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Fitz Henry Lane Sells for $1.3 Million; Dance Collection Leaps and Soars

Jeanne Shinto | September 20th, 2013


Camden Mts. from the Graves by Fitz Henry Lane (1804-1865) sold to a private collector from the South for $1,384,000. The 13" x 22" oil on canvas was inscribed to the artist’s close friend: “...F.H. Lane to J. L. Stevens Jr./ Gloucester 1862/ A Souvenir of our excursion to Penobscot Bay, Septr. 1855.” Schinto photos.


This costume design for the marchioness in hunting garb from The Sleeping Beauty brought $66,000 (est. $10,000/15,000)—the top price of the Robert Bunting dance collection. The 11 7/16" x 9" gouache with gold and pencil on paper by Léon Bakst (1866-1924) was signed and dated 1921.


Robin Starr posed alongside the print with the highest estimate in the sale, $50,000/70,000. Meeting its expectations, Chuck Close’s 51½" x 41½" (image size) portrait of composer Philip Glass (b. 1937) in pressed paper pulp of white, grays, and black sold for $60,000. From an edition of 15 (plus proofs), Phil I (White) is numbered 13/15 and signed and dated “C. Close 1982.” Starr said, “He actually did three different versions of this—a white, a gray, and a black. He did some smaller ones as well. So it was an image that he returned to on multiple occasions and used in both painting and in print form.” Schinto photo.


This 1929 color linocut on Japan paper by Sybil Andrews (Canadian/British, 1898-1992) brought $12,000 (est. $2000/3000). From an edition of 50, Haulers, 7½" x 12¾" (image size), was signed and numbered 19/50. True to her Grosvenor School of Modern Art roots, Andrews imagined the working men as machine-age figures of strength and kinetic power.


Despite losses, tears, and toning, this 16 1/8" x 15" (sight size) gouache and ink on illustration board by Nicholas Konstantinovich Roerich (1874-1947) showing a scene from Le Sacre de Printemps (The Rite of Spring) sold for $25,200 (est. $4000/6000). Robert Bunting collection.


Merce Cunningham I by Andy Warhol (1928-1987) went to an Internet bidder for $13,530 (est. $800/1200). The 30" x 20" color screenprint is signed and numbered 98/100. It was published by Castelli Graphics as part of a portfolio titled “Cunningham I” that included works by seven artists. This image of Cunningham, printed by Alexander Heinrici, is based on a photograph by Richard Rutledge. Robert Bunting collection.


Field and Thunderhead by Maxwell Ashby Armfield (1881-1972) sold for $13,200 (est. $1200/1800). The 34" x 40½" oil on canvas was monogrammed and dated “MA 14” and in a period Arts and Crafts frame (not shown). “It’s terrific looking, in spite of its condition,” said Robin Starr. “It had not been worked on—that was the good news. The bad news was that tear” (a good-size puncture). “But it was such a great piece that no one cared.” To its credit, someone is going to spend even more money to have it restored.


Night Fishing off a Cape by Mauritz Frederik Hendrik de Haas (Dutch, 1832-1895) sold for $18,000 (est. $1000/1500). The 18½" x 30½" oil on canvas is signed and dated 1873 and inscribed “RESTORED 1915 BY...”.

Skinner, Inc., Boston

Photos courtesy Skinner

A three-catalog, approximately 850-lot art sale at Skinner on September 20 at the auction house’s Boston gallery was one of the department’s best sales in several years, grossing $3,224,050 (including buyers’ premiums). A Fitz Henry Lane painting of Maine was responsible for more than a third of that haul, bringing $1,384,000. Estimated at $1.2 million/1.8 million, Camden Mts. from the Graves is an oil on canvas dedicated and inscribed on the back to its first owner, Lane’s close friend and neighbor Joseph L. Stevens Jr., with whom the artist made three well-documented trips to Penobscot Bay in the 1850’s.

The buyer was a man in the room, a private collector, accompanied by a woman. They asked for anonymity, but Skinner art department director Robin S.R. Starr was able to say that they were from the South and that the woman is a “consultant and long-time friend” of the collector. “They live below the Mason-Dixon line, and they were thrilled. It’s been a long time since a buyer has hugged me because they got something so terrific, and it was very welcome, by the by. It was very sweet.”

This is the first Lane oil on canvas offered by Skinner since the sale of Manchester Harbor on November 19, 2004, for $5,506,000, an artist record that still stands. The last of four major Lanes sold by the auction house beginning in 1995, it capped a run that had made the Gloucester native’s work seem plentiful, which it decidedly isn’t.

“Quite frankly we were in competition to get the piece in, but they included us because they knew we had a great history with Lane,” said Starr.

More than 150 lots of dance-related art from the Robert Bunting collection formed another successful part of this sale. “He assembled this collection with great love and dedication over many, many years,” said Skinner CEO Karen Keane as she prepared to auction it. “It allows us to see a collector’s vision.”

The wide-ranging assemblage spanned the full range of exemplars from classical and modern dance—from Anna Pavlova to Twyla Tharp, from Vaslav Nijinsky to Paul Taylor. It included costume and set designs as well as photographs, memorabilia, ephemera, drawings, watercolors, pastels, sculpture, advertising posters and prints, souvenir programs, and autographed letters representing principals from most of the greatest dance companies in the world. Most notably, there were items from the New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, London’s Royal Ballet, Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet, and the itinerant ballet company founded by Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev, the Ballets Russes.

