On Wednesday, July 24 and Thursday, July 25, Copley Fine Art Auctions, the nation’s premier decoy and sporting art auction house, will host their Sporting Sale 2019. The sale will offer the opportunity to see and take home world-class paintings and fine bird carvings. The auction will be held at the Hotel 1620, located on Plymouth’s bustling waterfront. Items will be available to preview Wednesday, July 24 from 5–7 p.m. and Thursday, July 25 from 8:30–10 a.m. The live auction will begin at 10 a.m. on Thursday, July 25.
Copley Principal Stephen O’Brien Jr. is excited about this year's offerings, “The A. B. Frosts are coming straight from the Reed family. Henry. M. Reed was the world’s leading authority for one of America’s greatest illustrators. The three sporting Frosts are world class. The bird carving session is incredibly dense, and I am going to be encouraging our clients and bidders not to blink. There are dozens of museum-quality works to choose from.”
In 1967, Reed first published The A. B. Frost Book, which continues to be the definitive text on the artist. Reed owned dozens of Frost’s works, and purchased the gouache Fall Woodcock Shooting from the John T. Dorrance Jr. Collection in 1989 (Estimate: $70,000-$90,000). It has descended in the family and will be on offer for the first time since the famed Dorrance sale. Grouse Shooting, another major work, painted c. 1895, will also be available ($25/35,000).
Two important works by noted painter Edmund Osthaus will be included. A rare oil painting depicting a covey of quail comes out of the John E. Veneklasen Collection ($25/35,000), and a classic sporting dog oil titled On Point, Up Hill will be available ($30/50,000). The latter is one of several works from the Jim and Diane Cook Collection.
Other exemplary works by sporting art masters include a fine duck hunting watercolor by Ogden M. Pleissner ($20/40,000), the watercolor Fishing on the Battenkill ($20/30,000) also by Pleissner, and the classic upland watercolor Grouse on a Winter Morning, by Aiden Lassell Ripley ($25/35,000).
The original oil painting for Winter Marsh - Canvasback by Roland Clark will be included ($10/15,000). This iconic work was made into a print by the Derrydale Press in 1938. Two notable oil paintings by Harry Curieux Adamson, Autumn Along the Oxbow - Mallards ($20/30,000) and Afternoons in Butte Sink - Spring ($9/12,000), will be available as well. A fine polychromed wood carving by Massachusetts artist Alexander Pope Jr. depicting woodcock and upland plover joins the offering ($10/15,000). Additional paintings and works on paper will cross the block by Lynn Bogue Hunt, Percival Rosseau, Eric Sloane, Robert Farrington Elwell, Maud Earl, and George Browne, among others.
A significant selection of prints and works on paper by Frank W. Benson will come to market, including Three Geese, Benson’s rare final lithograph ($3,500/4,500), and an ink wash depicting Canada geese from 1904 ($5/8,000). Many of these prints are from the collection of a direct descendant of the artist and appear on the market for the first time.
Additionally, a number of bronzes from noted contemporary artist Walter Matia will be available, as well as new works from Chet Reneson, Ewoud de Groot, and pieces by John Swan, Luke Frazier, Peter Corbin, Arthur Shilstone, Roger Cruwys, and Brett Smith, among others.
Copley is excited to again present a fine selection of antique decoys which will be led by approximately 200 decoys from Session One of The Dr. Morton D. Kramer Estate. Selections from the Collections of Rusty and Dianna Johnson, Donald Kirson, Grant Nelson, Dr. S. Lloyd Newberry, Herb Wetanson, and others round out the sale. In all, over 425 American bird decoys will cross the block. Diverse offerings of carvings from virtually every major carving region will be on display. Important makers represented include Crowell, Ward, Safford, Hudson, Wilson, Mason, Laing, Wheeler, Perdew, Boyd, King, Shourds, Holly, Blair, Dilley, Verity, Combs, and McNair, among others.
The Collection of Dr. Morton D. Kramer was built over a half-century. Dr. Kramer was a patron to several of the Delmarva Peninsula’s top carvers, including the Ward Brothers, Lemuel T. (1896-1984) and Stephen (1895-1976), Oliver “Tuts” Lawson (b. 1938), and Mark S. McNair (b. 1950). This single-owner session will feature over thirty lots of Wards, led by the Earnest-Purnell Humpback Pintail Drake ($60,000-$90,000), one of the finest pairs of 1936-model canvasbacks known ($30/50,000 and $20/30,000), a Bishops Head Canada goose ($14/18,000), and a rare flying canvasback pair ($8/12,000). Lawson offerings will include his early wood duck, long-tailed duck, and hooded merganser pairs ($4/6,000 each) from 1966 to 1971. McNairs set to cross the block include a presentation box of dove decoys ($4/6,000), a dove-tailed merganser drake ($2/3,000), and over a dozen other carvings. Where Dr. Kramer was not able to connect directly with the maker, he emphasised provenance, as demonstrated by the Mackey-O’Brien Burr feeding plover ($8/11,000), the Starr Turned-Head Mallard Drake ($6/9,000), the Hillman-Horn Turnstone ($6/9,000), and two teal by Charles T. Wilson (1848-1921) and John W. Williams (1845-1909) from the J. Evans McKinney Collection ($5/8,000 and $7/10,000).
