The cover and star lot, The Trail Boss by William Herbert "Buck" Dunton (1878-1936), oil on canvas, 36" x 24", sold to a bidder on the phone with specialist Thomas De Doncker for $234,000 (est. $200,000/300,000). "I thought the hammer price of two hundred thousand was a bit low. I'm certain this painting will clean up beautifully, and with a new frame [it] will end up in a high-end gallery in Arizona or New Mexico with a giant price tag on it. But as long as the consignor is happy, I am happy."
Pahutes, an Edward Borein (1872-1945) watercolor on paper, approximately 7Â½" x 10Â¼", sold on the Internet for $9360 (est. $8000/10,000). "The market is a bit soft for Borein," De Doncker said, "as I can remember a little watercolor like this ten years ago bringing double what this sold for."
Old Man in a Rowboat by Eugen Gustav Dukker (1841-1916), oil on canvas, 16" x 27Â½", sold for $11,700 (est. $3500/4500). "The art market is such a funny place," De Doncker told M.A.D. "This was a painting I inherited when I came on board at Michaan's last October. One could have bought this painting for five thousand dollars last December when it didn't sell, and on its second appearance, it blows through its high estimate to sell for eleven thousand seven hundred."
Michaan's Auctions, Alameda, California
by Alice Kaufman
Photos courtesy Michaan's Auctions
Michaan's Auctions in Alameda, California, held its first dedicated auction of 19th- and 20th-century American and European paintings, sculptures, prints, and works on paper on June 9. It was a sale with many supporting players but one big star, the catalog's cover lot, The Trail Boss, an oil on canvas by William Herbert "Buck" Dunton. Dunton was an American illustrator who had worked as a ranch hand and prior to his arrival in Taos, New Mexico, contributed cowboy/Western illustrations to Collier's, Field & Stream, and many other magazines. He also illustrated the covers of books by Zane Grey and other Western writers.
Michaan's fine art specialist Thomas De Doncker said Dunton was lured to join the Taos Founders by Ernst Blumenschein. That turned out to be a mistake, as Dunton's work was never as good again. "After eight years in Taos, there were too many politics for Dunton, and he left," according to De Doncker.
The Trail Boss was done before the Taos years, and in De Doncker's opinion, it captures Dunton at his best, as a chronicler of the Old West. The painting is especially interesting because the horses are painted as they are walking toward the viewer, a challenging perspective for any painter. The painting sold within estimate for $234,000 (includes buyer's premium).
That price, however, was "a bit of a disappointment" to De Doncker. "I can't recall the last time I saw a top-tier vintage Western painting that has never been touched or cleaned in over a century not attract more robust bidding. It did sell at the reserve and was purchased by a Southwest dealer.
"I think in part the notion of 'illustration' is still taboo to some people, certainly misunderstood, as Dunton, after the death of Remington in 1909, was the leading illustrator of the day. Of course, there is some irony; if there was a painting by Rockwell or Leyendecker, one would demand an 'illustration.' Harris Moran, the seed company that owned The Trail Boss, was thrilled with the results, as it wasn't that long ago they realized the treasures they had hanging at their corporate office were of such value."
Two hundred people were registered for the auction as on-line bidders. In addition, six Michaan's employees were handling phone bids (at one point, a Russian interpreter was called for), and absentee bidders outnumbered floor bidders (at the high point, there were about a dozen present).
De Doncker summed up his thoughts on the sale. "As a whole I thought it was a great first effort. I will continue to follow my standard format, under one hundred fifty lots, keeping the sale under two hours (as I'm convinced people's attention span is about two hours) and try to do a million hammer twice a year. I feel that Michaan's is positioning itself nicely as we continue to grow and expand and absorb the East Bay market.
"The timing couldn't be better, with Butterfields rebranding to Bonhams and leaving them once again with only California and Western sales. It wasn't that many years ago (mid-1980's) when B and B held their first Cal-Am painting sale. Back then, B and B was about the size of Michaan's now, so it is an apt comparison and leads me to believe that with time and persistence, Michaan's too will enjoy the exponential growth they experienced. In that light too, as a rather new auction house to be in the black in these economic difficult-if-not-hard times is also a credit to us."
