and Vivian Potamkin formed an extremely choice collection of 19th
and early 20th Century American art that is highlighted in this
single-owner auction by a magnificent landscape by Theodore Robinson
(1852-1896), a gorgeous floral painting by John H. Twachtman
a great floral painting by John La Farge (1835-1910), an important
urban scene by Joseph Stella (1880-1946), some impressive works
by Charles Demuth (1883-1935), Marsden Hartley (1878-1943), and
Maurice Prendergast (1859-1924), a large view of Niagara Falls
by George Inness (1825-1894) and a fine landscape by Ralph Albert
The most beautiful work is Lot 24, a brilliant painting of "Boats
at a Landing," by Theodore Robinson, shown above. The oil
on canvas measures 18 1/4 by 22 1/4 inches and was executed in
1894. Rousseau is an important but uneven American Impressionist
and a series of pictures he did of the Cos Cob harbor in Connecticut
in 1894 including this one is among his finest work. Related pictures
in this series are in the Manoogian Collection, the collection
of Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz and the collection of Mr.
and Mrs. Hugh Halff Jr. This is the most colorful, luminous and
abstract of the series and a masterpiece of American Impressionism.
It has a very modest estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It
for $2,136,00 including the buyer's premium as do all the results
mentioned in this article. This sale was highly successful with
more than 91 percent of the offered lots selling.
The catalogue provides the following quotation from a 1990 lecture
by Doreen Bolger on "The American Artist and the Japanese
Print: J. Alden Weir, Theodore Robinson, and John H. Twachtman":
"Boats at a Landing, 1894, best exemplifies the
Robinson achieved through his experiments with Japanism.Whereas
earlier in his career he strove to capture the transitory effects
of nature- flickering sunlight or an overcast day in the French
countryside - by 1894 he was tempering his observations of reality
with the elegance of convention. In Boats at a Landing
the strong vertical and horizontal lines of his composition -
sand, bands of water and sky, the masts, the docks and pilings
- are reinforced by his new, broader brushwork, a far cry from
the loose, broken strokes usually seen in his work. All these
features, the very 'combination of the convention and the reality,'
conspire to make this austere painting a self-conscious rearrangement
of observed nature."
The work has been widely written about and exhibited and was
on the back of the catalogue of "The Cos Cob Art Colony"
exhibition that ended at the National Academy of Design in January
2002 (see The
City Review article).
Lot 48 is
a magnificent floral still life by John La Farge. Entitled "Roses
in a Shallow Bowl," it is a 13 1/4-by-24 1/4-inch oil on
canvas. Painted circa 1879, it has a very modest estimate of $300,000
to $500,000. It sold for $355,200. The catalogue
that La Farge was often compared with Fantin-Latour, the great
French painter of flowers, but La Farge's background here is
painterly unlike the monochromatic backgrounds in many of
At his best,
John H. Twachtman is the most poetic of the American Impressionists
and Lot 26, "Tiger Lilies" is a beautiful example of
his work. An oil on canvas that measures 30 by 22 inches, it was
executed circa 1890-95 and has an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000.
It sold for $433,600. The catalogue quotes Lisa
as describing this painting as "one of the artist's most
powerful and vibrant images," adding that "Both the
forceful paint application and the low vantage point allow the
viewer to experience the painting's unfolding drama, the rising
crescendo of forms."
The Potamkin collection is particularly strong in early American
is one of the great American modernists whose interpretations
of the Brooklyn Bridge are 20th Century landmarks. Lot 4, "Telegraph
Pole," is a very important gouache and ink on paper by Stella
that measures 25 by 19 3/4 inches. Executed in 1917, it has a
very modest estimate of $150,000 to $200,000. It sold for
Stella was born in Italy and enrolled at the Art Students League
in New York in 1897 before studying with William Merritt Chase
at the New York School of Art. In 1909, he went to Europe where
he met Gertrude Stein, Matisse and Picasso. He returned to the
United States in 1912 and, according to the catalogue, "was
struck by the transformation wrought by the increasing
of American society, writing: 'Steel and electricity had created
a new world. A new drama had surged from the unmerciful violation
of darkness at night. A new architecture was created, a new
On another occasion, Stella wrote that "the verse of Walt
Whitman soaring above as a white aeroplane of Helpwas leading
the sails of my Art through the blue vastity of Phantasy, while
the telegraph wires, trembling around, as if expecting to propagate
a new musical message, like aerial guides leading to immensity,
were keeping me awake with an insatiable thirst for new adventures."
A related, but somewhat larger work is in the Daniel J. Terra
Lot 1, "Silver
Moon," a watercolor and gouache on paper mounted on board
at first glance would appear to be a masterwork by Arthur Dove
but in fact is by Oscar Bluemner (1867-1938). The 13 1/4-by-10-inch
work was executed in 1927 and has a modest estimate of $60,000
to $80,000. It sold for $254,400.
The Potamkins have two excellent watercolors by Charles Demuth,
Lots 2 and 38.
Lot 2 is
a beautiful watercolor and pencil on paper entitled "Daisies
and Tomatoes." It measures 13 3/4 by 11 3/4 inches and
is dated 1925. It has an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. It
sold for $366,400.
