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Early Cropsey Painting Discovered

Lita Solis-Cohen | June 17th, 2014


Photo courtesy Freeman’s.

Not every American painting is sold in American paintings sales. Lot 110 in Freeman’s “European Art and Old Masters” sale on June 17 in Philadelphia was cataloged as “British School (19th Century) ‘Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire, England,’ located verso, 22" x 34", oil on canvas laid to panel.” The estimate was $1000/1500. Its provenance was a private collection in Virginia.

With the Internet, nothing is overlooked these days, and more than one keen eye recognized it as an early work by American Hudson River school painter Jasper Francis Cropsey (1823-1900). The work was tightly painted in his early style. An unknown buyer paid $62,500 (includes buyer’s premium) for it. Early Cropseys of European views have sold for six-figure prices. Perhaps when it is cleaned a signature will appear.

Cropsey studied watercolor and drawing at the National Academy of Design, and, after exhibiting there in 1844, he turned exclusively to landscape painting. He married in 1847 and traveled in Europe 1847-49, visiting England, France, Switzerland, and Italy. In 1855, he went abroad again; he spent seven years in London and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1862.

Returning home, Cropsey opened a studio in New York and had two different houses and studios on the Hudson. He specialized in colorful autumnal landscapes and was an early member of the American Society of Painters in Water Colors. Cropsey died in anonymity but was rediscovered in the 1960s, and his works are in major museums. He is known for his interest in architecture and for his colorful Hudson River school landscapes, which have sold for five- and six-figure prices. In May 2008 Skinner got $369,000 for Autumn on the Hudson, a 5" x 10" oil on board, initialed and dated 1858 on the back, and estimated at $15,000/25,000. It relates to the Cropsey in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Cropsey’s 8' long panorama of Richmond Hill in the Summer of 1862 sold at Bonhams, London, in December 1999 for $2.46 million, an all-time record for Cropsey. New York City dealer Susan Menconi of Menconi + Schoelkopf said she sold Doune Castle Scotland in 2007, signed and dated “JR Cropsey 1848 Rome,” for a price well into the six figures.


Originally published in the August 2014 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2014 Maine Antique Digest

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