Important American Paintings, Prints, and Books Set to Hit Copley’s Auction Block

  • PLYMOUTH, Massachusetts
  • /
  • June 25, 2009

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Ogden M. Pleissner, “The Gondolier,” 1968, watercolor on paper, 18 by 28 inches, framed ($35/45,000)
Copley Art Auctions

On July 15 and 16, Copley Fine Art Auctions will present its annual Sporting Sale, showcasing 660 lots of American decoys, paintings, prints, and books.

This year’s auction will feature several exceptional American paintings and prints, including Andrew Newell Wyeth’s The John Andress House ($60/90,000). While growing up in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, the artist observed and absorbed the landscape surrounding local farms. His familiarity with these scenes later influenced his work, and Wyeth became known for his creative ability to relate nature to man-made structures. The John Andress House articulates that relationship in its depiction of wild undergrowth crawling up the side of a house and overtaking a nearby shed. Wyeth’s palette of natural greens, blues, and browns explores the dynamic between this Pennsylvania farm and the nature enveloping it. He includes the same house in the background of his panoramic Winter Fields, an important work residing in the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum. This intriguing watercolor from a prominent Ligonier, Pennsylvania collection will be included in Betsy James Wyeth’s forthcoming catalog rasionné.

Edmund C. Tarbell, “An Opal,” c. 1891, oil on canvas, 35 by 30 inches, framed ($100/200,000)
Copley Art Auctions

Another major artist highlighted in the auction is Edmund C. Tarbell. An Opal, an intimate and engaging portrait of Tarbell’s sister-in-law Lydia Hatch, exemplifies his style and the influence of the French Impressionists upon it ($100/200,000). A warm background frames Hatch’s white dress, and the pink of her skin and yellow light cast from an unseen fire reveal this vibrant young woman. Exhibited at the St. Botolph Club and internationally in Munich, as well as loaned to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, this signature Tarbell saw immediate success and received exemplary praise. Tarbell’s innovative exploration of shadow and light would go on to distinguish him as one of America’s pre-eminent impressionists.

A friend of Tarbell’s, Frank W. Benson is often credited with helping to establish American sporting art as a distinct genre. In his water color Canada Geese ($60/80,000), he emphasizes the grace of the geese’s flight by portraying their landing in open water as a dynamic diagonal against a primarily horizontal and static background. With this choice, he exerts his ability to arrange the thoughtful compositions for which he is known.

Ogden M. Pleissner will also be represented by several works. One of America’s finest watercolorists, Pleissner enjoyed capturing the mood of European scenery. In The Gondolier ($35/45,000), he evokes a tranquil and serene atmosphere along a canal in Venice. Pleissner creates the impression of early morning solitude with the lone gondolier and his boat, juxtaposed against the architectural details of Santa Maria della Salute in the misty background. A smaller watercolor entitled Near Albufeira depicts a scene of Portugal ($10/20,000). Like The Gondolier, it illustrates Pleissner’s mastery of composition and light. Both watercolors possess elements of design and effects of light characteristic of the artist’s work.

Andrew Newell Wyeth (1917-2009), “The John Andress House,”1943, watercolor on paper, 22 by 30 inches, framed ($60/90,000)
Copley Art Auctions

In addition to these important American paintings, the sale will offer an outstanding collection of fifteen Frank W. Benson etchings from the artist’s great-grandson. Notable pieces in this collection are Old-Tom ($10/15,000), The Bridge ($2/4,000), Dark Pool ($1/2,000), Harbor ($4/600), and a rare pencil drawing of three Canada geese titled Geese in Flight ($3/5,000).
Another prominent collection with items available in the sale is that of Dr. George Edmund Gifford, Jr. Himself a naturalist, he collected works by John James Audubon and Mark Catesby. Prints of particular interest are “White Curlew” ($800/1,200) by Catesby and “Snowy Egret” drawn from nature by Audubon and printed by R. Havel ($20/30,000). This Audubon print depicts a grand Charleston, South Carolina plantation in its background.

The auction will conclude with an impressive collection of sporting books.  Many come from a private library that features collectable English binders, first editions, and numerous copies of Izaak Walton’s Compleat Angler.

With its conservative estimates and few reserves, the auction is expected to bring competitive bidding over these important American works. Adding to the days’ festivities, a cocktail reception and preview will kick off the auction on July 14 at 5 pm.

The auction catalog, accompanied by the 95 page fully illustrated and hardbound Harry V. Long Collection catalog, is now available for $58 and may be ordered online at or by phone at (617) 536-0030.

Copley Fine Art Auctions, LLC is at 268 Newbury Street, Boston, MA 02116.


Emily Fisher

(617) 536-0030

Copley Fine Art Auctions
65 Sharp Street
Hingham, Massachusetts
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.

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