Pablo Picasso, Visage au nez noir, 13" high white earthenware clay pitcher, 1969, decoration in engobes (slip glazes) of black, green, blue, white, and red, engraved by knife under partial brush glaze, marked “Edition/ Picasso/ 122/200/ Madoura,” stamped “Edition/ Picasso” and also “Madoura/ Plein Feu” on bottom, $48,400.
Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902), The Rockies, 13¼" x 19¼", oil on panel, signed at lower right, $22,420.
Carl Gaertner The Saw Mill, 24" x 40", oil on masonite, 1946, signed lower right, $11,800. “I don’t know what I was thinking when I put the estimate [$2000/4000] on this one,” Davis said. “It was one of the nicer Gaertners I have sold. I actually think the price it sold for was a bargain. You had to see this painting in person. It just glowed with the sunlight effects.”
Gustave Baumann (1881-1971), Early Spring, 9 7/16" x 11 1/8", woodcut in colors, 1916, signed, titled, and numbered 29 of 120, light struck, $6490. “This came out of an Akron, Ohio, home and was a wedding present to the consignor’s parents in 1920,” Davis stated. “It was an early Baumann, and I am guessing a scene from Indiana, though most collectors prefer his pieces with a Western theme.”
Arthur W. Palmer (1913-1982), Portrait of a Lady, 30" x 25", oil on canvas, 1955, signed lower right, $145.20.
Edwin Mieczkowski (b. 1929), Enigma Variations #6, 68" x 75", acrylic on canvas, 1971, signed “E. Mieczkowski ‘71” lower left, $7670. Davis was a little concerned about the size, thinking this factor might eliminate some buyers. Exhibited at the 52nd May Show of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio, and winner of a $500 award, this painting by Mieczkowski came out of the Cleveland Heights home of the widow of Edward Henning. Henning was chief curator of modern art for the Cleveland Museum of Art and judged many of the May shows, according to Davis.
Claude Conover (1907-1994), Kivic, a 15½" x 10" x 10" ceramic vessel, signed on bottom, $5605. “Conover prices have dropped a bit, I think due to so many being available on the market, but this was an unusual form,” Davis explained.
R. Walker (20th century), Summer Landscape, 28" x 32", oil on canvas, signed “R. Walker” lower right, $1452.
Rachel Davis Fine Arts, Cleveland, Ohio
Photos courtesy Rachel Davis Fine Arts
It’s the little things, the stories behind the consignments, that make the auctions hosted by Rachel Davis Fine Arts so intriguing. Davis’s latest event was filled with wonderful pieces, ones that attracted the advanced collector with deep pockets and other first-rate offerings affordable enough to entice those with limited funds. And many had a story to tell.
For sale on March 23 at this Cleveland, Ohio, venue was a variety of fine arts that included everything from paintings and woodcuts to sculpture and pottery. The top lot of the sale was a bit unusual. When collectors hear the name Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973), paintings and prints usually come to mind. Instead, Rachel Davis offered two earthenware pots decorated by this well-known artist. A pitcher made the biggest statement. Visage au nez noir, a white earthenware clay pitcher created in 1969, was bid to $48,400 (includes buyer’s premium). The decoration on the pitcher was done with engobes (slip glazes) in black, green, blue, white, and red, engraved by knife under a partially brushed glaze. The 13" high pitcher was marked “Edition/ Picasso/ 122/200/ Madoura” and also stamped “Edition/ Picasso” and “Madoura/ Plein Feu” on the bottom.
“The Picasso was a fabulous surprise,” auctioneer Rachel Davis said. “In the last six years, the majority of like pieces have sold in the $8000 to $12,000 range, although one last year one sold for $29,000. It was fun.”
This pitcher as well as another earthenware pot decorated by Picasso (a 5" diameter “face” bowl, $1770) and a Claude Conover ceramic vessel ($5605) came out of a Beechwood, Ohio, home. “Two dealers were doing a house liquidation for the owners, and they felt these three pieces would do better at auction with the Internet exposure,” Davis explained.
Another well-known name whose work sold here was Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902). An oil on panel, The Rockies, by Bierstadt sold for $22,420. It too had a great story. This piece came from the estate of Brenda Fuchs, a local artist who passed away in December 2011. “Her parents were both in the Cleveland orchestra and collected nice art,” Davis explained. “Her parents bought this work, I am guessing, sometime in the forties from a New York City gallery.”
As per her request, all of the proceeds from Fuchs’s estate are going to nonprofit animal rescue groups and shelters. “I was told Brenda kept this Bierstadt in her studio, and it hung over the kitty litter box,” Davis said. And a side note—Davis now owns Fuchs’s two cats.
The success of the Bierstadt and Picasso aside, what had been deemed the headliner of this auction did not deliver as hoped. The main draw of this event was to have been a painting by William Sommer (1867-1949), Mrs. Sommer, Marvin and Carol. A study piece done for the Akron (Ohio) Board of Education Mural, this 1942 work did not sell.
