Carter B. Horsley
This American Paintings auction
May 23, 2007 offers a very fine selection of high-quality works
in many different areas. It is highlighted by a wonderful landscape
by Albert Bierstadt, a marvelous American Indian scene by Alfred
Jacob Miller, a magnificent and uunusal and sensational Jasper
Francis Cropsey, a superb Luminist work by Francis A. Silva, a
powerful work by Oscar Bluemner, two good paintings by Martin
J. Heade, and fine works by Alexander Wyant, William Holbrook
Beard, Frederick Church, Everett Shinn, and Ralston Crawford.
The cover illustration of the
a detail from Lot 140, "Mountain Lake," by Albert Bierstadt
(1830-1902). It is an oil on canvas that measures 36 1/2 by 52
1/2 and it has been consigned, inexplicably, by the Museum of
Fine Arts in Houston. It is a very, very good Bierstadt. While
it has no American Indians or snow-capped mountains, it is about
as splendiferous a Bierstadt as you can get, sensationally luminous
and a great and dramatic composition that visually demonstrates
the country's "manifest destiny" of unbridled natural
The catalogue entry remarks
that "It is
a scene infused with the sense of the ideal and a representation
not only of the dawning of a new day but also the beginning of
a new era of peace in post-Civil War America. Only a small group
of deer, alert, delicate and small against this might sight are
present to witness the phenomenon of the moment - a landscape
of absolute purity, a new garden of Eden." Bierstadt would
have painted this even if there had not been a Civil War, but
niggling aside, it is definitely majestic and awe-inspiring in
a pre-politically correct world.
It has a modest estimate of
$2,000,000 to $3,000,000.
It sold for $4,856,000 including the buyer's premium as do
all results mentioned in this article. The sale was quite successful
with about 37 percent of the 220 offered lots selling for $55,798,200.
Alfred Jacob Miller (1810-1874)
is the greatest
of the early painters of the American West combining keen observation
with a lovely romantic sketchiness and a very colorful palette
while paying great respect to the customs and style of American
Indians. Lot 181, "Indian Canoe," is a very dramatic
view of Indians paddling on a river during a storm. One is struck
by the size of the canoe, the wonderful silhouettes of the paddlers
and the very choppy water. An oil on canvas, it measures 13 1/2
by 20 inches and was painted circa 1865 and is closely related
to a smaller watercolor dated circa 1858-1860 in the collection
of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, the city Miller called
home. The lot, which sold for $189,500 at Sotheby's March 17,
1994, has a very modest estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. It
sold for $880,000.
Lot 182, "Assinboine
is a fine small work by John Mix Stanley (1814-1872), another
early painter of the West. An oil on board, it measures 8 by 10
1/4 inches. It has an estimate of $70,000 to $100,000. It
Jasper Francis Crospey
(1823-1900) is famous
as America's painter of autumn and probably painted more glowing
sunsets than anyone. Lot 130 is quite unusual for his oeuvre as
it is a beach scene and that catalogue notes that Cropsey probably
visited Long Beach on the south shore of Long Island at the invitation
of Frank Hopkinson Smith, a fine watercolorist who happened to
be the president of the Long Beach Improvement Company.
The painting is remarkable not
only for its
subject matter but also for its technique as it rivals the finest
Impressionist paintings by William Merritt Chase and Monet. John
F. Kensett and Worthington Whittredge were Hudson River School
painters who often painted beaches, the former in a luminous and
usually almost abstract fashion, the latter with a subdued
This painting by Cropsey significantly alters our already admiring
perception of Cropsey. The vertically banded tents conjure the
billowing dresses of Eugene Boudin's beach strolling women, but,
more importantly, unleash the imagination to conjure an endless
vision of colorful abstractions. This lot is very conservatively
estimately at $150,000 to $250,000 although many collectors of
American Impressionist painters may overlook it, short-sightedly,
because Cropsey is not normally considered an Impressionist. It
sold for $408,000.
