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American Paintings

Sotheby's New York

10 A.M., December 4, 2013


Sale 9048

"Saying Grace," a 1951 magazine illustration by Norman Rockwell, soars to $46 million,
more than twice its high pre-sale estimate


Icebergs by Church


Lot 13, "Final Study for Icebergs," by Frederic Edwin Church, oil on canvas laid down on masonite, 10 by 18 1/8 inches, 1860

By Carter B. Horsley

This auction of American Paintings December 4, 2013 at Sotheby's New York is highlighted by superb works by Frederic Church, Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Moran, Martin J. Heade, Sanford Robinson, Arthur Dove, Richard Miller and George Inness and several good paintings by Norman Rockwell.

The star of the auction is Lot 13, the final study for "Icebergs" by Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900).  An oil on canvas laid down on masonite, it measures 10 by 18 1/8 inches and was painted in 1860.  It was once in the collection of the Middendorf Gallery in Washington, D.C. It is a study for the large painting of icebergs at the Dallas Museum of Art that measures 64 1/2 by 112 1/2 inches.  

In June 1859, Church traveled with the Rev. Louis Noble, the former pastor and biographer of Church's teacher, Thomas Cole, to Labrador and Newfoundland.  The catalogue quotes John Howat that Church and Noble continued trying to place themselves almost inside the chasms of the glorious yet moody icebergs, puzzling over the forces of nature that could become such fearsome monuments."  When the large painting was finished, it was described by The New York Tribune as "the most splendid work of art that has yet been produced in this country ..thoroughly original in conception and execution.  It is a absolutely wonderful picture, a work of genius that illustrates the time and the country producing it."

Detail of Icebergs by Church

Detail of Lot 13

The catalogue notes that this monumental albeit small study sold for $247,500 in 1980.  The modest estimate now is $800,000 to $1,200,000.  It sold for $905,000 including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article.

Bierstadt

Lot 35, "Lake in the Sierra Nevada," by Albert Bierstadt, oil on canvas 21 7/8 by 30 inches, 1867

Lot 35 is an excellent oil on canvas by Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902) of a "Lake in the Sierra Nevada" that is  notable for his marvelous handling of the sunset's glow.    It has an estiatme of $1,500,000 to $2,500,000.  It sold for $2,105,000.

Grand Canyon by Moran

Lot 46, "Grand Canyon in Mist," by Thomas Moran, oil on panel, 13 3/4 by 20 1/8 inches, 1915

Another classic Western landscape is Lot 46, "Grand Canyon in Mist," by Thomas Moran (1837-1926).  An oil on panel, it measures 13 3/4 by 20 1/8 inches and was painted in 1915.  It was once in the collection of Governor Ernest Whitworth Marland of Oklahoma and later the Middendorf Gallery in Washington, D.C.  It has an estimate of $800,000 to $1,200,000.  It sold for $1,445,000.

Gifford

Lot 37, "The Wilderness," by Sanford Robinson Gifford, oil on canvas, 12 by 22 inches, 1861

The most exquisite work in the auction is Lot 37, "The Wilderness," by Sanford Robinson Gifford (1823-1880).  An oil on canvas, it measures 12 by 22 inches and was painted in 1861.  It was included in the major Gifford exhibition in 2003 and 2004 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, and the National Gallery of Art.  It has a modest estimate of $800,000 to $1,200,000.  It sold for $965,000.

Heade

Lot 17, "White Orchid and Hummingbird," by Martin J. Heade, oil on canvas, 20 by 12 inches

Lot 17 is a fine oil on canvas of a "White Orchid and Hummingbird" by Martin J. Heade (1818-1904).  It measures 20 by 12 inches.  It has an estimate of $900,000 to $1,200,000.  It sold for $1,205,000.

Thomas Cole

Lot 65, "Landscape Sketch," by Thomas Cole, oil on paper laid down on board, 6 by 8 inches

Lot 65 is a very good "Landscape Sketch" by Thomas Cole (1801-1848).  An oil on paper laid down on board, it measures 6 by 8 inches   It has a modest estimate of $30,000 to $50,000.  It sold for $35,000.

Twachtman

Lot 18, "Tiger Lillies," by John Henry Twachtman, oil on canvas, 30 by 25 inches, circa late 1890s

Lot 18 is an excellent, very colorful and large painting of "Tiger Lillies" by John Henry Twachtman (1853-1902).  An oil on canvas, it measures 30 by 25 inches and was painted circa late 1890s.  It has an estimate of $300,000 to $400,000.  It sold for $269,000.


