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Important American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture

Christie's

10AM, May 18, 2004

Sale 1377

"Farmer with a Pitchfork" by Winslow Homer

Lot 22, "Farmer with a Pitchfork," by Winslow Homer, oil on board, 9 by 13 inches, circa 1874

By Carter B. Horsley

This sale of "Important" American paintings, drawings and sculpture at Christie's May 18, 2004 is highlighted by a fine portrait of George Washington by Charles Wilson Peale , a superb watercolor by Maurice Prendergast, two good oil studies by Winslow Homer, two good landscapes by John F. Kensett and a rare small landscape by Albert Pinkham Ryder.

Lot 22, "Farmer with a Pitchfork," is a very strong but simple small oil on board by Winslow Homer (1836-1910), America's greatest artist. Executed circa 1874, it measures 9 by 13 inches and has an estimate of $700,000 to $1,000,000. It sold for $2,359,000 including the buyer's premium as do all results in this article.

The catalogue notes that in this work "the farmer and agricultural metaphor of order and regeneration after a time of great civil strife is telling of our young nation's efforts at Reconstruction, contemplating its recent past and the hope of cultivating a promising future."

The young man in the painting, the entry continued, "is also a central motif included in a series of four works on the subject of courtship, all executed by Homer in 1974. He appears in a more compositionally complex watercolor titled Rustic Courtship (Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon, Upperville, Virginia) which, in turn, served as the source for a much larger oil titled The Rustics (Private collection). The remaining two works are A Temperance Meeting (Noon Time)(Philadelphia Museum of Art, John McFadden Jr. Fund) and the Course of True Love (unlocated). Homer's use of contrasting colors in Farmer with a Pitchfork is masterful not only in demarcating the horizontal planes of the picture, but also emphasizing Homer's new type of a solitary, mature figure."

Although sketchy, this is a powerful composition.

"Young Man Reading" by Winslow Homer

Lot 41, "Young Man Reading," by Winslow Homer, oil on canvas, 14 by 16 inches, 1873

The other Homer oil study is Lot 41, "Young Man Reading," a 14-by-16-inch oil on canvas that was painted in 1873. It, too, is a fine composition but unfortunately it is quite dark and not as dramatic as the other Homer. This one was at one time in the collection of the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh and later at The Downtown Gallery and the Babcock Galleries, both in New York. It has an estimate of $600,000 to $800,000. It sold for $511,500. "Homer's single figure in Young Man Reading extends the artist's themes of youth at play replacing them with an older, more mature young man who is comfortable, both physically and psychologically, in his solitary setting. Young Man Reading appears to be not only a nostaglic recollection of past times, but also a positive nod towards the future and maturity of our young nation within the social and cultural changes brought about by the Civil War," the catalogue entry maintained.

Another dark but important work is Lot 63, "At the Ford," by Albert Pinkham Ryder (1847-1917). An oil on panel that measures 12 by 11 inches, it has a modest estimate of $40,000 to $60,000 given the artist's rarity and importance. It sold for $113,525. Albert Pinkham Ryder was the most important "poetic" painter at the turn-of-the century in America and his doggedly reworked pictures were precursors of abstract painting decades later. Unfortunately, Ryder was copied widely and many "fakes" were made. This work is unsigned although its dark palette and painting style is consistent with those of the artist. It was exhibited at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington in 1961 and at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute Museum of Art in Utica in the 1963 show "Armory Show 50th Anniversary Exhibition."

"George Washington" by Charles Willson Peale

Lot 18, "George Washington," by Charles Willson Peale, oil on canvas, 50 by 40 inches, circa 1780-2

Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827), who was encouraged to paint portraits by John Singleton Copley, was born in Chestertown, Maryland and apprenticed as a saddler and in 1760, according to the catalogue, "traded a saddle with the artist John Hesselius (1728-1788) in exchange for painting lessons. A few years later he met John Singleton Copley who encouraged him to paint portrait minatures which he did with considerable success. In 1768 he went to London to study with Benjamin West, the American painter who was then president of the Royal Academy. Peale would return to Annapolis and concentrate on portraits rather than West's "history" paintings. In 1772, "he painted Washington for the first time, producing a portrait that is treasured today as the first authentic likeness of the man who would soon emerge as American's greatest revolutionary leader. In 1776, Peale moved to Philadelphia and enlisted in the Continental Army and eventually joined Washington near Trenton to participate in the first westward crossing of the Delaware. Peale created an impressive legacy in his time, dedicated to the preservation of art, history, and the heroic ideals of an emerging nation. He inspired a generation of new artists, including his sons Rembradt, Raphaelle and Titian Ramsey. By 1786, he had turned his collection of paintings, including over 250 portraits of distinguished Americans and objects of natural history into America's first established museum in Philadelphia. Among his many further credits, Peale began an art academy, maintained a position as a curator at the American Philosophical Society and in 1805 was a founder of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. In 1779, with the disposition of the Revolutionary War still uncertain, the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania commissioned Peale to paint from life a portrait of George Washington, then the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army." That full-length portrait is now at the Pennsvylania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. And surviving examples of other copies and versions of it are in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Colonial Williamsburg, Mount Vernon, Yale University Art Gallery, The Cleveland Museum of Art, Princeton University Art Museum, and the United States Senate.

This Peale portrait shows Washington after his victory at Yorktown, which was a testament to the success of the Franco-American alliance. It was originally owned by the Chevalier de Chastellux, a general in the French army who had a close relationship with Washington and participated in the Yorktown campaign.

It has an estimate of $2,500,000 to $4,000,000 and it sold for $6,167,500.

There are two good works by John F. Kensett (1816-1872)in the auction, Lots 14 and 17.


"View of Mount Washington" by Kensett

Lot 14, "View of Mount Washington," by John F. Kensett, oil on canvas, 30 by 45 inches, 1852

Lot 14, "View of Mount Washington," is a large and impressive landscape that is dated 1852. An oil on canvas, it measures 30 by 45 inches. It has an estimate of $800,000 to $1,200,000. It sold for $847,500. It was painted two years after Kensett visited the White Mountains with fellow artists John Casilear and Benjamin Champney and undertook the most ambitious painting he had yet undertaken, a 40-by-60-inch "The White Mountains From North Conway" that is now in the collection of the Wellesley College Museum. "Among Kensett's largest landscapes, View of Mount Washington is one of the few in which the wilderness is pristine," the catalogue entry noted, adding that "The work is also representative of Kensett's increasing interests in the effects of brilliant light, which impart a sense of serenity to his best work. In the wildness of its landscape, Kensett's View of Mount Washington can be seen as a pendant composition to The White Mountains From North Convway. Painting the same mountain range, the artist has chosen a similarly elevated vantage-point. The landscape is untouched and its primitive beauty is reinforced by a subtle narrative in the middle ground where Kensett has placed a small gathering of Indians, hinting that the scene before us dates to a much earlier time, before the onset of settlement....In View of Mount Washington Kensett strives to recapture was lost and to create an iconic landscape image emblematic of America."

"Bash Bish Falls" by Kensett

Lot 17, "Bash Bish Falls," by John F. Kensett, oil on canvas, 22 by 18 inches, circa 1855-60

The other Kensett is one of his classic depictions of Bash Bish Falls. Lot 17 is an oil on canvas that measures 22 by 18 inches and was executed circa 1855-60. It has a modest estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold for $186,700.

The catalogue observes that this work "demonstrates the fundamental contemplative relationship with nature that was central to Kensett's artistic triumphs," adding that "Located in the Berkshires in Massachusetts, Bash Bish Falls were a popular destination for many artists during the middle of the nineteenth century." Kensett, the entry continued, "was known to have painted Bash Fish Balls at least five times during the first half of the 1850s, including paintings that are presently in the collection of the National Academy of Design, New York, and the Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio. In both examples, Kensett has depicted a small foot bridge spanning the large boulders that distinguish this specific location, over a small cascading pool set amongst trees and rocks. In the present work, Kensett takes a more direct and closely inspected vantage point of the falls, forcing the viewer to closely regard the delicate details embedded in the scene., At the same time, and comparable to other works from this series, Kensett establishes a composition consisting of a series of horizontal bands that successfully lead the viewer deeper into space and nature's sublimity." Although Kensett is most famous for his late "luminist" coastal scenes, this scene and some of Worthington Whittredge's forest glade paintings are Hudson River School landscapes of great and delicate intimacy. While the "school" is perhaps best known for its bucolic and panoramic landscapes, most of its artists also focused intensely on closer scenes and detailing.