It is easy, of course, for
seek out the non-formulaic, atypical works, but one should not
ignore the bread-and-butter masterworks of an artist and Lot 127,
"Sailing on the Hudson, Nyack," is just such a work
by Francis A. Silva (1835-1886). An oil on canvas that measures
15 by 30 inches, it was executed in 1872 and epitomizes capability
of the best Luminist painters to occasionally knock your socks
off with a quality of light in a brilliant composition.
The catalogue quotes Barbara
"American Painting of the 19th Century," that the Luminist
movement fostered "some of the nineteenth century's most
profound thoughts on nature," offering the spectator "an
irresistible invitation in terms of empathy" which "bought
the nineteeth century as close as it could come to silence and
void," adding that "Luminst light tends to be cool,
not hot, hard not soft, palpable rather than fluid, planar rather
than atmospherically diffuse. Luminist light radiates, gleams,
and suffuses on a different frequency than atmospheric light....Air
cannot circulate between the particles of matter that comprise
"Sailing on the Hudson, Nyack"
hot, not cool and the slight ripples in the foreground and the
pink clouds in the middle distance are not "voids."
There is a sense of "stillness," the sense of capturing
a wondrous and fleeting moment. This is the genius of the great
19th Century American landscape painters who witnessed so many
spectacular sunsets unlike the generally dreary landscapes of
Claude. They were able to capture in their memories visions that
they might embellish somewhat in their nurturing of aesthetic
perfection and which mere photography is incapable of in its exactitude.
This lot has an estimate of
$1,000,000 to $1,500,000.
It sold for $1,384,000.
Martin Johnson Heade
(1819-1904) is sometimes
included among the Luminists but his oeuvre is too hot and much
too diverse. He is perhaps best known for his hummingbird-and-orchid
extravaganzas, his studies of magnolias, his storm scenes, and
his sunsets over the haystacks on the Newburyport meadows. Lot
147 is a good example of the latter category. An oil on canvas,
it measures 13 by 26 inches and was painted in 1904. It has a
modest estimate of $300,000 ot $500,000. It sold for $704,000.
Heade produced a couple of
a thunderstorm over Narragansett Bay and a man in sunlight beneath
a black sky in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The catalogue quotes Theodore E. Stebbins Jr., the authority on
Heade, that "Heade liked the odd transitory moment when all
is not perfect with the world." "Whereas another artist
would depict the shore at its best, and, if there were figures,
would decorously dress and pose them, Heade evoked the smells
of low tide, the grime of the seaweed and mud." Lot 131,
"The Old Shipwreck," well illustrates Stebbins's point.
An oil on canvas, it measures 24 by 21 1/4 inches and was painted
in 1865. Shipwrecks were popular subjects with many 19th Century
artists. It has an estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It sold
Alexander H. Wyant (1836-1892)
was a member
of the second generation of Hudson River School artists and like
George Inness and Homer Dodge Martin he changed his style in mid-career
from classic Hudson River School clarity and classic compositions
to an impressionistic style. Lot 153, "Hudson River View,"
is a very fine example of his early style. An oil on canvas, it
measures 23 by 32 inches and was painted in 1868. It is notable
for the man's red shirt and the complimentary curves of the rocks
and river and the fine sense of space near and far. It has a
estimate of $70,000 to $90,000. It sold for $84,000.
Lot 135 is a very fine study
Nevada de Santa Marta," an 1883 work by Frederick Edwin Church
(1826-1900) that is in the collection of the Washington University
Gallery of Art. This painting is an oil on canvas that measures
10 by 16 inches and was painted circa 1882. It has been consigned
inexplicably by the Palm Springs Art Museum for the benefit of
the acquisitions fund. It is a marvelous small work that is very
representative of Church's fabulous talents and it is also reminiscent
of some of the good works by Turner. It has a very conservative
estimate of $80,000 to $120,000 since his major tropical works
are not easy to come by. It sold for $480,000.
Louis Remy Mignot (1831-1870)
was a fine, underrated
landscape painter who traveled to South America and executed many
landscapes somewhat in the style of Frederic Church. Lot 121,
"Autumn Landscape," is a rather startlingly bold and
intensely colorful composition. An oil on canvas, it measures
30 by 21 1/4 inches and was painted in 1857. It has a modest estimate
of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for $90,000.