The costume and set designs brought the biggest prices, especially examples by the Russians Léon Bakst, Alexandre Nikolaevich Benois, Eugene Gustavovitch Berman, Boris Bilinsky, Mstislav Valerianovich Dobuzhinsky, and Pavel Tchelitchew. The catalog’s cover lot, a costume design by Bakst for the marchioness in hunting garb from The Sleeping Beauty, achieved the collection’s top price, $66,000. (In fact, after the Lane painting, it was the next-highest price of the day.) The gouache with gold and pencil on paper was signed and dated 1921. A scene design by Tchelitchew from L’Errante (The Wanderer) achieved another strong result, fetching $26,400. The gouache and ink on paper was signed and dated 1935, the same year that L’Errante was staged by George Balanchine for the American Ballet Ensemble at the Metropolitan Opera Company.

Advertising posters designed by Jean Cocteau for the 1911 Ballet Russe season sold within estimate for $10,200 and $11,400, respectively. Each of the color lithographs bore the signature of the French poet/visual artist/filmmaker, who became enthralled by the Ballets Russes during the company’s early visits to the French capital. A page of dance notations by Merce Cunningham for Suite by Chance was one of the most fascinating items—choreographic genius on graph paper in a series of ballpoint-penned numerals and slashes in a grid. It sold to an Internet bidder for $5700 (est. $1000/1500). Among our other favorites was a circa 1972 costume design by Eugene Gustavovitch Berman for Pulcinella. It was made for the New York City Ballet production, choreographed by Balanchine and Jerome Robbins. The watercolor with gouache and ink on paper went at $2880 to a phone bidder, who bought many other lots with bidding number 221.

Most items were sold singly, but two big lots of ephemera went to that voracious phone bidder 221 for $3000 and $2520, respectively. A 25-item lot of photographs made $2460 on the Internet. The images included portraits of Pavlova, modern-dance pioneers Doris Humphrey, Ruth St. Denis, and Ted Shawn as well as such things as a 20th-century American school print of a snake charmer.

Independent fine art appraiser Hermine Chivian-Cobb gave a lecture about Bunting’s dance collection at a preview. She noted that one of the most striking things about it was “its very existence.” She observed that the designs “were not meant to stand alone as works of art and were certainly not conceived to receive close scrutiny except by the carpenters and dressmakers who translated the designs for the stage.”

Bunting, a physician, remarked of his own collection in a catalog essay: “...[S]ome designs I treasure as souvenirs of performances I saw...But even more importantly they’re evocations of performances I never could have seen.” Indeed, since dance is by definition an ephemeral art, these items are now often the only record of a performance. That’s especially true of Diaghilev’s ballets, since he refused to allow them to be filmed, said Chivian-Cobb.

The dance collection brought live bidders to the gallery—a rarity these days. A number of them represented institutions and libraries that collect this kind of material as documentary history. And they were bidding, but competition from the phone bidders was stiff, particularly from those on the line from Russia and France.

“One of the things that made the sale extra fun—beyond the fact that the material was so interesting—is that so many of these people knew each other,” said Starr. “When people walked into the gallery, there was buzz, there was excitement. And up on the podium I felt that old-school energy while selling an auction.”

The top lot of the prints section of the sale was Chuck Close’s portrait of Philip Glass in pressed paper pulp that sold to the trade within estimate for $60,000. It came from a local private collector who was downsizing, Starr said. The 51½" x 41½" print is based on a well-known photograph that Close took of Glass and that he first used in 1969 to make an even larger (108" x 84") acrylic on canvas portrait of the composer. At a lecture at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Close said he hadn’t intended to make a portrait of a famous person when he used Glass as a model. Ditto for his portrait of fellow artist Richard Serra, he said. He had merely been using his friends as models when he and they were just starting out.

Rembrandt’s Beggar in a High Cap, Standing and Leaning on a Stick, dated circa 1630 and cataloged as “probably a lifetime impression,” fetched $14,400 (est. $800/1200). But print seekers on the whole were less interested in the old masters than they were in mid-to-late 20th-century offerings, e.g., Keith Haring’s 1989 Silence Equals Death color screenprint ($10,800).

“Anything of superb quality is fair game and can take off, but certainly collectors are increasingly interested in twentieth century and contemporary,” Starr said. “That’s what they really seem to be gravitating toward.”

Skinner had hoped to sell an oil on paperboard Confederate Civil War scene by Conrad Wise Chapman for $400,000 to $600,000. It didn’t happen. “It was a piece that the collector/consignor had very high hopes for,” said Starr. “What makes it special is that these Confederate scenes never come on the market. Because of that, though, there’s a little bit of a question mark. What is a fair price? It’s more likely the kind of thing that will go to an institution. But not every institution is necessarily going to have the funds.”

She added, “The markets these days, in all areas of art and antiques, are very hard to predict.” Beyond the hunger for newer material, “the trend is there are no trends, but we were thrilled with how things did, and we’ll have another big sale on February seventh.”

In the meantime, Skinner will be pumping up its photography department. Earlier this year, we reported that Annie Claflin had joined the staff as its fine art photography specialist, but she has had to move to the West Coast because of a job change for her husband. Now the auction house has hired Michelle Lamunière, formerly of the Fogg Museum at Harvard University, where she served for five years as the John R. and Barbara Robinson Family Assistant Curator of Photography. We’re looking forward to stronger and more plentiful offerings of photography at Skinner.

For more information, phone (617) 350-5400 or see the Web site (www.skinnerinc.com).

This scene design by Pavel Tchelitchew (1898-1957) for L’Errante (The Wanderer) sold for $26,400 (est. $1500/2000). The 14½" x 19 5/8" (sight size) gouache and ink on paper is signed and dated “P Tchelitchew/ NY35.” Robert Bunting collection.

Attributed to George Morland (1763-1804), Wood Cock & Pheasant Shooting sold in the room for $24,000 (est. $1200/1800). According to the catalog, the 12¼" x 15½" unsigned oil on canvas relates to an engraving of the same title by T. Simpson after Morland.


Originally published in the December 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest

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