Edward Hopper (1882-1967), Bridle Path, signed lower right, oil on canvas, 23 3/8" x 42 1/8", $10,386,500 (est. $5/7 million) to James Hill acting for a private collector. Painted in April 1939 and set in Central Park, it shows three riders about to enter the Riftstone Arch with the Dakota apartment building in the background, shades drawn and providing the sense of mystery that is quintessentially Hopper.
George Bellows (1882-1925), Tennis at Newport, 1920, signed lower center, oil on canvas, 43" x 53", $7,026,500 (est. $5/7 million) to James McGlothlin, a private collector from Virginia in the salesroom, underbid by New York City dealer Debra Force.
Jacklight, a 43Â½" x 49Â¾" tempera on panel painted in 1980 by Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009), sold on the phone to an American museum for $1,538,500 (est. $600,000/900,000).
Frederic Remington (1861-1909), A Halt in the Wilderness, 1905, signed lower right, oil on canvas, 27" x 40", $2,770,500 (est. $800,000/1.2 million).
Sotheby's, New York City
by Lita Solis-Cohen
Photos courtesy Sotheby's
Sotheby's Elizabeth Goldberg, who took over the American paintings department when Dara Mitchell retired, said she purposely offered just 59 carefully curated works for her first sale as head of the department. She had success. Fifty-two of the artworks sold for a total of $34,787,635, an 88.1% sold rate by lot.
Half of the monetary total came from just two works: Bridle Path, a 1939 painting by Edward Hopper that brought $10,386,500 (includes buyer's premium), and Tennis at Newport, a 1920 painting by George Bellows that brought $7,026,500. Both sold to private collectors. The two paintings pushed the total for the May 17 auction to the highest for an American art auction at Sotheby's since 2008 and the highest percentage since 2004. Six of the 59 lots offered sold for more than $1 million, and nearly 60% of the lots offered sold over their high estimates.
Four bidders in the salesroom competed for Bridle Path, deaccessioned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to benefit its acquisition fund. New York City art dealer James Hill, sitting on the first row and bidding for a private collector, won it. It was the first Hopper to come on the market since Sotheby's record sale of Hotel Window in November 2006 for $26,896,000. Set in Central Park, Bridle Path depicts three horseback riders, a man and two women, about to enter a dark tunnel. The Dakota apartment building in the background has shades drawn, provoking the sense of anxiety or loneliness typically found in Hopper's work.
Tennis at Newport is one of four depictions of tennis by George Bellows, known for his sporting scenes. It conveys the action and sociability of the sport. Bellows summered near Newport, Rhode Island, with his family and watched the tennis matches at the horseshoe-shaped grass courts in the center of the grounds at the Newport Casino, designed by McKim, Mead, and White. At first using sketches, Bellows painted two canvases documenting lawn tennis tournaments that eventually grew into the U.S. Open. One of those paintings is now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the other is in a private collection in Washington, D.C. In 1920 he produced two lithographs about tennis, and using the lithographs as templates, he produced two more paintings, larger than the first two.
In Tennis at Newport the crowd is as important as the players. Using long, late afternoon shadows, he created atmosphere and depth and expressed the excitement and rhythm of the match. The buyer in the salesroom was private collector James McGlothlin of Virginia, who with his wife, Frances, has been a patron of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond.
Four more paintings sold for over one million dollars. Frederic Remington's A Halt in the Wilderness, painted in 1905, sold for $2,770,500 (est. $800,000/1.2 million) to New York City dealer Michael Frost of J.N. Bartfield Galleries, bidding for a private collector. Childe Hassam's In the Sun, an oil on board mounted on panel and dated 1888, sold to a client on the phone with Goldberg for $1,986,500 (est. $1.5/2.5 million.) A small oil on canvas by Martin Johnson Heade, A Pair of Nesting Crimson Topaz Hummingbirds, sold for $1,022,500 (est. $400,000/600,000), and a tempera on panel by Andrew Wyeth, Jacklight, depicting a deer reaching for a windfall apple, sold for $1,538,500 (est. $600,000/900,000).
"The market for American art showed many signs of strength and confidence this week," commented Goldberg after the sale. "Private collectors, dealers, advisors, and institutions participated in the auction, which saw top prices across the full range of styles...from modern and Impressionist works to Western art and nineteenth-century paintings. Buyers sought quality first and foremost."
Goldberg offered several abstract works from the second half of the 20th century; these are usually offered in modern art sales. For example, Grace Hartigan's Blue Names, 1962, sold for $50,000, and Romare Bearden's Constellation of the Archer, 1972, sold for $86,500. Niles Spencer's In Fairmont, a large precisionist work of an industrial subject, dated "'51" and estimated to sell for $150,000 at most, sold for $332,500.
Sculpture sold well. Jim Hill bought Elie Nadelman's bronze Horse for a client, paying $842,500, more than double its $300,000 high estimate. The Sun Vow by Hermon Atkins MacNeil, a 34" high bronze conceived in 1899, sold for $122,500, well over the $40,000/60,000 estimate. The Sun Vow is MacNeil's most famous sculpture. The original plaster version (from which the bronzes were cast) received the silver medal at the Paris Exposition in 1900. A bronze version won a gold medal at the Pan-American Exposition in 1901.
For more information, contact Sotheby's at (212) 606-7000; Web site (www.sothebys.com).
There seems to be a ready market for paintings by Anna Mary Robertson "Grandma" Moses (1860-1961). This 19" x 24" oil on masonite, signed lower right and dated "Nov 1950," numbered "1448,"and titled Saddle Bags on an original Grandma Moses label affixed to the back with a copyright reserved to Grandma Moses Properties, New York, sold for $110,500 (est. $40,000/60,000).
Hermon Atkins MacNeil (1866-1947), The Sun Vow, bronze, 34" high, inscribed "H.S. MacNeil THE SVN VOW" and with the Roman Bronze Works foundry mark and numbered "2" on the base, $122,500 (est. $40,000/ 60,000).
Elie Nadelman (1882-1946), Horse, bronze, 13" high on a 2" marble base, conceived circa 1914 and cast during the artist's lifetime, $842,500 (est. $200,000/300,000) to New York City art dealer James Hill bidding for a private collector.
This 65Â½" x 41Â½" precisionist oil on canvas by Niles Spencer (1893-1952), In Fairmont, sold for $332,500 (est. $100,000/ 150,000). In muted tones of tans, grays, rusts, and greens with black giving it structure, it is based on sketches of a large ventilator in the glassworks factory in Fairmont, West Virginia.