of America Paintings at Sotheby's May 18, 2005 is highlighted
by great Impressionist paintings by Theodore Robinson, John Twachtman
and William Merritt Chase, fine works by Andrew Wyeth, Edward
Hopper and Thomas Hart Benton, and excellent works by Oscar Bluemner,
Charles Sheeler, Martin J. Heade, Jasper Francis Cropsey, Sanford
R. Gifford and Frank Benson.
Lot 29, entitled "Girl Raking
is a masterpiece by Theodore Robinson (1852-1896) that is distinguished
from its simple composition and subject matter and limited palette,
all trademarks of his style, by its extraordinarily vibrant and
exciting brushwork. An oil on canvas that measures 18 1/2 by 15
1/2 inches, it was painted circa 1890 and is the back cover
of the auction's catalogue. Despite its relatively small size,
it has a conservative estimate of $400,000 to $600,000.
It sold for $800,000
including the buyer's
premium as do all results mentioned in this article. The sale
total was more than $40 million and 81.6 percent of the offered
Robinson's oeuvre is inconsistent
and marked by many relatively drab works, but he did produce several
works that are breathtaking and hold their own with those of any
Impressionist such as this one. The catalogue notes that the woman
in the painting is Josephine Trognon, who the artist photographed
and who appears in other works by him in the Brooklyn Museum and
the Canojoharie Library and Art Gallery. "The present work
appears to display traces of a grid pattern, indicated that the
preliminary study...have also have been a photograph. These paintings
of the early 1800s successfully merge Robinston's figurative painting
with his sophisticated Impressionist style. In Girl Taking
Hay, sponteanous strokes of white and plae blue in
dress echo the thin straws of hay surrounding her, while short,
precise dabs of green pigment depict the landscape beyond. Suffused
with light and color, the present painting vividly evokes the
peace and beauty of the French countryside." The landscape,
of course, could be anywhere. The boldness of Robinson's treatment
of the hay here is sensational and the diagonal position of the
rake accentuates the swirling composition augmented by the angled
hill in the background the tilt of the figure's hat brim. Her
face and hands are very skillfully depicted. This is a very beautiful
John Henry Twachtman (1853-1902) is an inconsistent Impressionist
painter, but both at their best are extremely poetic and they
produced some of the greatest Impressionist paintings. Lot 22,
for example, "Winter Harmony," is a fine combination
of the Whistlerian temperament of tonalism and Impressionist technique.
An oil on canvas that measures 18 by 26 inches, it was executed
circa 1890s. It has a modest estimate of $150,000 to $250,000.
It sold for $144,000, indicating that Twachtman, like
remains seriously undervalued in the art market.
fine Twachtman is Lot 40, "Golden landscape," on oil
on canvas that measures 25 by 30 inches. Executed circa 1890-1900
it is more colorful and conventional than Lot 22 as well as
larger. It has an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. It sold
Benson (1862-1951) is a later American Impressionist who is not
in the same elevated league as Robinson and Twachtman. Benson
painted many pictures of beautiful young ladies, usually in white
dresses, in nice interiors and later in his career also painted
many hunting scenes. Lot 7, "The Artist's Daughters (The
Dining Room)," is the cover illustration of this auction's
catalogue and is a lovely example of his earlier work and is dated
1906. An oil on canvas that measures 26 by 36 inches, it has an
estimate of $2,500,000 to $3,500,000. It sold for $3,375,000.
One of Benson's typical, illustrative hunting pictures, Lot
42, "The First Shot," has an estimate of $350,000 to
$450,000. It sold for $632,000.
Merritt Chase is widely regarded as America's finest Impressionist
painter and Lot 41, "Friendly Advice," is pretty good
proof. The 30-by-36-inch oil on canvas is very loosely painted
and has a very lovely quality of light coming through a tall window
and brightening the white dress of one of the two women seated
in a very opulent interior with tall marble columns. The work
was painted in 1913 and has a conservative estimate of $ 1,000,000
to $1,500,000 when it came up for auction in 2002, with a different
albeit good frame, and failed to sell. This time it has an estimate
of $500,000 to $700,000. It sold for $912,000.
The catalogue notes that this "recently discovered"
painting was exhibited in Chase's gallery at the 1915 Panama-Pacific
International Exposition in San Francisco, the last major showing
of his work before his death. According to the catalogue, this
painting was executed in Venice.
