Catharine Carter Critcher's masterwork Mother and Daughters, 1936, will make its auction debut May 2 in Heritage Auctions’ American Fine Art Signature Auction in Dallas. Estimated at $100,000, the rare discovery highlights nearly 400 lots of American and Western paintings, drawings, and sculpture that includes an extremely strong selection of Taos Society of Artists.
Undeniably, Critcher’s most ambitious and accomplished work, Mother and Daughters, 1936, celebrates the abundance, hospitality, and promise of her New Mexico home. Unlike many of Critcher’s peers, the lure to Taos was less the financial gain from illustration assignments and more the prospect of experiencing a new culture and finding new portrait subjects. “This fresh-to-the-market, iconic masterwork by Catharine Carter Critcher is truly a rare and exciting discovery," said Alissa Ford, Director of California & Western Art. "In 1924, Critcher was the only woman to have been unanimously voted into the Taos Society of Artists. In Mother and Daughters, 1936, Critcher brings to life the vibrant culture of New Mexico.
The wise native woman gazing at the viewer is, perhaps, a personification of Taos. The pineapples placed at her side are a symbol of hospitality, her basket full of fresh vegetables signifies the abundance of the land, while a glimpse of the market in the background hints at trade and prosperity. Three generations of women facing in different direction suggests that Taos – its past, present, and future – offers vibrant riches.
Also on view is Nicolai Fechin’s Peasant Girl, which is a superb example of the humanistic and expressionistic portraiture that distinguished him within the Taos art colony (est. $80,000+). This vibrant portrait displays wild slashes of turquoises, cadmium yellows, burnt oranges, and emerald greens give rise to the soft, rosy face of the sitter, calmly materializing out of the abstract background. Fechin intentionally blurs her facial features to allow the viewer to interpret her psyche. Peasant Girl is as much about the viewer’s experience as the sitter herself: the eye delights in studying rich colors and bold brushwork, the beauty of the girl's face, and finally the composition as a whole. The painting makes its auction debut at Heritage Auctions after remaining in the same family for decades. Texan Johnie (Mrs. H.S.) Griffin, who summered in Ranchos de Taos, befriended Fechin's wife, Alexandra (Tinka), and purchased from Fechin this painting, as well as other works.
In keeping with the strong representation of Taos artists offered on May 2nd, Heritage Auctions is pleased to present William Herbert Dunton’s Battery of the US Field Artillery Going into Action (est. $15,000+). A founding member of the Taos Society of Artists, Dunton was a master draftsman. This painting captures his favorite subject with painstaking detail: cowboys on horseback in the vast open spaces of the West. The energetic grisaille is perfectly composed with the elements that made Dunton a leader in Western Art. The exaggerated movement of the horses kicking up dust captures the dramatic nature and excitement of the West, while his interest in detail is illustrated in the musculature of the horses that are strapped with US Army issued McClellan Saddles. Ford said that “despite being void of Dunton’s jewel-like palette, the dynamic force of this composition and intensity of movement makes this grisaille an incredibly powerful image.”
The auction will also feature Taos Society of Artists founder Ernest Leonard Blumenschein's landmark Taos Indian Chief (est. $250,000+) as part of the Collection of Judson C and Nancy Sue Ball offered the same day at Heritage Auctions.
A founding father of American Western Art, Alfred Jacob Miller's Rocky Pass in a Storm, Caravan Crossing the Heights, circa 1837 (est. $30,000), harkens back to his genre-forming venture up the Missouri River to record the wild lands and exotic people of the West. The painting has remained in the same Santa Fe, New Mexico, collection since the late 1960s, although it has been exhibited and published throughout the last 40 years.
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