"The Hudson River Looking Toward the Catskills" by Silva

Lot 36, "The Hudson River Looking Toward the Catskills," by Francis Augustus Silva, oil on canvas, 20 by 40 inches, 1871

Francis Augustus Silva (1835-1896) is a later painter who produced many beautiful "luminist" works of which Lot 36, "The Hudson River Looking Toward the Catskills," is a fine example. An oil on canvas that measures 20 by 40 inches, it is dated 1871. It has an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000 and was illustrated in the catalogue of the 2002 restrospective on the artist. It sold for $545,100.

"Sunset Calm in the Bay of Fundy" by Bradford

Lot 21, "Sunset Calm in the Bay of Fundy," by William Bradford, oil on broad, 13 by 19 inches, circa 1860

An even better Luminist work is Lot 21, "Sunset Calm in the Bay of Fundy," by William Bradford (1823-1892). An oil on board that measures 13 by 19 inches, it was painted circa 1860. It has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold for $321,100. It sold for $277,500 at Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg May 21, 2002 when it had an estimate of $80,000 to $120,000.

"Artic Intruders" by Bradford

Lot 37, "Artic Intruders," by William Bradford, oil on canvas tacked over panel, 18 by 30 inches

Bradford is best known for his pictures of the Arctic . Lot 37, "Artic Intruders," is a good example. An oil on canvas tacked over panel that measures 18 by 30 inches, it has icebergs, a sailing ship, people and a polar bear. What more could you ask? A sunset, perhaps It has a modest estimate of $60,000 to $80,000. It sold for $71,700.

"Coast Sunset" by Bradford

Lot 38, "Coast Sunset," by William Bradford, oil on paper mounted on board, 13 by 20 inches

You want a sunset? O.K. Lot 38 is a "Coastal Sunset" by William Bradford that has a sailing ship delightfully listing in pack ice near a hilly coastline beneath a hot setting sun. An oil on paper mounted on board, it measures 13 by 20 inches. It has a modest estimate of $40,000 to $60,000 and is quite lovely and almost abstract. It sold for $62,140.

You want a dawn? Lot 48, "The coming of the White Man," is a great oil on canvas by Joshua Shaw (1776-1860). Executed in 1850, it measures 25 by 36 inches and shows Indians on a rock along a coast seeing a sailing ship for the first time in the distance beneath a rising sun and a pink and yellow sky. It has a modest estimate of $150,000 to $250,000. It failed to sell.

Another fine river scene is Lot 5, "Landscape," by Robert Scott Duncanson (1821-1872). A 29 -by-50-inch oil on canvas, it is dated 1870 and has an estimate of $150,000 to $250,000. It sold for $309,900.

The catalogue provides the following quotation by Joseph D. Ketner:

"The serene, wilderness Landscape is one in a series of ambitious works that Robert Duncanson created in his Cincinnati studio in the late phase of his storied career. The painting exemplifies the artist's vision of the picturesque beauty of the North American landscape. He created the work following his successful tour of Europe where the London Art Journal pronounced the African-American a `master' landscape artist.The soft light from the calm sky and the serene, shimmering surface of the river cast a beatific glow across the landscape that precariously opens in the foreground and spills into the lap of the viewer. The majestically rugged crown of the mountainous middle ground is safely nestled in a color of fully foliated trees and green grass. Duncanson broadly brushes the foreground tree in a fee and poetic manner, while the middle distance is rendered in the refined Hudson River School style that Duncanson learned from Thomas Cole. The encamped men around the gently smoking fire serve Duncanson as a metaphor for nature as a pastoral, picturesque environment receptive to the presence of people."