Impressionist section of the auction is also highlighted by a
very good Mary Cassatt (1845-1926), two good New York scenes by
Edward W. Redfield (1869-1965) and a fine landscape by Daniel
Lot 26, "Little Girl in a Stiff, Round Hat, Looking to Right
in a Sunny Garden," was consigned from the Collection of
Mr. and Mrs. Thomas J. Watson Jr. An oil on canvas, it measures
15 by 18 1/4 inches and was painted circa 1909. Charming and lovely,
the small work is boldly accented with the child's black brimmed
hat. It has an estimate of $700,000 to $900,000. It sold for
Museum and Art Collection consigned the two Redfields. Lot 12,
"Brooklyn Bridge at Night," a 36-by-50-inch oil on canvas
executed in 1909, has an estimate of $150,000 to $250,000. It
sold for $996,000, an auction record for Redfield. Lot 11,
"Lower New York, a 38-by-50-inch oil on canvas executed circa
1910, has an estimate of $150,000 to $250,000. It sold for
$441,600. Inasmuch as neither of these works are masterpieces,
it is obvious that the market for Redfield is accelerating.
Lot 16 is
a excellent landscape by Garber entitled "Reflections."
An oil on canvas that measures 36 by 40 inches, it has an estimate
of $300,000 to $500,000. It sold for $553,600.
is a beautiful and excellent marsh/meadow painting by Martin J.
Heade (1819-1904). Entitled "Sunny Day on the Marsh (Newburyport
Meadows)," it is an oil on canvas that measures 13 by 26
1/4 inches. Executed circa 1871-5, it has an estimate of $800,000
to $1,200,000. It sold for $2,760,000, an auction record for
is a beautiful and classic hummingbird and orchid picture by Martin
J. Heade. Entitled "Two Hummingbirds, Two Types of Orchids
and a Palm Tree," it is an oil on canvas that measures 20
1/4 by 15 inches. It was executed between 1890 and 1904 and has
an estimate of $1,200,000 to $1,800,000. It sold for
is an excellent coastal scene with several figures by Sanford
R. Gifford (1823-1880). Entitled "Along the Beach, Cape Ann,
Massachusetts," it is an oil on canvas that measures 7 1/2
by 18 3/4 inches. It is dated 1878 and has a conservative estimate
of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $192,000.
Edwin Church (1826-1900) and Albert Bierstadt were the grandiloquent
American painters of the 19th Century and the majesty of their
painted visions were awe-inspiring to many. Lot 144 is a small
but pleasant landscape by Church that is entitled "The Highlands
of the Hudson River." An oil on canvas that measures 14 by
21 inches, it is dated 1866 and was once in the collection of
Mrs. A. Perry Osborn of Garrison-on-Hudson, New York. The scene
depicts the view from Castle Rock, the home of William Henry Osborn,
the railroad entrepreneur. It has a modest estimate of $300,000
to $500,000. It sold for $1,052,000.
bit excellent Bierstadt, Lot 124, "Sunset Over The River,"
has an estimate of $50,000 to $70,000. It is an oil on paper that
measures 6 1/4 by 9 inches. It sold for $251,200.
Cropsey (1823-1900) is known as the American painter of Autumn
but Lot 111 is an excellent early work by him that is notable
for its very strong sense of depth, its fine composition, its
lovely use of sunset colors and reflections and the intrusion
of the locomotive in this idyllic Hudson River setting. An oil
on canvas that measures 12 1/4 by 20 1/4 inches, it is entitled
"Hudson River from Dudley's Grove." Painted in 1855,
it has a modest estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. It sold for
Kensett is one of the great Hudson River School painters who also
became a major Luminist. Lot 127 is a good example of his transition
between the two styles. "Entitled "Coastal Sunset,"
it is a 14-by-24-inch oil on canvas that is dated 1864. It was
once in the collection of the New York Public Library, which sold
it at Parke-Bernet Galleries in 1943. The library recently came
under some criticism for selling Asher B. Durand's famous "Kindred
Spirits" for about $35 million to a member of the family
that owns Walmart. This painting has an estimate of $200,000 to
$300,000 and sold for $240,000.
is a very fine and bright watercolor on paper by John William
Hill (1812-1879). Entitled "The Hudson River from Cold Spring,"
it measures 15 1/4 by 21 3/4 inches. It has an estimate of $25,000
to $35,000. It sold for $26,400.
