this Christie's auction of American Paintings May 25, 2006 does
not have as many good works as in the previous day auction at
Sotheby's it does have several gems including spectacular works
by Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904) and Fitz Hugh Lane (1804-1865),
and fine examples by Marsden Hartley (1877-1943), David Johnson
(1827-1908), James Peale (1749-1831), Worthington Whittredge
and Frederick Carl Frieseke (1874-1939).
"An Orchid with an Amethyst Woodstar," is a magnificent
orchid and hummingbird painting by Martin Johnson Heade, who is
also famous for his landscapes and his paintings of magnolias.
It is an oil on canvas that measures 15 1/2 by 23 1/2 inches and
was executed in 1874. The catalogue observes that it is "a
previously un-recorded example of the artist's famed" orchid
and hummingbird series and "is a re-discovered masterpiece
that serves as a testament to Heade's significant and enduring
contribution to American art."
has an estimate of $1,000,000 to $1,500,000. It sold for $1,360,000
including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this
article. The sale was very successful with 86 percent of the
offered lots selling for a total of $35,894,000 and many lots
selling considerably over their high estimates.
auction," remarked Eric Widing, the head of Christie's American
Painting Department, "marked a return to a level of salesroom
exuberance we have not seen for several yers, with extraordinary
prices and energy throughout."
Without question, the most
dramatic and glorious
work in the auction is Lot 98, "Rafe's Chasm, Gloucester,
Massachusetts," by Fitz Hugh Lane, the celebrated Luminist.
An oil on canvas, it measures 34 1/4 by 48 1/4 inches and is dated
Lane is most famous for his
of sailing ships in still harbor waters. This painting, however,
is atypically very dramatic. The son of a sailmaker, Lane spent
most of his career painting the New England coast. The catalogue
notes that he "established a reputation as the foremost professional
marine painter in America" and in 1848 returned to his birthplace
in Gloucester and "embarked on a series of luminous marine
paintings that still rank today as some of the most important
contributons to American painting in the nineteenth century."
"Rafe's Chasm," the catalogue
continued, "is located between Gloucester and Magnolia Harbors
on the north shore of Boston. It is famous to this day for the
dramatic surf that has pounded its rocks for centuries....[the
painting] is a bold departure from Lane's previous works; paintings
that were characterized by pristine harbor views and thoughtfully
composed ship portraits...'These provocative images, so eloquent
in their prophetic silence, depict a moment in time as if frozen,
and evoke a mood of transcendental silence that is an important
reflection of the American imagination at mid-century,' (E. A.
Powell III, "The Boston Harbor Pictures," Paintings
by Fitz Hugh Lane, exhibition catalogue, Washington, D.C., 1988,
The lot has a very conservative
$400,000 to $600,000. It sold for $1,136,000.
Lot 82 is
a large and very good forest scene by Worthington Whittredge,
entitled "The Pine Cone Gatherers." An oil on canvas,
it measures 54 1/2 by 40 inches and it is dated 1866. It was once
in the collection of the Chrsyler Museum in Norfolk, Virginia.
provides the following commentary:
Whittredge's return to New York City in August 1859 after studying
in Europe,he took a space at the Tenth Street studio building
City Review article] along with artists
Frederic Church, John
Casilear and Jervis McEntee. Whittredge formed a close relationship
with these artists as well as with Asher B. Durand and Sanford
Robinstoon Gifford who were the two greatest influences on him
and became lifelong friends. Whittredge preferred quiet scenes
such as the forest in The Pine Cone Gatherers to
vistas of his contemporaries....The palette and light in The
Pine Cone Gatherers imbues the scene with a poetic
Whittredge's use of light pouring through the canopy of the trees
to the children below, he suggests a transcendental notion of
the passage from God to Nature to Man."
has an estimate of $700,000 to $1,000,000. It failed to sell.
"A View on Lake George (Paradise Bay)" is a fine and
large oil on canvas by David Johnson, one of the most precise
second-generation Hudson River School artists. It measures 26
1/2 by 40 1/2 inches and is dated 1876. Most of Johnson's oeuvre
consists of small and medium-size paintings. The catalogue correctly
notes that his compositions are "assiduously detailed."
The painting is somewhat dark perhaps because he was depicting
a somewhat overcast scene. It has a modest estimate of $200,000
to $300,000. It sold for $284,800.
Robinson Gifford is an important Hudson River School painter who
was also one of the finest Luminists. Lot 109, "Fire Island
Beach" is a rather haunting beach scene with two faint figures
on a beach that almost merges into the sky. An oil on canvas,
it measures 8 1/2 by 16 inches. It is dated 1875 and has a very
conservative estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for
Lot 92 is
an excellent "Still Life with Watermelon" by James Peale,
one of the several artist sons of Charles Willson Peale. An oil
on canvas that measures 16 by 21 3/4 inches, it was painted circa
1820. The lot has a conservative estimate of $120,000 to $180,000.
It failed to sell.
