On Friday, February 12, Copley Fine Art Auctions, the nation’s premier sporting art auction house, will offer hundreds of the finest antique and contemporary decoys and American, Sporting, and Wildlife art at the American Theater, located in the Design District of Upper King Street in Charleston, South Carolina. Held in conjunction with the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, Copley will bring a dynamic auction of over 480 items including American paintings, drawings, prints, folk art, and bird decoys.
Copley’s sporting auctions have led the field with first-rate offerings and strong results for the past decade. Since 2009, Copley has successfully sold 14 of the top decoy lots at auction, outstripping the competition, and the Winter Sale 2016 will offer the opportunity to see and take home world-class sporting paintings, folk art, and fine bird carvings.
Highlighting the paintings on offer is a commanding oil painting by Carl Clemens Moritz Rungius of a Bull Moose ($150/250,000), where the subject gazes directly at the viewer. The realistic coloring and shadowing of the moose’s rack across his body emphasize the imposing size of the animal.
Leading the paintings is the William B. Webster III Collection of wildlife and sporting art. Bill Webster was the founder of Wild Wings, and his personal art collection included a number of exceptional works by Aiden Lassell Ripley and contemporary sporting artists David A. Maass, David Hagerbaumer, and Harry Curieux Adamson, among others. Ripley’s vibrant oil painting Woodcock by the Brook ($60/90,000) hung in Webster’s office. Anecdotes and notes from the artists accompany many of the cataloged items, such as Owen Gromme’s Horicon Marsh oil painting ($5/7,000) which includes the artist’s paper cutouts of geese.
Additionally, American paintings are well-represented. Andrew Wyeth’s contemplative 1954 watercolor titled Pot Buoys ($70/80,000) is a study for a larger tempera painting. An oil painting by American Impressionist Willard Leroy Metcalf titled Dory and Lobster Traps and painted in 1881 ($80/120,000) will be on offer. Seymour Joseph Guy’s 1886 oil painting of a little girl and her interrupted badminton game ($40/60,000) is a charming example of the detailed technique and precision that defined the artist’s works. A dynamic maritime scene by leading marine artist Jack Lorimer Gray, In the Southern Ocean ($30/40,000), will also cross the block.
Exemplary paintings by sporting art masters Lynn Bogue Hunt, Robert Abbett, Ogden Pleissner, Roland Clark, Francis Lee Jaques, and others will cross the block. The cover lot, Jaques’ Wild Turkey oil from 1945 ($15/20,000) joins with two more oil paintings published in Patricia Condon Johnston’s 1994 book on the artist, The Shape of Things: The Art of Francis Lee Jaques. Pleissner is represented by a classic watercolor, Grouse Shooting in Vermont ($25/35,000) that captures the mood and atmosphere of an upland hunt, and Ripley’s watercolor Quail Country ($30/40,000, includes all the characteristics of a good southern hunting scene, with horses, handlers, dogs, and hunters.
Equestrian art for sale includes a portrait of famed thoroughbred Foigh-a-Ballagh from 1844 by John F. Herring, Sr. ($10/20,000), and a rare set of four oil paintings depicting the fox hunt by Thomas Blinks (each $8/12,000).
The decoy portion of the sale is headlined by a Canada goose carved and painted by the Ward Brothers of Maryland ($60/80,000). In the 1930s the Ward Brothers received a custom order for goose decoys from Colonel Albanus Phillips for his gun club just south of Cambridge, Maryland. Of the numerous goose patterns designed by the Ward brothers, this Bishops Head Gun Club model is the most coveted. Additionally, this decoy has impressive provenance coming from the collections of William J. Mackey and Dr. James M. McCleery.
Also on offer is an exceptional sleeping mallard hen ($60/80,000) by Charles Perdew. This decoy has all the traits one looks for in a premier Illinois River decoy, including elegant form, superb paint, fine craftsmanship, and excellent history, having been gunned over by a founding member and past president of Ducks Unlimited, Louis H. Barkhausen.
The Batchelder Collection of Boyd Canada geese presents collectors with a rare opportunity to view and obtain a rig from one of New England's master carvers that has never before been offered at auction. Leading this rig is a highly refined canvas-covered Canada goose ($50/70,000), portrayed in a rare swimming pose by New Hampshire’s most revered decoy maker. Known for their mastery of form, unbridled craftsmanship, paint detail, and rarity, few goose decoy forms resonate with collectors more than the swimming examples produced by George Boyd.
Lee Dudley decoys have been held in the highest regard by collectors from the earliest days of decoy collecting. The canvasback decoy ($40/60,000) included the Winter Sale 2016 is one of the finest examples ever to be offered at auction. It is believed to have been made as part of a rig for the Dudley’s Island Club which was owned by Lee’s twin brother, Leonard V. Dudley. The form, execution, rarity, condition, and provenance of this canvasback place it among the finest North Carolina decoys.
A fine Charles E. “Shang” Wheeler goldeneye pair, circa 1935, ($40/50,000) will also cross the block. "Shang" Wheeler is recognized as the most famous bird carver from Connecticut, and two exceptional pieces by A. E. Crowell, the dean of New England carvers, join the offering: a bobwhite quail, circa 1930 ($25/35,000), and a ruffed grouse ($30/40,000). Today only remnant quail populations exist on Cape Cod, but during Crowell's lifetime there was a quail season well into the 1950s. Crowell carvings were masterfully crafted from direct observation and handling of the birds. Crowell’s dry brush technique applied to the still-wet oil paint creates a realistic quality in his birds that sets his work apart from all other makers. The ruffed grouse is an exceedingly rare, life-size, upland game bird.
Online bidding on over 480 items will be available through bidsquare.com, and absentee and telephone bidding will be offered. A full color catalog is available. The auction will take place at the American Theater in Charleston, SC, with a preview on Friday, February 12th from 8:30 to 10:30 AM, with bidding to commence at 11 AM. For more information, a full schedule of events, or to order a catalog please send an email to email@example.com, call 617.536.0030, or visit copleyart.com.
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About Copley Fine Art Auctions
Copley Fine Art Auctions is the world's leading American sporting art auction company. Located in Boston, Copley specializes in antique decoys and 19th- and 20th-century American, sporting, and wildlife paintings.