Lot 85 is
a superb study for a mural by Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975) that
is tempera on masonite and measures 18 by 30 1/2 inches. Entitled
"Missouri State Capitol Mural: Social History of Missouri:
St. Louis and Kansas City, Frankie and Johnny - study," it
was executed in 1935 and has a modest estimate of $125,000 to
$175,000. It sold for $475,200.
who will be the subject of a major retrospective exhibition later
this year, was one of the leading early American modernists and
Lot 61 is a fine example of his vibrant but limited palette, intriguing
titles, and bold painterliness. Entitled "A Moment in Another
Town," it is an oil on panel that measures 8 by 10 inches.
Dated 1929, it has a modest estimate of $60,000 to $80,000. It
sold for $340,800.
(1882-1967) is best known for his haunting urban scenes of diners,
movie theater interiors and street scenes. Christie's put a good
example of his railroad car interior pictures, "Chair Car,"
in its Contemporary Art auction this season (see The City
Review article on that auction)
where it fetched $14,016,000,
auction record for Hopper. Lot
74 in this auction, "Squam Light," is in fact a better
Hopper. An oil on canvas that measures 24 by 29 inches, it was
executed in 1912 and has a modest estimate of $1,400,000 to $1,600,000.
It sold for $1,584,000. Lighthouses were among
favorite subjects and this is fine composition with a great quality
of light. Its lack of figures may explain the disparity in values,
but those in "Chair Car" are rather clumsy.
Lot 78 is
a striking tempera on panel by Andrew Wyeth (b. 1917) entitled
"Battle Ensign," which commemorates the death in 1987
of his long-term neighbor in Port Clyde, Maine, and friend, Walter
Anderson. In an article by Thomas P. F. Hoving in Connoisseur
magazine in December, 1990, and quoted in the catalogue
for this lot, Wyeth was quoted as stating that "the picture's
a damp one. I tried to do it in watercolor, and it didn't work;
couldn't get the depth. I overlaid that flag in the tempera to
make you feel the muslin of it, which'd turned yellow with age
like an old bloody tooth. The red is blood red. Not a pretty color.
It's a tough picture. It had to do with the loss of a close
Anderson, who died while I was doing it - that went into it because
he was so much of the sea. It's the essence of storm, sea fights.
I hung the flag backwards to have it not perfect, not the 'beautiful,
flying, patriotic thing,' you know."
on panel measures 22 3/4 by 30 1/2 inches and was executed in
1987. It has an estimate of $1,500,000 to $2,000,000. It sold
(1885-1965) was an American modernist heavily influenced by Matisse,
but Lot 88 is an unusual and fine abstraction by him that is highly
reminiscent of the sunburst works of Adolph Gottlieb. Entitled
"Red Sun," it is an oil on canvas that measures 44 by
50 inches and was executed in 1957. It has an estimate of $400,000
to $600,000. It sold for $520,000.
Lot 65 is
an impressive flower painting by Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986)
that was included in Alfred Stieglitz's landmark 1925 exhibition
at the Anderson Galleries in New York entitled "Alfred Stieglitz
Presents Seven Americans," which also included works by Arthur
G. Dove, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, CharlesDemuth, Paul Strand
and Stieglitz himself. O'Keeffe had married Stieglitz in 1924.
Entitled "Petunia and Colleus," this work is an oil
on canvas that measures 36 by 30 inches. It has an estimte of
$3,500,000 to $4,500,000. It failed to sell.
of the "modern" section of this auction include Lot
75, "Against the Sky a Web has Spun," a 6-by-4 1/2-inch
tempera on panel by Charles Sheeler (1883-1965), which has a modest
estimate of $50,000 to $70,000 and sold for $168,000;
Lot 76, "Study of the Brooklyn Bridge," by Joseph Stella
(1880-1946), a 20 3/4-by-16 1/2-inch watercolor that has a modest
estimate of $25,000 to $35,000 and sold for $78,000; and
Lot 96, "An Exotic Garden with Four Figures," by Charles
Prendergast (1863-1948), a tempera, gold and silver leaf work
on incised and gessoed panel, 31 by 19 1/2 inches that was executed
circa 1916-8 and has a modest estimate of $80,000 to $120,000
and sold for $273,600.