“This was a disappointment” Davis said. “Some people told me they felt it was atypical of Sommer, but I think it definitely showed his Modernist style. I was very surprised we had such little interest in it.”
Another Sommer was also offered and sold below its low estimate. Winter Sun, a watercolor on illustration board, dated 1935 and signed “Wm. Sommer 35” at lower right, realized $6490 (est. $7000/10,000). Davis said, “This Sommer came to us from upstate New York. The owner called me because he saw my ad for Mrs. Sommer, Marvin and Carol in M.A.D. I think this was a soft price. I think the Clevelanders were sleeping on this one. It is returning to upstate New York. I think the work had everything one wants in a Sommer watercolor.”
Another painting surprised and disappointed Davis. Rachel, a pastel on silk portrait of a woman standing with two baskets of flowers and produce by Elizabeth O’Neill Verner (1883-1979) did not sell. “Verner is a very popular Charleston artist, but I think this painting got overlooked because another auction house in Charleston was offering several of her works at auction on the same day. It seemed buyers concentrated on that auction.”
Though works offered by established artists seemed to struggle in some instances, some lesser-known artists fared well at this late March auction. In the case of Summer Landscape by R. Walker, an American 20th-century painter, Davis was actually not able to find anything on the artist at all. Signed in the lower right, “R. Walker,” this work made $1452, far exceeding its high presale high estimate of $400. It had willow-like trees in the foreground, a lake, and bright foliage in the background that made the trees pop from the canvas. “This was a great oil,” Davis said.
Pathfinder, a watercolor on illustration board of a boat docking with railroad cars nearby, the work of Kinley Shogren (1924-1991), sold within estimate at $2124. Davis said, “Shogren is a great watercolorist, who I think is finally starting to get some recognition. He lived and painted in Gates Mills, Twinsburg, Chagrin Falls, and Massillon [Ohio] and created many landscapes of these areas. But he was also hired by numerous shipping companies to paint their boats as they arrived at the Cuyahoga docks. His ship paintings are the most popular and sought after.”
Sculpture was also available for purchase, though Caspian Bells by John Clague (1928-2004), a 74" high steel and bronze sculpture, did not move. This modern musical sculpture came out of a Cleveland collection, and Davis believed it also was overlooked.
“I think an opportunity was missed here,” Davis stated. “Clague’s works have not come on the market much since he passed away, so there is no secondary market track record. I think this is one people will kick themselves over a few years down the road.” For those who would like another opportunity to own a Clague, one will be available in several months. A woman who has a similar musical sculpture by this artist has contacted Davis, and the auction house will be selling it in the fall.
Probably the most charming tale that came out of the auction was connected to a simple work by an unknown artist. The oil on canvas Portrait of a Lady done in 1955 by Arthur W. Palmer (1913-1982) sold for only $145.20. It was the buyer who made this transaction special. Davis stated, “The painting is not a significant or valuable work, but it came out of Cleveland home. I could not find much on this artist, but it was obviously a commissioned portrait, maybe for a debutant. The man who bought it told me he was just intrigued by the work, did research, and through the information on the back found out who Arthur Palmer was and that he did, in fact, do commissions.”
Davis learned that the buyer has since tracked down the subject of the painting via Facebook. He could tell from her photos posted there that it is the same woman, who must have been about 17 when the portrait was done. Davis said, “Last I talked to the buyer, he was going to try and contact the woman who sat for the portrait and offer to send her the painting for free.”
The hammer total for Rachel Davis Fine Art’s March event came to $305,000. “This sale, we added Artfact to our Internet bidding, so we had two on-line venues accepting Internet bids,” Davis said. “I did notice both an increase in bidders in the room as well as on line. And all the lower-end lots, those estimated under $400, saw much more competitive bidding and action than what has been taking place over the past four years. There are some really wonderful works of art out there that are quite affordable.” Or in the case of the Arthur Palmer portrait—possibly even free.
For more information, contact Rachel Davis Fine Arts at (216) 939-1190; Web site (www.racheldavisfinearts.com).
Fernand Léger (French, 1881-1955), Les Deux Visages (Safire 116), a 13¾" x 18" color lithograph, 1951, signed and numbered 46/75 in pencil, $5015.
James J. Tissot (French, 1836-1902), Le Dimanche Matin (Wentworth 72), 15¾" x 7 9/16", etching and drypoint, 1883, signed in pencil, with the artist’s red ink stamp (Lugt 1545), $7865. Davis explained, “This was sold by a southern Ohio museum for their acquisitions fund. The museum is concentrating solely on American art. This is one of Tissot’s more popular prints—just the epitome of the Belle Époque era.”
Originally published in the June 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest