By Carter B. Horsley
This American Painting auction at Sotheby's
September 30, 2009 is highlighted by two exceptional works by
Bertram Hartman, a group of paintings by Arthur B. Davies that
are being sold by the Art Institute of Chicago, a superb
portrait by Julian Alden Weir, and good works by Francis A. Silva,
Thomas Doughty, Alexander Wyant and Johann Mongels Culverhouse.
Lot 30, "Two Natures," is a large and very fine painting
by Bertram Hartman (1862-1960). It was executed in 1913
and measures 30 by 39 inches. Hartman was an early American
modernist who was influenced by Symbolism and who often employed
an almost psychedelic palette. This is a striking work that
has a most estimate of $12,000 to $18,000. It was exhibited
at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco
in 1915 and later at the Berry Hill Galleries. It sold
for $20,000 including the buyer's premium as do all the results
mentioned in this article. Another Hartman in the auction
is Lot 32, which measures 20 1/2 by 39 inches and also has an
estimate of $12,000 to $18,000. It is also an interesting
work but less dramatic and bold than "Two Natures."
It sold for $11,250.
The auction total was $1,994,313.
Lot 106 is a very lovely
work by Bruce Crane, entitled "Grey Morning." An
oil on canvas, it measures 12 by 16 1/2 inches. Crane is
one of the major American Tonalist painters. It has an estimate
of $7,000 to $10,000. It sold for $13,750.
Lot 42, "Skating
at Twilight" is a good work by Johann Mongels Culverhouse.
It measures 22 1/4 by 36 1/2 inches and has a modest estimate
of $10,000 to $15,000. It sold for $12,500.
Lot 53 is a very
nice small oil on board by Alexander Wyant. It has an estimate
of $8,000 to $12,000. It failed to sell.
My fifth recommendation
is the excellent Thomas Doughty landscape at Sothebys, Lot 52,
A Hunter with His Dog. Doughty is a very early and
very fine landscape painter whose works generally have a lovely
palette and very nice compositions and he is included in many
museum collections. This is a very good picture that actually
is stronger in contrast than many of his lyrical scenes and it
has a very nice frame and a low estimate. I would suggest
that it will probably go a bit over its high estimate (12,000)
and would be well worth it at that level. It sold for $5,000.
Lot 47 is a good
marine painting by Francis A. Silva (1835-1886) entitled "Sailing
at Twilight." An oil on canvas, it measures 20 by 36
inches and has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for
$86,500. It was offered last May at Sotheby's with an estimate
of $80,000 to $120,000 and it then failed to sell. 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.
Lot 160 is a good large painting of Harper's Ferry
by William Louis Sonntag, (1822-1900). It was executed in
1864 and measures 34 by 54 inches. It failed to sell.
The Arthur B. Davies paintings
being sold by the Art Institute of Chicago cover a variety of
the artist's different subjects and styles. The best is
Lot 26, "Dirge in Spring," an oil on canvas that measures
8 by 20 inches. Davies (1862-1928) was the organizer of
the incredibly influential Armory Show of 1913 that introduced
modern European painting to Americans and he is one of the eight
artists of the great Ashcan School that had been founded by Robert
Henri. (The others include George Luks, John Sloan,
Everett Shinn, Maurice Prendergast, Ernest Lawson and William
Glackens.) This is a very poetic image that is evocative
of mystery and romance painted in a darker style than Puvis de
Chavannes. Davies also experimented with a bright Cubist
style. This lot has an estimate of $10,000 to $15,000.
It sold for $10,000.
Lot 104 is a very beautiful portrait of "An American
Girl," by Julian Alden Weir (1852-1919), one of the nation's
finest Impressionists. His father, Robert Walter Weir, taught
art at West Point and was a well-known painter and his brother,
John Ferguson Weir, also was a good landscape painter. This
painting is being sold by the Art Institute of Chicago and was
included in a memorial exhibition on the artist in 1924 at the
Metropolitan Museum of Art. It measures 36 by 28 1/43 inches
and has a conservtive estimate of $8,000 to $12,000. It sold