In their upcoming July 12 and 13 Sporting Sale 2012, Copley Fine Art Auctions will offer an impressive selection of over 650 lots of paintings, bronzes, antique bird decoys, folk art, and Americana. Returning to the Radisson Hotel in Plymouth, Massachusetts for the sixth consecutive year, Copley will once again welcome guests with an oyster and cocktail party preview on Wednesday, July 11 from 5:30-7:30pm, and a dealer exhibition, including this year’s featured artist, Luke Frazier (b. 1976).
Seven oils by renowned wildlife painter Carl Clemens Moritz Rungius (1869-1959) from a private Virginia collection are the highlight of session one. These works vary in size, subject matter, and technique, representing a broad cross-section of the artist’s oeuvre. The group is headlined by the important oil Wapiti ($150/250,000), which was selected as the frontispiece in C. Gordon Hewitt’s The Conservation of the Wild Life of Canada, published by Scribner & Sons in 1921. This landmark publication marked the start of an increasing awareness of the value of big game animals, which were rapidly disappearing from the continent, and called for safeguards to protect North America’s indigenous species from extinction. The work is also illustrated in the Glenbow Museum’s definitive publication Carl Rungius: Artist & Sportsman.
Rungius wrote, “The noblest game of all- elk- bore a resemblance to the red deer of Europe. There a stag was considered the noblest game of all and I felt that I should follow that tradition.” Rungius’s Wapiti relates to Sir Edwin Landseer’s (1802-1873) celebrated painting, The Monarch of the Glen, which was widely distributed through prints made from steel engravings. This frontal depiction of a red stag on a hillside is one of the most recognizable images of the animal worldwide. Both works are striking compositions, featuring a majestic bull rising up on the crest of a ridge, with a dramatic, mountainous landscape as the backdrop. Rungius’s debt to Landseer is apparent in Wapiti, but he has revitalized the subject, giving the elk a fresh North American look.
Moose on a Ridge ($150/250,000), a realistic rendering of a bull and cow moose demonstrates Rungius’s remarkable ability as a colorist and draftsman. The work is set in a serene landscape filled with soft blues and rich greens and the moose are depicted with incredible attention to anatomy. This work was exhibited under the title Preliminaries at New York’s Salmagundi Club in 1908.
Two other paintings in this collection, Ridgeline Mountain Goats ($30/50,000) and Home of the Big Horn ($60/90,000), are classic Rungius depictions of big game. Several smaller works and plein-air oil sketches of Canada’s vast wilderness round out the group, including an image of Lake Louise ($8/12,000), one of Banff ($8/12,000), and a western landscape ($15/25,000).
In addition to the seven Rungius paintings, the collection contains the number three casting of Charles Schreyvogel’s The Last Drop ($60/90,000). This well-known bronze depicts a cavalryman giving his horse the last of his water. The bronze was acquired directly from Schreyvogel when he was still a struggling artist. The original owner befriended the artist while he was painting on the rooftop of a run-down building and purchased this sculpture to help support his budding career.
Copley will be auctioning off a group of six early golf paintings ($5/7,000 each) by famed illustrator Henry Hintermeister (1897-1972), which were commissioned to hang in a private country club outside of Pittsburgh. These rare golf depictions were completed around the middle of the 20th century.
Also included in the sale will be two Ogden M. Pleissner (1905-1983) watercolors. The first is Wilderness Trout Stream ($30/50,000), an outstanding fly fishing scene showing Pleissner’s exemplary skill at depicting rushing water. The other is a superb driven grouse scene titled On a Scottish Grouse Moor ($40/60,000). In addition, three of Pleissner’s rarely seen etchings will also be offered ($3/5,000 each).
Among the other paintings is a Friedrich Wilhelm Kuhnert (1865-1926) oil titled Roused, A Tiger and Tigress ($150/250,000), completed in 1912. The artist’s masterworks rarely come on the market, making this important oil extremely desirable.
