A signature work by American modernist Oscar Bluemner (1867-1938) blew past its presale estimate of $2 million to $3 million to fetch an artist auction record price of $5.3 million at Christie's Important American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture sale on Nov. 30.
The auction totaled $25,806,550 with discerning buyers snapping up iconic works by American artists at prices within estimates, and above, while atypical or lesser works by the several artists languished.
“Today, top prices returned to the American marketplace," said Eric Widing, Head of American Paintings.
Painted in 1915, Bluemner's Illusion of a Prairie, New Jersey (Red Farm at Pochuck) was exhibited in the artist's first one man show at Alfred Stieglitz's celebrated, avant-garde gallery, "291." It is one of the earliest, large-scale paintings to manifest Bluemner's fully developed and highly personal visual lexicon, according to the auction catalog.
In all, six lots exceeded one million dollars, including Frederic Edwin Church's (1826-1900) luminous Maine landscape Twilight. The 1863 Hudson River School masterwork tripled its estimate to bring $3.2 million.
John Singer Sargent's (1856-1925) circa 1902-4 watercolor The Piazzetta with Gondolas fetched $842,500, just above its high estimate of $800,000. The work descended from Sargent's sister Violet Ormond.
Three works by celebrated American illlustration artist Newell Convers Wyeth (1882-1945) performed well. Black Spruce Ledge (Lobstering Off Black Spruce Ledge) brought $482,500, above its $250,000 - $350,000 estimate and his Drafting the Declaration of Independence--1776 achieved an above estimate price of $362,500. An illustration for Roy Norton's fictional story in The Sunday Magazine titled "Hardpan & Co." brought within estimate at $158,500.
Wyeth's Santa painting, created as the cover illustration for A Christmas Bulletin of the Best Books of 1932, failed to find a buyer with its strong estimate of $250,000 - $350,000 as did The Husking Bee, an unpublished magazine cover estimated at $150,000 - $250,000.
An ethereal woodland watercolor by Charles Ephraim Burchfield (1893-1967) Maytime in the Woods nearly doubled its low estimate to fetch $230,500.
Two signature works by Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) went for prices squarely within estimates, including My Autumn for $2,770,500 and Black Iris for $1,426,500. Her Untitled (Pedernal) a small and subtle moonlit scene done in oil on unstretched canvas, nearly doubled its high estimate to bring $98,500.
Falling below its low estimate was Emanuel Leutze's (1816-1868) Departure of Columbus from Palos in 1492 which brought $1,142,500.