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American Art

Christie's New York

May 17, 2022

Sale 21168


The Hill Top by Benson

Lot 24, "The Hill Top," by Frank Weston Benson, oil on canvas, 40 by 32 inches, 1914

By Carter B. Horsley

This May 2022 auction at Christie's New York of American Art is highlighted by excellent works by Frank Weston Benson, Frederick Carl Friseke, George Luks, Georgia O'Keeffe, and William Merritt Chase.

The auction's pre-sale website catalogue suggests the woman in Lot 24, "The Hill Top," by Frank Weston Benson (1862-1951) is probably the artist's eldest daughter Eleanor.  The lovely work is an oil on canvas that was painted in 1914 and measures 40 by 32 inches.  The catalogue notes that Benson was "a leader of the Boston School of art and a member of "The Ten."  He was, it continued, "one of the most celebrated American artists to adapt the Impressionist aesthetic into a bespoke signature style." 

Benson, it continued, "painted another version of the present scene titled On Lookout Hill...(Detroit Athletic Club" that has the same woman also another figure and a dog.

This lot has an estimate of $1,200,000 to $1,800,000.  It failed to sell.

The auction total was $9,455,340.

Girl Dressing by Frieseke

Lot 25, "Girl Dressing" by Frederick Carl Frieseke, oil on canvas, 54 by 40 inches, 1912

Lot 25 is a beautiful oil on canvas of a "Girl Dressing" by Frederick Carl Frieseke (1874-1939).  It measures 54 by 40 inches and was painted in 1912.

It has an estimate of $700,000 to $1,000,000.  It failed to sell.  It is from the May Family Collection.

It has been exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Arts in 1923, the Art Institute of Chicago in 1924, Grand Central Art Galleries in New York in 1926 and the Dallas Art Museum in 2015.

The auction's pre-sale website provided the following commentary:

"Brilliant in scale, color and form, Girl Arranging Her Hair is an archetypical example of Frederick Carl Frieseke's paintings of women during quiet moments of leisure.  Superbly balancing sumptuous fabrics and textures with opulent, intricate patterns and an intriguing viewpoint, Girl Arranging Her Hair is arguably one of the artist's most accomplished interior scenes from this period....Frieseke's images of women are celebrated as some of the finest achievements of American Impresssionism.  His ability to manipulate light and imbue his models with an air of psychological independence makes him one of the most accomplished American Impressionist painters of the female figure."



The Swan Boats by Luks

Lot 30, "The Swan Boats," by George Luks, oil on canvas, 30 by 35 inches, circa 1922-23

Lot 30, "The Swan Boats," is a superb oil on canvas by George Lukes (1867-1933) that measures 30 by 35 inches and was painted circa 1922-23.

It has an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000.  It failed to sell.

It was once in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and was sold at Sotheby's New York in May 2018 when it had the same estimate as this auction and sold for $1,150,000. 

The catalogue provided the following commentary:

"George Luks was a leading member of the group of artists known as The Eight and part of a movement more broadly referred to as the Aschan School. The group rejected the subjects of the Impressionists and chose to instead focus on depicting scenes from modern life in New York, fascinated by urban street life in particular. While these artists, including Luks, are perhaps most celebrated for their often gritty portrayals of the working class, they also captured the daily lives of the elite. As Graham W. J. Beal, Director of the Detroit Museum of Art, writes, “The Aschan artists truly were painters of American urban life and took for their subject matter scenes from everyday life, which inevitably showed a wider range of social strata than is indicated ivy the circle’s nickname” (as quoted in James Tottis, Life’s Pleasures: The Aschan Artist’s Brush with Leisure, 1895-1925, London, 2007, p. 7). In The Swan Boats, Luks depicts a group of these titular pontoon pleasure boats in the pond of Boston’s Public Garden. This fleet of swan boats has been in operation since 1877 and was already regarded as a cultural icon for the city by the time the artist moved there in the early 1920s. While Luks, like the other Aschan painters, had previously eschewed European subject matter and technique, he was exposed to and influenced by the work of Matisse and other French Fauvist painters while living and working in the home of Boston socialite Maragrett Sargent. Not only did he draw inspiration from their bright, vivid colors and geometric forms, but he also began to embrace the popular European subject of bourgeois public leisure and the technique of painting en plein air. The Swan Boats is indicative of this European influence, with Luks’ application of small, Impressionist-like brushstrokes of pure color to depict the scene. Utilizing staccato brushwork and heightened color, he captures the effects of light, atmosphere and movement of the water to create a sophisticated city scene."

O'Keeffe

Lot 2, "Abiquiu Trees VII," by Georgia O'Keeffe, oil on canvas, 10 1/8 by 12 1/8 inches, 1950-53

Lot 2 is an abstract landscape by Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) is an oil on canvas that measures 10 1/8 by 12 1/8 inches.  It was painted 1950-53.  It has an estimate of $700,000 to $1,000,000.  It is property of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.  It failed to sell. 

The auction's pre-sale website noted that other "notable examples of O'Keeffe's cottonwood imagery" are at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, and the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe.

Chase

Lot 26, "Autumn," by William Merritt Chase, oil on panel, 12 by 18 1/2 inches, circa 1895

Lot 16 is a good example of the Shinnecock, Long Island, landscapes of William Merritt Chase (1849-1916).  Entitled "Autumn," it is an oil on panel that measures 12 by 18 1/2 inches and was painted circa 1895.

It has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000.  It sold for $239,000.



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