The sale total was $562,065.38. The next dedicated fine art auction is scheduled for December 1. Paintings and sculpture in the $500 to $2000 range are also offered in Michaan's monthly nonspecialty estate sales. For more information, call (800) 380-9822 or visit the Web site (www.michaans.com).
Portrait of Mrs. Samuel Bell by Jean-Joseph Vaudechamp (1790-1866), 1832, oil on canvas, 31Â½" x 25Â½", sold to an absentee bidder for $18,720 (est. $15,000/25,000). "For most, it is difficult to get excited about old portraiture, but in my mind, this was in my top three most important paintings in the auction," said De Doncker.
|Baigneuse aux Bras Leves, a 10Â¾" high bronze by Aristide Maillol (1861-1944), sold on the phone for $9945 (est. $5000/ 7000). "Vollard edition bronzes are pretty rare and super desirable," said De Doncker. "This one is going back home to France."|
Mackerel Fleet by Emile Albert Gruppe (1896-1978), oil on artist board, 15Â¾" x 12", sold for $5850 (est. $4000/6000).
Still Life with Grapes and Kettle by Iulii Yulevich Klever II (Russian, 1882-1942), 1906, oil on canvas, 25Â¾" x 36Â¼", sold for $16,380 (est. $4000/6000) to an Internet bidder. "Many of these Russian Federation painters are going for nutty prices," De Doncker said. "There is no reason whatsoever why this painting hammered at fourteen thousand when the Dukker was available for purchase for half the sale price last December. All I can say is that clearly there is tremendous wealth in the old Soviet Union, and for the last decade or so, they have been buying up their top artists' creative output with some serious dedication."
Washing the Laundry by Henri-Joseph Harpignies (1819-1916), 1875, oil on canvas, 13Â¼" x 16Â¼", sold for $9945 (est. $6000/9000) to a phone bidder. The painting came from a Placerville, California, couple who are the third generation in their family to own it. De Doncker said, "I don't think anyone would claim that the Barbizon market is on fire, but nevertheless it was refreshing to witness a fair amount of spirited bidding for this little painting. The painting really had some wonderful light in it and is at the center of the target subject for the artist."
Farallon Islands, Pacific Coast by Hermann Herzog (1832-1932), oil on canvas, 22" x 29", sold to an absentee bidder for $43,875 (est. $20,000/30,000). De Doncker said, "A pretty strong price in my mind for only one of a few Bay Area seascapes. It was only after the catalog had been printed that I discovered the painting was taken by the artist from an 1868-69 photograph of the Farallones by photographer Carleton Watkins. As I am in the process of buying a boat, I showed the canvas to a few local captains who swore up and down that the subject was not the Farallones. Even the owner told me that he had sent the image to Scot Levitt at Bonhams, and Levitt said that it wasn't the Farallones. What a joy it was to find the Carleton photograph and shut the heck up all the naysayers!"
A duel between two phone bidders resulted in a selling price of $21,060 (est. $5000/10,000) for Autumn, Lilac, Love by Viacheslav Vasilevich Kalinin (b. 1939), 1990, oil on canvas, 23Â¾" x 27Â½". De Doncker said, "In this case, a living Russian artist [he actually lives in Los Angeles] again bringing nosebleed prices. A hammer at eighteen thousand isn't even close to the world record for this artist, but now that we have a relationship with him, we should be getting a few of his works to sell annually."
California Landscape with Stream by Granville Redmond (1871-1935), oil on panel, 12" x 16", sold to an absentee bidder for $22,230 (est. $10,000/15,000). De Doncker described this painting as "somewhat a departure from his cookie-cutter poppies and lupines or his dreary Tonalist work. I saw this painting not long after its purchase, when it was so dark one couldn't really see anything in the canvas. She really cleaned up beautifully and, curiously, went to a private East Coast collector."