smaller in size
than many recent "Important American Paintings" auctions,
the December 3, 2003 Sotheby's American Paintings auction has
a few "blockbusters including a huge painting by Albert Bierstadt,
a masterpiece by Arthur Dove, a very strong painting by Marsden
Hartley and a glorious watercolor by Winslow Homer.
and Mrs. Julian Ganz
Jr. have consigned some important works to Sotheby's that given
their exhibition history will do very well, especially a large
painting of Yosemite by Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902).
27, "Yosemite Valley"
by Bierstadt is a 38 ¾-by-61-inch oil signed and dated
1866, his best period. It is a quite fine and beautiful work and
has an estimate of $4,500,000 to $6,000,000 which reflects its
size, condition and exhibition history. It sold for
including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this
article. The price was a world auction record for
The catalogue notes that "The golden serenity of an Edenic
vision of wilderness depicted in Yosemite Valley reflects both
Bierstadt's ecstatic portrayal of the majestic scenery he encountered
and his response to the nation's desire for renewal and a return
to peace in the aftermath of the Civil War." This painting
was in a major show in 1976 at the Hirschl & Adler Galleries
and then in the 1982 exhibition on the Ganz collection that was
shown at the National Gallery of Art, the Amon Carter Museum and
the Los Angles County Museum of Art, and also in the major Bierstadt
show in 1991-2 at the National Gallery of Art, the Brooklyn Museum,
and the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco. The painting's
"serenity" was apparently not too evident in the auction
gallery and something of a shoving match between two dealers at
the fall of the hammer made front-page news in the December 4,
2003 edition of The New York Sun. According to an
by Lindsay Pollock, "according to witnesses" Graham
Arader confronted Gavin Spanierman "with verbal threats while
attempting to butt chests," adding that "Mr. Spanierman,
who is 6'2", was uncowed" and "retailiated by shoving
Mr. Arader out of the way" Mr. Spanierman, whose father is
Ira Spanierman of the Spanierman Gallery, was the winner bidder.
is Lot 28, a charming and not small view of Niagara Falls by Jasper
Francis Cropsey (1823-1900). The arched canvas measures 26 by
25 ½ inches and was painted in 1860. It is not the fiery
autumnal masterpieces that are associated with Cropsey but an
unusual and very, very nice view of one of the country's great
wonders. Arched paintings, by the way, are always of more interest
than traditional rectilinear shapes. The work was acquired in
1862 by the Brooklyn Institute (the precursor of the Brooklyn
Museum, which has always had an excellent American paintings
The Ganzes got it from Hirsch & Adler. This work has been
widely exhibited and has an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000.
It sold for $478,400.
113 is a very sweet
and good 6-by-10-inch oil on canvas by Cropsey that is entitled
"Lake Scene with Hikers in Vale." Cropsey is a second-generation
Hudson River School artist but one of the very best and this has
a conservative estimate of $20,000 to $30,000 and probably will
go for $40,000 to $50,000. It sold for $84,000.
sale total was $31,263,400
with about 81 percent of the offered lots selling, many over their
102, "Scene at
Cold Spring, Hudson River," by David Johnson (1827-1908).
Johnson is a second-tier Hudson River School artist of very fine
and meticulous painterliness and this is a classic Hudson River
scene and a nice size, 22 ½ by 34 inches. It was painted
in 1857. It has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold
again, the finest work
to go up at either Sotheby's or Christie's is by Winslow Homer
and Lot 18 at Sotheby's, which is also the catalogue's cover
is a magnificent watercolor and gouache on paper, entitled "In
the Garden." This is small, only 9 by 6 ¾ inches and
has an estimate of $1,500,000 to $2,500,000. It comes from the
Arthur Altschul collection. It sold for $1,688,000.
26 at Sotheby's is a
nice Homer watercolor entitled "Boy with Blue Dory"
that is 9 by 17 inches. While nowhere as sumptuous and painterly
as "In The Garden," it is a a good, stark composition
and has an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. It sold for
Maurice Prendergast (1859-1924) is a highly original American
modern whose Cézanne/Fauve/Neo-Impressionist works are
lush, abstract and very colorful. His works while not cheap are
still undervalued and there are several to choose from this time
34, "Late Afternoon
(Moonlight at Marblehead)," is a fine small oil painted 1907-1910.
It measures 12 ¼ by 15 ¾ inches and has a modest
estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. It is very nice and a classic
Prendergast. It sold for $282,400.
watercolors are as great as his oils and Lot 47, "Playtime
at Salem Park, Massachusetts," is a very strong composition
that is a nice size, 13 ¾ by 19 ½ inches. Executed
1913-5, it has a quite modest estimate of $80,000 to $120,000.
It sold for $142,400.
real stars of this auction
are a sensational Arthur Dove (1880-1946) and an extremely strong
Marsden Hartley (1878-1943).
64 is the Dove. Entitled
"Snowstorm," it is a classic work by this early abstract
painter of organic forms. An oil on canvas, this masterpiece,
the finest work of art in this auction, measures 14 by 20 inches,
which is not large but then most of his best works are not. It
was painted in 1935 and has a modest estimate of $700,000 to $900,000.
(See The City Review article on a
It sold for $1,240,000, setting a new world auction record
Hartley is Lot 56, "Storm
Down Pine Point Way, Old Orchard Beach." Like the Dove, it
is a brooding work of very great power. Indeed, Hartley was greatly
influenced by Albert Pinkham Ryder, whose moonlight sailboat scenes
are abstract masterpieces. This oil on masonite measures 22 by
29 inches and was painted 1941-3, near the end of Hartley's life.
Hartley is best known for these Ryderesque seascapes, his German
military medal pictures, his American Indian mythological works
and for landscapes: he painted in a number of different styles
and his reputation is continuing to grow. This work has a quite
modest estimate of $700,000 to $900,000. (See The
City Review article on a Hartley exhibition.) It
68, "Blue Day,
Greenland," it is an oil on canvas by Rockwell Kent (1882-1971)
that measures 34 by 44 ½ inches and was painted in 1935-7.
It has a modest estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold
Kent's stark landscapes, and snowscapes, of which this is
a classic example, are very abstract. The painting was once in
the collection of James J. Ryan of Virginia and was the cover
illustration of Kent's autobiography, "It's Me O Lord,"
which was published in 1955.
13, "Trees in Full
Summer," is a lovely oil by Emil Carlsen (1853-1932), a major
California artist whose works are extremely beautiful. This 25-by-30
¼-inch painting was executed about 1915 and has an estimate
of $60,000 to $80,000. It sold for $96,000. His
pretty, very pretty and here that is not meant derisively. His
works have a very painterly, Tonalist/Impressionist quality that
will only appreciate in value.
111 is a small oil on
board by Martin J. Heade (1819-1904) who is acclaimed for his
salt marsh Massachusetts landscapes, his flower and hummingbird
pictures and his South American and Florida scenes. This 6 ¼-by-12
¼ inch work is entitled "Palm Trees, Florida."
It has a modest estimate of $30,000 to $50,000. It sold for
Lot 33, a lovely oil on canvas that measures 42 by 50 by inches,
by Daniel Garber (1880-1958) sold for $1,128,000. The painting
was the back cover illustration of the catalogue and the price
was almost double the high estimate and set a new world auction