An oil on linen of a great blue heron by Newell Convers Wyeth (1882-1945), inscribed "To Carolin J. Chandler, June 1942," fetched $253,000. Thomaston Place photo.
This 39½" x 49½" (sight size) oil on canvas by Andrew Winter, Happy Lobstering Ground, Whitehead Island, Lower Penobscot Bay, signed lower right and dated 1940, sold for $54,050.
The centerpiece of the auction was the collection of 60 Monhegan Island paintings, and central to the Monhegan collection were the works of Andrew Winter. This 20" x 30" oil on canvas, Monhegan Winter Fleet, showed several of the island's fishing boats docked amid the icebound and foreboding rocky crags. It sold for $32,200. Thomaston Place photo.
Thomaston Place Auction Galleries, Thomaston, Maine
by Mark Sisco
A single painting of a single bird was by far the biggest seller at the Thomaston Place Auction Galleries sale in Thomaston, Maine, on August 25 and 26.
The star of the show was an oil on linen painting of a great blue heron by Newell Convers Wyeth (1882-1945). The 40" x 30" work was signed at upper left and inscribed as a wedding gift "To Carolin J. Chandler, June 1942." She was probably the mother of the consignor. Estimated at $100,000/125,000, it finished at $253,000 (includes buyer's premium).
Some other Wyeth family works didn't fare as well. An India ink drawing on Strathmore paper by Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009), signed lower left and dated 1940, had a (William) Macbeth Gallery, New York City, label on the reverse that titled it In the Georges Islands. Auctioneer Kaja Veilleux noted that it was a drawing or study for a much larger tempera painting.
"The painting is in another gallery. They want two-point-five million dollars for the tempera," Veilleux said. "Only when he did the tempera, he left out the guy in the boat. For two-and-a half million, I'd want the guy in the boat!" But guy or no guy, this one failed to leave the dock. It was estimated at $70,000/80,000, but the bidding reached only $60,000, not enough to catch the reserve.
Aside from the Wyeth heron, the cornerstone of the sale was a collection of about 50 artworks from George X. Schwartz. Veilleux explained before the sale, "He collected them in memory of his father. [The father] had a business that he did on Monhegan...He bought and sold lobsters with the guys on Monhegan, so he got to be real friendly, and he had a place out there, and his father collected Monhegan paintings."
Schwartz continued collecting just as his father had done. It amounted to about 50 paintings for the sale, plus another ten or so from other sources. "It's the most important collection of Monhegan paintings ever offered," Veilleux claimed.
Central to the Monhegan collection were several works by the Estonian-born painter Andrew George Winter (1893-1958). The priciest was a 39½" x 49½" (sight size) oil on canvas, Happy Lobstering Ground, Whitehead Island, Lower Penobscot Bay, signed lower right and dated 1940. The painting has been cleaned, relined, and slightly retouched. Estimated at $30,000/35,000, it finished well north of the mark at $54,050. Winter settled on Monhegan Island around 1940 following a career as a mariner, and it was about that time that he produced this painting of Whitehead Island off the Maine coast in St. George.
One early Maine portrait by William Matthew Prior (1806-1873) came with an intriguing story behind it. "This is the most documented picture by William Matthew Prior that we've ever seen," Veilleux said.
Simeon Skillings Jr., the subject of the Prior oil on board, had a lively life history. He was born in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, in 1787. He was said to have been a large man, enormously strong, and agile. He was a champion wrestler, and through hard farming work, he eventually earned enough to lease a portion of Bangs Island, off the coast of Portland, Maine. By 1840, he owned nearly the entire island. Skillings didn't attend public school until 1834, when he rowed daily to the school on nearby Peaks Island.
Prior painted the portrait in a pleasing blend of primitivism and academic art that captured the hearty warmth of his subject. It was consigned by a descendant of one of Skillings's 12 children. With an inscription on the reverse reading, "Painted for M. Skillings by Will. Prior, 1836, Portland, Me.," it sold for $8912.50, the kind of price usually reserved for primitive portraits of children.
A ship's figurehead in the form of a large carved eagle's head was one of the surprise highlights of the sale. Probably dating from the early 19th century, the carving may have come from a Coast Guard revenue cutter. With remnants of the original paint, it was estimated at $4000/6000, but even at $20,000, there were still a handful of players in the game. It finally finished at an enormous $40,250. Imagine what it would have brought if the rest of the bird were there!
For more information, call (207) 354-8141 or visit the Web site (www.thomastonauction.com).
An early 19th-century ship's figurehead in the form of a carved eagle's head realized $40,250.
This carved burl maple bowl in a rich caramel patina with deeply pierce-carved scrolling foliage handles is from the Washburn estate in Brockton, Massachusetts. The Washburns originally owned Norlands in Livermore, Maine. Norlands is now a living-history museum. The bowl swept past the $3000/4000 estimate and sold for $12,650.
The buyer of this Maine blue-painted corner cupboard with two six-light doors, a pale red interior, and two flat cabinet doors was obviously very determined to own it, and when she won it for $4485, well over the $1800/2400 estimate, she was ecstatic. "That's a perfect example of how to buy something that you want," auctioneer Kaja Veilleux said to the crowd. "You just hold up your card until I say 'Sold' to you!"
The prices for good, intact, and well-painted John Haley Bellamy (1836-1914) eagles seem to have stabilized in the high four-figure range. This one had a "Don't Give Up The Ship" banner with yellow lettering, a small repair to the tip, and some nail holes in the wings. It sold for $8625. Thomaston Place photo.
A set of six 19th-century Russian glass goblets from the Imperial Glassworks of St. Petersburg, with a raised enamel gold crest with the letter "A," probably for Emperor Alexander II, over an ermine, finished at $21,850 (est. $3000/5000). Thomaston Place photo.
A pair of octagonal, matched Chinese porcelain garden seats from the early 19th century, in blue floral and scenic decorations, with raised bosses and open-ring panels, surpassed the $3000/4000 estimate to sell for $8625. Thomaston Place photo.