Demuth is Lot 38. Entitled "Rooftops," it measures 10
by 15 inches and was executed in 1918. It has an estimate of $100,000
to $150,000. It sold for $176,000.
illustration of the catalogue is Lot 12, "Sail Movement,"
an oil on panel by Marsden Hartley. Painted in 1916, it measures
20 by 16 1/4 inches. Its palette is quite muted for the usually
very intense Hartley and the composition is rather Cubist and
Suprematist. The catalogue quotes Barbara Haskell as noting that
"Hartley had been the last American artist of his time to
leave Europe, and he understood better than anyone in America
the level of abstraction Cubism had attained Hartley's Synthetic
Cubist works of the Provincetown summer were not only comparable
to those being executed in Europe, but they would not be equaled
by another American artist for ten years." The lot has an
estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. It sold for $355,200.
A much more vibrant abstract work by Hartley is Lot 17, "Composition,"
a 19 1/2-by-15 1/2-inch oil on board. Painted in 1913, it has
a modest estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold for
Lot 15 is
an important work by Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000) (see The City
Review article on a Lawrence retrospective exhibition at the Whitney
Museum of American Art) entitled "Ten
egg tempera on gessoed board measures 24 1/2 by 36 1/2 inches
and is dated 1967. It has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000.
It sold for $332,800.
(1882-1967) is represented in the collection by a good watercolor,
Lot 19, "House on Hill Top (House on Dune, South Truro)."
It measures 14 by 30 inches and was executed circa 1930-2. It
has an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000. It sold for $596,000.
B. Prendergast is one of America's greatest watercolorists who
also translated his gay dab style to oils. Lot 25, "Handkerchief
Point," is a classic Prendergast watercolor, a rich, complex
and picturesque composition. The watercolor and pencil on paper
measures 14 1/4 by 20 3/4 inches and is dated 1896. It has an
estimate of $1,000,000 to $1,500,000. It sold for $988,000.
The catalogue observes that it is "a quintessential example
of Maurice Prendergast's elaborate and highly patterned watercolors
depicting colorfully dressed city dwellers enjoying a holiday
afternoon at the seashore." A similar size but vertical format
version of "Handkerchief Point" is in the collection
of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
"East Boston Ferry," is a small but very handsome oil
on panel by Prendergast. Painted circa 1907-1910, it measures
14 1/2 by 12 3/4 inches and is a very tight and strong composition
showing several figures on a ferry overlooking ships and the city
of Boston. It has a modest estimate of $100,000 to $150,000 and
is the illustration of the back cover of the catalogue. It
sold for $276,800.
Another Prendergast oil on panel, Lot 21, is "entitled "Luxembourg
Gardens." Painted circa 1907, it mreasures 10 1/2 by 13 3/4
inches. It has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000 although it
is not as fine a composition as Lot 20. It sold for $400,000.
Lot 29 is a sweet tempera and gold leaf on gessoed panel by
Entitled "Bounding Deer," it measures 13 1/2 by 19 1/4
inches and was painted circa 1915. It has a modest estimate of
$60,000 to $80,000. It sold for $54,000.
Lot 35 is
a very strong portrait of two women by Alfred H. Maurer (1868-1932).
An oil on canvas, it measures 21 1/2 by 18 1/4 inches and was
executed circa 1929-30. It has a modest estimate of $50,000 to
$75,000. It sold for $153,600.
Lot 45 is
a view of Niagara Falls by George Inness. An oil on panel that
measures 16 by 24 inches, it was executed in 1885 and is similar
to a much larger version that is in the Smithsonian Institution
in Washington, D.C. The catalogue quotes Michael quick description
of the larger work as noting that Inness "depicts the cataract
in terms of shimmering veils of iridescent color," adding
that "some of his views of the waterfall are among his most
abstract and delicately nuanced paintings. The major landmarks
are barely suggested, let along detailed." Inness is American's
great Tonalist poet but this work pales in comparison with the
sense of majesty in depictions of the falls by Frederick E. Church,
John F. Kensett, Albert Bierstadt and Robert W. Weir. It has an
estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold for $232,000. This
is a very handsome painting.
Lot 103 is a very lovely painting by Jasper Francis Cropsey
"On the Susquahana River," a 12-by-22-inch oil on canvas.
The 1880 work has a modest estimate of $60,000 to $80,000 and
while it is not large it is a very fine example of Cropsey's artistry.
It sold for $84,000.
Blakelock and Albert Pinkham Ryder are American's great poets
of the night, the former famous for his moonlit scenes and the
latter for his marine scenes. Lot 50, "Moonlight on the Columbia
River," is a fine greenish moonlit landscape painted circa
1885. An oil on canvas, it measures 22 by 36 inches. Some of his
finest moonlit scenes have an deep emerald-colored sky against
which trees and silhouetted and sometimes include an American
Indian in an canoe. This lot has an estimate of $60,000 to $80,000.
It sold for $66,000. There is some craquelure in
Another good Blakelock is Lot 49, "Indian Camp," a 16
1/2-by-24 1/2-inch oil on canvas. It is an unusually spartan
with a yellow-orange sky occupying the two three-quarters or so
of the picture. Blakelock is noted for his many small night scenes
of Indian encampments. This lot has an estimate of $80,000 to
$120,000, which surprisingly higher than the more important and
beautiful moonlight scene in Lot 50. This lot sold for $78,000.