NEW YORK, NY.- On May 16, Christie’s will present the sale of Important American Paintings, Drawings & Sculpture, featuring 100 lots that span a multitude of genres, including Impressionism, Modernism, 19th Century, and Illustration. With lots ranging in estimate from $10,000 to $3 million, this sale presents collectors of all levels with the exciting opportunity to expand their collections with truly remarkable works. The sale is expected to realize in excess of $22 million.
Leading the sale is Fitz Henry Lane’s (1804-1865), Gloucester, Stage Fort Beach, painted in 1849; a seminal painting which marked the birth of the artist’s mature style, heralding a new direction for American Art in the mid-19th century (estimate: $2,000,000-3,000,000). Lane was a close follower of luminism, which some deem as the aesthetic counterpart to the Transcendentalist theories of Ralph Waldo Emerson and David Thoreau. Gloucester, Stage Fort Beach depicts the site where English Settlers first landed on Cape Ann in the 1600s, and Gloucester is also the birthplace of the artist. The keen attention to detail in this landscape, from the depiction of wildlife and fauna in the foreground to the sailboats in the distance, are combined with luminist techniques. The painting retains its original frame and has been in a private collection for nearly 30 years. Works comparable in style and time period to this painting are nearly all owned by major museums and public collections.
Oscar Bluemner’s (1867-1938) Perth Amboy West (Tottenville) is one of the earliest, large scale paintings to employ the artist’s thoroughly modern style (estimate: $2,000,000-3,000,000). Bluemner believed it was a viewer’s common surroundings that could elicit the most powerful emotional response. In this New Jersey landscape, the scene has been reduced to its most basic forms, bordering on complete abstraction. The artist’s simplification of the trees, river, and buildings, as well as his broad and emotive brushwork, create a restless and captivating composition, adhering to the style that distinguished the artist from his contemporaries. Perth Amboy West (Tottenville) was exhibited in the major show of the artist’s work at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in 2006.
Georgia O’Keeffe’s (1887-1986) Deer Horns, painted in 1938, displays the artist’s fascination with the vast, rugged landscape and the spiritual character of New Mexico (estimate: $1,200,000 – 1,800,000). In the present work, O’Keeffe utilizes crisp lines and modulated tones of white, beige and orange to capture the various forms and textures of the skull and antlers, which reach like flames into the sky. She sets the skull against a flat blue sky to further accentuate these forms and closely crops the composition, separating her subject from a larger context and creating an almost surreal composition. O’Keeffe often found importance in the variety of organic objects she found in the desert and, in 1939, she began exhibiting her bone paintings, including Deer Horns, at her husband, Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery.
A highlight among the illustrations in the sale is Dreams of Long Ago by Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) (estimate: $2,000,000-3,000,000). A quintessential painting by the artist, Dreams of Long Ago employs themes of humor, sentimentality, and nostalgia in its depiction of an aging cowboy, in full western regalia, with his chin resting in his hand, dreaming of a time passed. Painted as a cover for the August 13, 1927 The Saturday Evening Post, the painting is a touching depiction of one of Rockwell’s favorite models and local New Rochelle resident, James K. Van Brunt.
Another featured illustration is Maxfield Parrish’s (1870-1966) Puss in Boots, which was originally painted as the cover illustration for a 1914 issue of Hearst Magazine (estimate: $1,200,000-1,800,000). One of eight fairytales published in 1697, the fanciful subject matter makes the painting a classic work by Parrish in the early 20th century. In the scene depicted, the feline protagonist is speaking with the King in the stage-like foreground, overlooking a fantastical mountain village. Parrish’s attention to detail and design are underscored with well-defined and vividly-colored figures and majestic topography. Puss in Boots was also painted with glazes, a process often employed by Parrish. Influenced by the Old Master painters, this was a slow, meticulous process that resulted in magnificent luminosity and intensity of color.
Leading the American Impressionist works in the sale is Frank Weston Benson’s (1862-1951) Portrait of Gertrude Russell, an intimate depiction of an 11 year old girl from a prominent Massachusetts family, which has been in the family of the sitter since it was painted in 1915 (estimate: $1,000,000-1,500,000). With its refined subject matter and sensitive execution, the portrait exemplifies the rarefied aesthetic of the Boston School, and affirms the place of Benson’s portraits among his finest works.
Another work from the Boston School is Childe Hassam’s (1859-1935), La Fruitière, circa 1887-89, which depicts a wonderfully engaging treatment of the shops that lined the streets outside his studio in Montmartre, Paris (estimate: $800,000-1,200,000). Hassam’s use of bold brushwork, applied with thick, rich impasto articulates his subject in a daring and modern way. Also among the Impressionist works offered is Mary Cassatt’s (1844-1926) Sara Holding a Cat, painted in 1908, during the artist’s acclaimed mature style, in which she explored the theme of the single child (estimate: $800,000-1,200,000).
Martin Johson Heade’s (1819-1904) Hummingbird and Two Types of Orchids, painted circa 1890-1904, is a masterful composition that combines the hallmarks of the nineteenth century with the artist’s brilliant talents (estimate: $600,000-800,000). Heade was captivated by the natural world and its unpredictable power. His curiosity, compacted with the sojourns he took to South America and Jamaica, led him to create his most iconic body of works; those of orchids and hummingbirds.
Auction: American Paintings 16 May 2012
Viewing: Christie’s Galleries, 20 Rockefeller Plaza 12- 15 May 2012