"A Sketch Near Manchester" by Sanford R. Gifford

Lot 12, "A Sketch Near Manchester, Massachusetts," by Sanford Robinson Gifford, oil on canvas, 10 by 18 inches, 1865

Like Kensett, Sanford Robinson Gifford (1823-1880) is an important Hudson River School painter but also a great Luminist. Lot 12, "A Sketch Near Mancester, Massachusetts," is an unusual composition for him and has a wonderful quality of light. The work is almost abstract. An oil on canvas that measures 10 by 18 inches, it was executed in 1865 and has a modest estimate of $150,000 to $250,000. It sold for $47,800.

"Single Magnolia on Red Velvet" by Heade

Lot 29, "Single Magnolia on Red Velvet," by Martin J. Heade, oil on canvas, 15 by 24 inches

Martin J. Heade is best known for his salt-marsh sunset scenes and his hummingbird and orchid South American jungle scenes and for his floral still lifes. Lot 29, "Single Magnolia on Red Velvet," by Martin J. Heade (1819-1904) is a fine example of one of the floral still life series. An oil on canvas, it measures 15 by 24 inches. It has an estimate of $700,000 to $900,000. It sold for $959,500.

"Courtyard, West End Library, Boston" by Prendergast

Lot 75, "Courtyard, West End Library, Boston," by Maurice Prendergast, watercolor, pencil and gouache on paper, 14 by 20 inches, circa 1900-1

One of the finest works in the auction is Lot 75, "Courtyard, West End Library, Boston," a wonderful watercolor, pencil and gouache on paper by Maurice Prendergast (1859-1924). Executed circa 1900-1, it measures 14 by 20 inches and has an estimate of $1,200,000 to $1,800,000. The work is a fabulously complex composition that celebrates the joys of urban life. It sold for $2,135,500.

"Wet Night" by George Bellows

Lot 80, "Wet Night," by George Wesley Bellows, oil on canvas, 22 by 28 inches, 1916

Lot 80 is a great oil on canvas by George Wesley Bellows (1882-1925) entitled "Wet Night." It has been consigned by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston to "benefit the acquisition funds." It was once in the collection of Duncan Phillips of Washington. It measures 22 by 28 inches and was executed in 1916. It has a conservative estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. It sold for $612,300.

The catalogue provides the following commentary:

"No extant sketches for the present work are known and the style in which the paint has been applied indicates that Bellows was working quickly and directly on the canvas in order to achieve an overall atmospheric quality. With the use of a brush and a palette knife, Bellows ahas aggressively painted and scratched away at the canvas, disrupting the surface to create varied and textured passages that echo the slickness of the rain falling on the street and whipping through the trees. The dynamism of the work is a carefully balanced interplay of composition and application of paint. The dark and blustery evening is underscored by Bellows' distinct use of line and color. He has exploited the visceral qualities of his paint surface to create a sensual and complex work that successfully captures the physical and emotional spirit of the scene."

Another deaccessioned work is Lot 81, "The Swing," by William Glackens (1870-1938), that has been consigned by the Walker Art Center to benefit its acquisition fund. An oil on canvas that measures 26 by 32 inches, it was executed in 1913 and has a modest estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. It is a very good Glackens: very colorful with loose brushwork. It sold for $365,900.

Lot 83 is a fine impressionist work by Childe Hassam (1859-1935) entitled "Rainy Day." An oil on canvas, it measures 24 by 18 inches and was executed in 1890. It has an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. It sold for $701,900.

William Merritt Chase (1849-1916) is one of the finest American Impressionists and Lot 82, "Shinnecock landscape," is one of his typical small Long Island scenes that is more impressionist than most. An oil on panel that measures 10 by 16 inches, it has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It failed to sell.

See The City Review Article on the Spring 2004 American Paintings auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2003 American Paintings auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2003 American Paintings auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2003 American Paintings auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2003 American Paintings auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2002 American Paintings Auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on The Fall 2002 American Paintings auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2002 American Paintings auction at Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg

See The City Review article on the Spring 2002 American Paintings auction at Phillips de Pury &

Luxembourg

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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