Mixed Results, Multiple Artist Records in Sotheby's American Art Sales

  • November 18, 2015 12:40

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Charles Burchfield, The Red Admiral (Butterfly)
Sotheby's

Two sales of American Art at Sotheby's on Wednesday night brought a total near-$40 million, with a season total of $52.2 million in American Art, according to Sotheby's. The Taubman collection fell short of some hefty estimates on a number of works, and 8 of 31 offered lots went unsold, bringing a total $13 million. A $26.6 million 48-lot sale of American art followed with some excellent results for works by Andrew Wyeth, Paul Manship, Grandma Moses and others. Artist records were set for Cassius Marcellus Coolidge, George Copeland Ault, Otto Henry Bacher, Charles Sprague Pearce, James Gale Tyler, David Brega, and Walter Pach 

A marquee painting in the Taubman collection, Martin Johnson Heade's masterpiece The Great Florida Sunset did not stretch to its $7 million - $10 million estimate, yet it fetched $5.85 million (with fees) to become the record auction price for the artist, well over his previous high of $2.8 million. 

There were seven works by Charles Burchfield in the Taubman sale, and they performed well. While a butterfly in landscape watercolor titled The Red Admiral dipped below estimates to bring $490,000, Burchfield's House Abandoned by the Insects rose above estimates, bringing a solid $394,000.

Milton Avery's colorful Female Gamester soared to $580,000 (estimate: $200,000 - $300,000), reaching an auction record for a work on paper by the artist, and Beach Lizards brought $322,000.

Sale casualties included Winslow Homer's Yacht in a Cove while his The Summer Cloud eased neatly within estimates to bring $1.81 million. John Singer Sargent’s Portrait of Lancelot Allen went to only $490,000, falling short of its $800,000 low-end estimate.

The night's second sale showcased chilly landscapes by Andrew Wyeth from the family collection of famed actor Charlton Heston. Flood Plain brought just over $5 million (est. $2m-3m) and Ice Pool fetched $298,000 (est. $150,000-$250,000). 

Andrew Wyeth, Ice Pool
Sotheby's

Fraser Heston wrote about the works: "My father, Charlton, was drawn instinctively to the paintings of Andrew Wyeth. On some visceral level, those bleak, windswept, New England landscapes – fraught with hidden meaning – and the enduring, craggy, Yankee outdoor faces, spoke to my father of his upbringing in the wilds of Northern Michigan. In many ways, the two artists were much alike: Dad saw himself as 'a shy kid from backwoods Michigan who liked to wear tights and put on funny noses and spout Shakespeare while waving swords around.' I think he saw Andrew as a kindred spirit."

Andrew Wyeth, Flood Plain
Sotheby's

Other leading lots included Thomas Hart Benton's T.P. and Jake which brought $3.1 million, double its low estimate. It came from the collection of television legend Samuel “Sam” Simon (1955-2015) – co-developer of The Simpsons and writer/producer/director on countless pop culture icons  Norman Rockwell's "cheerless" Cheerleaders (Losing the Game) brought $4.5 million ($1 million above the high estimate).

An iconic bronze Diana by Paul Manship swept to $970,000 (est. $400,000-$600,000) and a snowy landscape by Grandma Moses, Town Hall, went for $237,000 (low estimate: $50,000)

Christie's American Art sale follows on Thursday.


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