 2002 American paintings auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review on the Spring 2002 American Paintings auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2001 American Paintings Auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2001 American Paintings auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2001 American Paintings auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2001 American Paintings auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2001 American Paintings auction at Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg

See The City Review article on the Fall 2000 American Paintings auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2000 American Paintings auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2000 American Paintings auction at Phillips

See The City Review article on the Spring 2000 American Paintings auction at Christie's

See The City Review Article on the Spring 2000 American Paintings auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 1999 American Paintings auction at Christie's

See The City Review on the Fall 1999 American Paintings auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review Article on the Spring 1999 American Paintings auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the May 27, 1999 auction of American Paintings at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 1998 Important American Paintings Auctions at Sotheby’s and Christie’s

See The City Review article on the Spring 1998 Important American Paintings Auctions at Sotheby’s and Christie’s

See The City Review article on the Fall 1997 Important American Paintings auctions at Sotheby's and Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 1997 Important American Paintings auctions at Sotheby's and Christie's


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