"The Garden Pool," is a very fine oil on canvas by Frederick
Carl Frieseke. It measures 25 1/2 by 32 inches and is one of four
works in the auction consigned by the estate of Joan B. Kroc,
the widow of Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald's. Mrs. Kroc was
a noted philanthropist who gave $200 million to National Public
Radio and $1.5 billion to the Salvation Army.
at the height of his career, Garden Pool,
Cal Frieseke's most beautiful works. Friseke's garden in Giverny,
the setting for a number of his finest pictures, is depicted with
dazzling color and vitality. The vibrant colors and patterns of
Garden Pool makes this a masterpiece of Frieseke's
In the summer of 1906, Frieseke settled in Giverney where the
landscape, sunshine and freedom to paint as he wanted inspired
him to remain for almost two decades. Giverney was an artist colony
led by French Impressionist Claude Monet that had been favored
by Amereican artists including Theordore Butler, Willard Metcalf,
Richard Miller, Theodore Robinson and Guy Rose. ...After arriveing
in Giverny, Fieseke lived in Theodore Robinson's former house,
next door to Monet....As in Frieseke's best works, the artist
has used the garden of his house as a setting for his beautiful
model wearing a flowered kimono. Conveying a romantic parallel
between the woman and flowers, he blends her into the bakground
essentially placing a 'flower' within the flowers.....Friseke's
high-keyed palette and the thick impasto of his short brushstrokes
are masterfully executed in this work.. In Garden Pool
as in his other works from this period, the artists's dappled
use of sunlight, the direction and texture of his brushstrokes
and contrasts of light and shadow cretae a patterned harmony
is to be included in the forthcoming caalogue raisonée
on Frieseke being complied by Nicolas Kilmer, the artist's grandson,
and sponsored by hollis taggart Galleries in New York.
has an estimate of $700,000 to $1,000,000. It sold for
a world auction record for the artist.
good painting from the Kroc estate is Lot 59, "The Orangerie,"
by William Merritt Chase (1849-1916). An oil on paper laid down
on canvas laid down on panel, it measures 23 1/2 by 33 1/4 inches
and was executed circa 1909. It is a fine and bright
painting. It has a modest estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It
sold for $520,000.
"Mountains, No. 19," is a very strong and vibrant oil
on board by Marsden Hartley. It measures 36 by 33 inches and was
executed in 1930. In 1927, Hartley did a series of paintings of
Mont Sainte-Victoire in Provence, France, a mountain often painted
by Cézanne. Subsequently on his return to the United States,
he decided to paint the mountains of Franconia Valley in New Hampshire.
provides the following commentary about this work:
he did years before when he transformed Picasso's Synthetic cubism
into his epic German Officer series, with Mountains,
No. 19 Hartley tranforms the inovations of Cézanne
to create a highly original painting that reflected the new direction
of his art. Large in scale, the painting conveys a profond sense
of the mountain's enormity, which is further emphasized by Hartley's
decision to nearly fill the canvas with his depiction of the mountain.
Mountains, No. 19 reveals the artist's innovative
technique that he rediscovered during his time in Provence. Short,
vertical brushstrokes cover the composition and infuse the entire
work with vitality and energy. Likewise the brilliant autumn palette
of bold vermilions, tawny hues, and rich greens set against the
pastel blues and pinks of the sky is unequalled by other modern
painters of the era. Hartley's enchantment with New Hampshire
did not last, and by the time he returned to New York later in
the fall of 1930 he was filled with anxiety about how works such
as Mountains No. 19 would be received by the
of artists, collectors and critics. Yet his fears proved to be
unfounded, as the exhibition of the summer's work at Steiglitz's
newly formed gallery, An American Place, would produce sufficient
income for another year."
has a conservative estimate of $600,000 to $800,000. It sold
also has two good works by Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966). Lot 27,
"Daybreak," is a 26 1/2-by-45-inch oil on board that
is dated 1922. It has an ambitious estimate of $5,000,000 to
It sold for $7,632,000, a world auction record for the
Lot 32, "The Lantern Bearers," is a 1908 oil on canvas
laid down on board that measures 40 by 32 inches. It is a fine
image but the painting has considerable craquelure. It has an
estimate of $1,500,000 to $2,000,000. It sold for $4,272,000.
lots consigned by the Art Institute of Chicago did very well:
Lot 5, a still life of a kettle and jug by Emil Carlsen (1853-1932)
had an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000 and sold for $102,000; Lot
6, a study of a woman in a chair by Childe Hassam (1859-1935)
had an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000 and sold for $408,000.
an early study of three nudes in a forest by Max Weber (1881-1961)
had a estimate of $80,000 to $120,000 and sold for $374,400; Lot
38, a fine study for a mural for WNYC by Stuart Davis (1894-1964)
had an estimate of $150,000 to $250,000 and sold for $352,000;
Lot 60, a lovely painting of two women in a landscape by Charles
Caryl Coleman (1840-1928) had an estimate of $300,000 to 4500,000
and sold for $688,000; Lot 62, a sketch of a beach in Capri by
John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) had an estimate of $100,000 to
$150,000 and sold for $688,000; Lot 100, a Harper's Ferry scene
by Thomas Doughty (1793-1856) had an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000
and sold for $102,000; and Lot 112, a large still life of Theodore
Roosevelt's cabin door by Richard LaBarre Goodwin (1840-1910)
had an estimate of $70,000 to $100,000 and sold for $486,400.