Lot 124 is a fine and typical
by William Stanley Haseltine (1855-1900). Entitled "Rocks
at Narragansett," it is an oil on canvas that measures 21
by 37 inches and was painted in 1863. It has an estimate of $250,000
to $350,000. It sold for $600,000.
William Holbrook Beard
(1823-1900) is one of
the more eccentric and interesting 19th Century American artists
because he enjoyed the satirical use of animals to make a point
in many of his works such as the bulls and bears of Wall Street
and monkeys contemplating human skulls. He also painted landscapes
and created some seemingly mythological works and also depicted
American Indians as in Lot 170, "Indian Idyl," an oil
on canvas that measures 18 by 24 inches and was painted in 1876.
It is one of four paintings in the auction that came from the
Alexander Gallery. It has a modest estimate of $30,000 ot $50,000.
It sold for $33,000.
Three of the four Beards in
this auction were
consigned by the Mark Hotel on the northwest corner of Madison
Avenue and 77th Street where they adorned the lobby. This one
has a modest estimate of $25,000 to $35,000. It failed to
Lot 161 is the largest of the
Beards and all
the animals in the painting are winged. Entitled "The Fox
Hunter's Dream," it is an oil on canvas that measures 29
by36 1/4 inches and was painted in 1859. It has an estimate of
$125,000 to $175,000. It failed to sell.
Lot 162 is entitled "The Four
Winter" and is an oil on canvas that measures 16 by 24 inches.
It has an estimate of $50,000 to $70,000. It sold for $84,000.
Frank Duveneck (1848-1919) was
a very influential
American painter who lived in Europe for many years. Lot 149,
"Scene in Venice," is a fine and very painterly work
by him that is an oil on canvas laid down on board that measures
19 by 27 inches. It was painted in 1919. It has a conservative
estimate of $30,000 to $50,000. It sold for $51,000.
Lot 63 is an excellent pastel
on paper by Everett
Shinn (1876-1953) entitled "Window Shopping." It measures
10 3/4 by 13 inches and is dated 1903. It was once in the collection
of Muriel McCormick Hubbard (granddaughter of John D. Rockefeller
and Cyrus McCormick). It has a conservative estimate of $100,000
to $150,000. It sold for $240,000.
Lot 43 is a small but great oil
on panel by
Oscar Bluemner (1867-1938). Entitled "A House in the Night,"
it measures only 10 by 8 inches and is dated 1929. It is one of
the artist's finest works. It has a modest estimate of $150,000
to $200,000. It sold for $192,000.
Lot 44, "At the Dock #2," is a
painting by Ralston Crawford (1906-1978). An oil on canvas, it
measures 26 by 40 inches and is dated 1941. It has a modest estimate
of $150,000 to $250,000. It sold for $480,000.
Lot 214 is a wonderful triptych
by Leon Gaspard
(1882-1964), a very fine and very underrated painter with an intensely
colorful palette. Entitled "Air Balloon Triptych," it
is dated "Paris 1909" and is a very delightful work.
It has a modest estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for
Lot 97 is a fine, subtle and
by Theodore Robinson (1852-1896). Entitled "Street in Barbizon,
Sunset," it is an oil on canvas that measures 16 by 12 3/4
inches. It was painted in 1887. It is a fine composition that
hints at Robinson's occasional and excellent flurries into abstraction
and has a modest estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for
Willard L. Metcalf (1858-1925)
is a good American
Impressionist and Lot 98 is one of his finest landscapes. Entitled
"On the Suffolk Coast," it is an oil on canvas that
measures 10 1/2 by 16 inches. It is dated 1885. It has an estimate
of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $120,000.
Lot 75 is a great watercolor
and pencil on
paper by Maurice Prendergast (1858-1924). Entitled "Bal Bullier,
Latin Quarter," it measures 15 3/4 by 7 1/2 inches. It was
painted in 1894. It has an estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It
sold for $908,000.
Lot 99 is a nice work by George
that is entitled "Henry Dyer, Cape Elizabeth, Maine."
An oil on canvas, it measures 16 by 20 inches and is dated 1922.
It has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for $90,000.