By Carter B. Horsley
This auction of American Paintings at Sotheby's
May 21, 2009 is highlighted by a great watercolor by Seth Eastman
(1808-1875), some very pleasant 19th Century landscapes, a wonderful
work by Thomas Hart Benton and a masterpiece by Alfred Henry Maurer.
The Eastman, Lot 33, is entitled "Striking
the Post," and although it measures only 6 by 8 1/2 inches,
it is a marvelous and important early study of American Indians
at play by one of the nation's earliest and best painters of the
West. It is dated 1852. It has a modest estimate of $40,000 to
$60,000. It sold for $68,500 including the buyer's premium
as do all results mentioned in this article.
Lot86, "Bash Bish Falls," is a very
pleasant small oil on canvas by John F. Kensett (1816-1872). Bash
Bish Falls, which is in the Berkshire Mountains, was one of the
artist's favorite subjects and this scene is not specifically
of the falls but it is very, very charming because of the two
people on the very nice bridge. It is, indeed, one of the nicest
Kensett sketches and has a very conservative estimate of $20,000
to $30,000. It failed to sell.
Lot 11 is a classic and very beautiful landscape
by Jasper Francis Cropsey (1823-1900). Entitled "Sailing
on the Lake," it is oil on canvas that measures 12 1/4 by
20 1/4 inches and was painted in 1873. The painting has an estimate
of $200,000 to $300,000. It failed to sell.
Francis A. Silva (1835-1886) is best known
for his Luminist river landscapes and Lot 31 is a fine example.
Entitled "Red Sails at Sunset (Sailing at Sunset),"
it is an oil on canvas that measures 15 by 30 inches and was painted
in 1871. The painting shows an area on the Hudson River near Newburgh.
It has an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. It failed to sell.
Another Silva is Lot 84, "Sailing at Twilight,"
an oil on canvas that measures 20 by 36 inches. Painted in 1877,
it is a lovely painting but is a bit unusual in its breaking waves
and serious clouds that are something of a departure from the
calm stillness of his more Luminist works. This painting, however,
does have a fine quality of light. It has a modest estimate of
$80,000 to $120,000. It failed to sell.
William Holbrook Beard (1824-1900) is best
known for his comic depictions of the bulls and bears, literally,
of Wall Street and monkeys in business suits. He also, however,
had a fondness for owls and Lot 70 is a very large charcoal drawing
that depicts "Minerva Reflecting." It measures 35 by
46 1/2 inches and was drawn circa 1870. It has an estimate of
$15,000 to $25,000. It sold for $15,000.
One of the masterworks by Thomas Eakins (1844-1916)
is "The Fairman Rogers Four-in-Hand," an oil painting
in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Lot 15 consists
of four works, all oil on panel measuring 10 1/4 by 14 1/2 inches
that were painted by the artist in 1879 as studies for that painting.
The paintings are being sold by the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture
Garden in Washington, D.C. to benefit its acquisitions program.
The panels have been widely exhibited and written about and the
lot has a modest estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. It sold for
Lot 30 is a very fine painting by Alfred Henry
Maurer (1868-1932) entitled "The Rendezvous." An oil
on canvas, it measures 36 by 32 1/4 inches and was painted circa
1904-5. It was once owner by William Merritt Chase and was exhibited
in 1905 at the One Hundredth Anniversary Exhibition of the Pennsylvania
Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. The work is a stunningly
abstract and enigmatic composition. It has an estimate of $250,000
to $350,000. It sold for $398,500.
Lot 69 is a dramatic and impressive painting
of "Peregrine Falcon (Great-Footed Hawk)" by Robert
Havell Jr. (1793-1878). An oil on canvas, it measures 35 3/4 by
50 inches. Havell painted some fine early landscapes of the Hudson
River area and also worked with James Audubon. It hasan estimate
of $30,000 to $50,000. It failed to sell.
Childe Hassam (1859-1935) was a prolific and
popular painter who painted in many different Impressionist styles.
Lot 44, "Newport," is a very fine composition with a
subdued but subtle palette. It has a very fine impressionistic
treatment of some of the clouds in the middle of the painting
and of reflections in the water in the lower portion. The Metropolitan
Museum of Art held a major retrospective in 2004 on Hassam (see
The City Review article). It has an
estimate of $500,000 to $700,000. It sold for $902,500.
Another Hassam in the auction is Lot 68, "Paris,
Winter Day," an oil on canvas that measures 17 3/4 by 32
inches and was painted in 1887. The painting was once in the collection
of Mr. and Mrs. Cyrus McCormick of Winnetka, Illinois and was
sold at Sotheby's a year ago for $3,961,000. A rather academic
and not very exciting scene of a two-horse carriage in the street,
this year it has an estimate of $1,500,000 to $2,500,000. It
sold for $2,322,500.
Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975) was best known
for his consistent curvilinear style that greatly animated the
realism of his compositions of classic American subjects and landscapes
and also influenced Jackson Pollock. Lot 45 is a very stunning,
dramatic and unusual painting by Benton that harkens to the expressionism
of Pontormo and even El Greco. It has a very conservative estimate
of $100,000 to $150,000 and has been widely exhibited. It sold
Guy Carleton Wiggins (1883-1962) is best known
for his medium-size oil paintings of Manhattan in snowstorms and
those paintings tend to be formulaic and not terribly impressive.
A better than average and colorful example of which is Lot 64,
"Broad Street in Winter," which has an estimate of $30,000
to $50,000. Lot 48, however, is a winter landscape that demonstrates
that Wiggins had a lot of talent. Entitled "Lightly Falling
Snow," it is an oil on canvas that measures 34 by 40 inches
and was painted circa 1917. It is very beautiful and has much
of the poetry one expects to find in the work of John Twachtman.
It is being sold, inexplicably, by the Art Institute of Chicago
and has a very modest estimate of $20,000 to $30,000. It sold
Lot 49 is a superb winter landscape by John
Fabian Carlson (1875-1945). An oil on canvas, it measures 40 by
52 inches and was painted circa 1930. Its provenance includes
the Macbeth Gallery, Vose Galleries and the Babcock Galleries,
which gae the artist an exhibition in 1993. The painting has an
extraordinarily impressive brushwork and a modest estimate of
$50,000 to $75,000. It sold for $68,500.