Copley has a nice selection of Crowells on offer including a flying tern ($20/30,000) and two ducks with carved wing tips: a black duck ($14/18,000) and a mallard ($5/8,000). Another top New England lot will be the Charles Safford (1877-1957) Swimming Canada Goose ($60/90,000). First discovered in the 1940s in a Newbury, MA hunting camp, this important decoy is a rigmate to the Safford sleeping goose and will cross the auction block for the first time. A half-dozen Gus Wilson (1864-1950) decoys are topped by a Monhegan Island eider ($25/35,000) exhibiting the maker’s classic sculpture. A small, but fine group from Connecticut include a rare, possibly unique, gull ($30/50,000) by “Shang” Wheeler (1872-1949).
Long Island, known for its shorebirds, will fittingly be represented by a large and dynamic flock of snipe. The George W. Combs Sr. (1911-1992) Flying Pintail Decoy ($50/70,000), made in 1934, is considered to be the finest flying decoy known to exist. This rare stick-up flier has remained largely unknown to the broader collecting community until now, having resided in the Combs' family rig and collection. Also from the Combs estate is an early sleeping black duck ($20/30,000) attributed to a member of the Verity family. The top Verity shorebird is an exceptionally rare Purnell-Aitken Running Plover ($18/24,000). A recently rediscovered calling golden plover with a split tail by John Dilley ($18/24,000) is one of five choice lots by the maker.
Dr. James McCleery provenance accompanies several lots in the sale including a merganser ($30/40,000) by Joe King (1835-1913), one of the region’s earliest makers, predating even Harry V. Shourds (1861-1920). Another McCleery Collection selection is the Ira Hudson (1873-1949) bufflehead hen ($30/40,000), lauded by Hudson biographer Henry Stansbury as not only "the most noted Hudson bufflehead decoy," but also "one of Hudson's finest efforts."
Other Southern stars with notable provenance include the James Best (1866-1933) Swimming Swan from the Collections of Henry Stansbury and Davison Hawthorne ($20/30,000), which is one of the most exciting offerings from the Carolinas in some time. Regarding Best’s straight-head swans, Carolina decoy author Kroghie Andresen notes, "The form and shape are unmatched by other North Carolina carvers." This is the only swimming swan by Best known to exist. A black duck ($15/20,000) by Nathan Cobb Jr. (1825-1905), marked with the maker’s famous “N” signature, is poised to garner attention with Dr. S. Lloyd Newberry well into his production of a forthcoming book on the carver and region. The black duck, out of Washington, D.C. lawyer and early collector William Butler’s collection, is illustrated in Fleckenstein’s Southern Decoys.
Originating north of the border are several Canadian treasures, including two petite rigmate hooded mergansers ($25/35,000 each) by Sam Hutchings (1894-1995) featuring the maker’s stylish crests and signature cross-hatched surface carving. A carving prodigy, Hutchings’ decoy career was limited to a brief period during his teenage years, making these little gems very scarce indeed. Also from the Toronto area comes one of the nation’s best namesake goose decoys, a circa-1883 hollow model from the celebrated Charles H. Gooderham Rig ($16/22,000) by George Warin (1830-1905).
Select items giving breadth to the Sporting Sale include a rare 1926 display sample canoe by the Old Town Canoe Company ($16/20,000), fish models and ice fishing decoys, carved canes, books, and a José Reyes (1905-1980) Nantucket basket ($2/3,000).
For over a decade, Copley’s auctions have led the fields of sporting art and decoys with first-rate offerings and strong results. The firm’s successes in these arenas are, in large part, due to its in-depth research, extensive cataloging, and accurate reporting. Copley’s database, with over 11,000 objects, is the largest and most accurate resource of its kind available to the public. The ability to use this powerful tool gives buyers and sellers alike the confidence to participate in the market at the highest level. Additionally, Copley’s rigorous standards for pre-sale inspection, including hundreds of decoy X-rays, have advanced the field.
“The decoy market is the fastest growing segment of the sporting art market.Advances in research, tracking, and transparency have given buyers a much higher degree of confidence. This has translated into steady growth in terms of higher prices and a greater number of collectors participating,” explains Copley decoy expert Colin McNair.
In the past decade, Copley has placed twenty-six lots on Decoy Magazine’s “100 All-Time High Prices” list, more than all other auction firms combined. In addition, Copley has set over twenty-seven world records for American and sporting artists, including Ogden Pleissner, Aiden Lassell Ripley, Edmund Osthaus, A. B. Frost, Lynn Bogue Hunt, Louis Agassiz Fuertes, Francis Lee Jaques, William J. Koelpin Sr., Chet Reneson, Thomas Aquinas Daly, and William Goadby Lawrence, among others.
Catalogs can be ordered at copleyart.com. Telephone and absentee bidding is available, and online bidding will be offered through Bidsquare and the sporting art industry’s first app, Copley Live. For more information, call 617.536.0030 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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About Copley Fine Art Auctions
Copley Fine Art Auction experts provide a host of services for collectors: Appraisals, including trusts and estates; auction, gallery, and private sales; collections management; custom framing and restoration. Whether you're a new or seasoned collector, we are happy to discuss options for the formation, development, or sale of a collection encompassing our specialties. We work with private collectors, museums, and corporations nationwide, and have helped form many leading collections. In addition, we offer advice regarding personal property for trusts, estates, and private clients to aid fiduciaries, executors, advisors, and collectors.