Also included are: a Percival Leonard Rosseau (1859-1937) oil titled Setters on Partridge ($40/60,000); three published works by A. B. Frost (1851-1928) Snipe Shooting ($20/30,000), Wild Duck Shooting ($30/40,000), and Wild Goose Shooting ($30/40,000); several Lynn Bogue Hunt (1878-1960) oils, including Springer and Pheasant ($5/10,000), Rams ($15/25,000), Pointer and Quail ($20/30,000), and the seminal painting Over the Wheat ($12/18,0000), which was chosen for the frontispiece in Van Campen Heilner’s A Book on Duck Shooting; and original works by respected artists such as Aiden Lassell Ripley (1896-1969), Bob Kuhn (1920-2007), Edmund Osthaus (1858-1928), Frank W. Benson (1862-1951), Gustav Muss-Arnolt (1858-1927), Robert Verity Clem (1933-2010), Thomas Aquinas Daly (b. 1937), and William H.D. Koerner (1878-1938).
Session two of the sale will feature an impressive offering of top-notch decoys and related folk art. Among the most exciting lots crossing the auction block will be an impressive pair of hissing Canada geese ($200/300,000) by Harry V. (1861-1920) and Harry M. Shourds (1890-1943). This dynamic pair represents perhaps the greatest example of father and son craftsmanship from any region.
Among the most collectible items is a Charles “Shang” Wheeler (1872-1949) mallard ($100/150,000) with a raised wing, turned head, and open bill. This exceptionally rare mallard was the marquis bird from the 1948 National Decoy Makers Contest and Exhibition at Grand Central Palace in New York City.
Significant works by A. Elmer Crowell (1862-1952) include a life-size standing green-winged teal ($60/90,000). Commissioned by Harry V. Long’s son-in-law circa 1912, this bird is being offered publicly for the first time by a direct descendant. This mantel carving’s reaching, turned head, open bill, carved primaries, and exceptional paint place it among the maker’s masterworks. Two classic A. Elmer Crowell decoratives, a standing bobwhite quail ($25/35,000) and a black-bellied plover with crossed wing-tips ($15/25,000) will be offered, each with an early, crisp oval brand. Miniature bird carvings are well represented in the sale, with the Stephen Churchill collection, which includes over forty works by renowned carvers such as A. Elmer Crowell, George Boyd (1873-1941), Joseph Lincoln (1859-1938), A.J. King (1878-1963), and Jess Blackstone (1909-1988).
Also offered is a rare red-breasted merganser hen ($15/25,000), with nearly faultless lines from the Captain Samuel Augustus Fabens (1814-1899) Rig, Salem, Massachusetts, circa 1850. Captain Fabens commanded some of the finest sailing ships of the day in addition to owning some of the finest known decoy rigs. The rarity of these unique sheldrakes cannot be overstated, with only four Fabens rig mergansers in original paint known to have surfaced, and this is believed to be the first time one of these birds has ever come on the public market.
Among the other important decoys in the sale is a mallard pair ($10/15,000) by Charles Perdew (1874-1963); three early flyers, a bluebill hen ($10/15,000), a redhead drake ($10/15,000), and a mallard drake ($10/20,000) by Chauncey Wheeler (1888-1945); a white-winged scoter ($4/6,000) by Maine’s most prominent carver, Augustus Wilson (1864-1950); and a preening mallard hen ($35/45,000) by Robert Elliston (1847-1925); in addition to approximately 350 other quality decoy lots.
Fifteen exceptional shorebirds will be offered form a private New England collection. Highlights include a black-bellied plover ($25/35,000) and running golden plover ($40/50,000) by A. Elmer Crowell, a golden plover ($20/30,000) by John Dilley, and an important Eskimo curlew ($25/35,000) from Nantucket.
The William Tosi collection, spanning sessions one and two, features over 80 lots of decoys, primarily from Long Island, and over 60 lots of folk art, Navajo textiles, ethnographic art, toys and gun. A large sperm whale ($2/4,000) by Vermont carver Clark Voorhees (1911-1980) is expected to see solid results, along with other folk art including a Hardy Brothers Atlantic salmon ($3/6,000), and a John Tully (1862-1931) impressive forty-five pound trophy salmon carving ($8/12,000), and a remarkable carving of a Native American couple on a horse-drawn, buckboard wagon ($4/6,000), by Andy Anderson (1893-1960).
The two day sale will commence with paintings, bronzes, works on paper, folk art, and books at 11am on Thursday, July 12, and decoys will be offered the following day Friday, July 13, also at 11am. Those wishing to preview auction items can do so on Wednesday, July 11 from 5:30—7:30pm at the cocktail reception, as well as on Thursday and Friday morning from 8:30-10:30am. Please visit our website, www.copleyart.com or call 617-536-0030 with questions or to order your 2012 Sporting Sale catalog.