Inness

Lot 12, "A June Day," by George Inness, oil on canvas, 24 by 30 inches, 1881

Lot 12 is a bright and superb landscape by George Inness (1825-1894).  Entitled "A June Day," it is an oil on canvas that measures 24 by 30 inches.  

Detail of Inness

Detail of Lot 12

It was painted in 1881.  It has a modest estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. It sold for $305,000.

Hassam

Lot 41, "Men O'War: The Blake and The Boston," by Childe Hassam, oil on canvas, 18 1/8 by 22 1/4 inches, 1893

Lot 42 is a very good riverscape by Childe Hassam (1859-1935) entitled "Men O'War: The Blake and The Boston."  An oil on canvas, it measures 18 1/8 by 22 1/4 inches and was painted in 1893.  It has an estimate of 4300,000 to $500,000.  It sold for $341,000.


Richard Miller

Lot 19, "Contemplation (Woman Seated Next to Birdcage)," by Richard Edward Miller, oil on canvas, 39 1/2 by 31 3/4 inches, circa 1913

Richard Edward Miller (1875-1943) is one of the very best American Impressionists whose works are extremely painterly and have wonderfully tight compositions and very beautiful woman in very beautiful clothes.  Lot 19 is a fine example of his skills.  Entitled "Contemplation (Woman Seated Next to Birdcage)," it is an oil on canvas that measures 39 1/2 by 31 3/4 inches and it was painted circa 1913.  It  hasa modest estimate of $250,000 to $350,000.  It sold for $509,000.


Vedder

Lot 3, "The Heart of the Rose,' by Elihu Vedder, oil on canvas, 13 inches square, 1891-2

Lot 3 is a great small oil on canvas by Elihu Vedder (1836-1923).  Entitled "The Heart of the Rose," it measures 13 inches square and was painted 1891-2.  It has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000.  It sold for $50,000.

Dove

Lot 32, "Lattice and Awning," by Arthur Garfield Dove, oil on canvas, 22 by 36 inches, 1941

Lot 32 is a large and late and very fine abstraction by Arthur Garfield Dove (1880-1946) that is entitled "Lattice and Awning."  An oil on canvas, it measures 22 by 36 inches and was painted in 1941.  It has an estimate of $1,200,000 to $1,800,000.  It sold for $1,685,000.


Rockwell restaurant

Lot 10, "Saying Grace," by Norman Rockwell, an oil on canvas, 43 by 41 inches, 1951

The cover illustration of the catalogue is Lot 10, "Saving Grace," by Norman Rockwell (1894-1978).  An oil on canvas that measures 43 by 41 inches, it was painted in 1951 and has been widely exhibited and published.  It appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post magazine November 24, 1951.  It is one of several Rockwell works consigned to this auction by the descendants of Kenneth J. Stuart Jr., the art director of the Saturday Evening Post.

Between 1916 and 1963, Rockwell painted 322 covers for the magazine and in 1958 the magazine asked its readers to select their favorite Rockwell cover and this painting was chosen by 32 percent of those voting.  For many of his works, Rockwell commissioned photographs of models he had selected for his compositions.

It has an estimate of $15,000,000 to $20,000,000.  It sold for $46,085,000, an auction record for the artist whose previous auction record was $15.4 million for "Breaking Home Times," at Sotheby's in 2006.  The sales price was also a record for any work offered at an American Art auction.


Rockwell church

Lot 23, "Walking to Church," by Norman Rockwell, oil on canvas, 19 by 18 inches, 1953

Another Rockwell work consigned by the Stuart family is Lot 23, "Walking to Church, an oil on canvas that measures 19 by 18 inches and was painted in 1953.  It has an estimate of $3,000,000 to $5,000,000.  It sold for $3,245,000.

Rockwell heads

Lot 16, "The Gossips," by Norman Rockwell, oil on canvas, 33 by 31 inches, 1948

Another Rockwell painting consigned by the Stuart family is Lot 16, "The Gossips," an oil on canvas that measures 33 by 31 inches.  It was painted in 1948.  It has an estimate of $6,000,000 to $9,000,000.  It sold for $8,453,000.



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