Carter B. Horsley
auction of American Paintings at Christie's December 1, 2010 is
highlighted by several rare works by Albert Pinkham Ryder, several
superb paintings by George Inness, a nice group of works by Thomas
Moran, a good painting by John Singer Sargent, a strong still life by
Marsden Hartley, a very vibrant floral painting by Georgia O'Keeffe,
and two excellent child portraits by Robert Henri.
(1847-1917) dark, moody, romantic paintings are widely regarded as
precursors of abstract painting and their often laborious reworking has
left many of them in precarious condition and increased their rarity.
They rarely appear on the auction market and when they have in
recent years their prices are markedly low, a reflection of the fact
that Ryder was one of the most forged artists in history. It is
quite extraordinary then that not only are three included in this
auction but another one this week at Sotheby's.
38, "The Lorelei," is the largest and best known of the Ryders and is
one of three consigned to Christie's by the estate of Alastair Bradley
Martin, who was chairman of the Brooklyn Museum of Art from 1984 to
1989 and a member of the acquisition committee of the Metropolitan
Museum of Art. It is an oil on canvas that measures 15 3/4 by 22
1/2 inches and was painted in 1879-1917. Like many, but not all,
of the artist's paintings, it is not in perfect condition and suffers
from severe and deep cracks. It has been included in three major
Ryder exhibitions: the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1947; the
Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington in 1961 and the Smithsonian
Institution National Museum of American Art in 1990.
small statuette, Lot 10,
is property of a charitable trust established by the Martin family
and for many years has been on exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum
as part of the Guennol Collection of the family of Edith and Alastair
an ambitious estimate
of $14,000,000 to $18,000,000.
for $57,161,000 including
the buyer's premium.
The extraordinary price was not only an auction record for any
antiquity, but also for any sculpture.
M. Keresey of Sotheby's
Antiquities department remarked that the "Guennol Lioness"
was "one of the greatest works of art of all time."
This catalogue notes that The Lorelei
is a hauntingly beautiful work of which Dr. Elisabeth Broun wrote:
"Only once does Ryder link love and death in the way so intriguing to
late nineteenth-century artists, poets and musicians. In The Lorelei,
based on Heine's famous poem, a sailor hears irresistible singing and
tries to steer toward the nymph on the rock but is sucked to his death
in whirlpools and rapids."
The lot has a very modest estimate of $120,000 to $150,000. It failed to sell.
Lot 88, "The Lone Horseman," by Albert Pinkham Ryder, oil on panel laid down on board, 7 1/2 by 14 1/2 inches, circa 1880-5
89, "Night," by Ryder shows the ravages of time on Ryder's mix of
paints. An oil on canvas, it measures 12 14 by 20 1/4 inches and
was painted circa 1880-5. It was shown at the Metropolitan Museum
of Art from 1918 to 1924. It has an estimate of $60,000 to
$80,000. It failed to sell.
Lot 102, "Gathering Wood, Montclair, New Jersey," by George Inness, oil on canvas, 20 by 30 inches, 1889