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Robust Sale of Paintings

Alice Kaufman | April 30th, 2013

E. Charlton Fortune (1885-1969) did not sign this painting, but her card was affixed to the back and her style is certainly clear. The Señora’s Garden, 30" x 26" (est. $200,000/300,000), sold to a collector in Carmel for $722,500. Scot Levitt, department expert at Bonhams, called it “the best work we have ever seen by this artist and one of the top ten paintings I’ve seen in the twenty-seven years I’ve been here.” The painting was consigned by heirs of the artist who live in England.

Bonhams, Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

Photos courtesy Bonhams

Sales totaled $4,954,575 (including buyers’ premiums) at Bonhams’ California and Western paintings and sculpture auction on April 30 in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Department specialist Scot Levitt said that this was his strongest sale since 1999. Levitt found the robust sales “exciting, especially when you realize there were seventy to eighty lots fewer than we offered in the last auction, when the total sales were about the same.”

Levitt said that he plans to try to keep the number of lots down in future sales, “fewer works with higher value. We were fortunate to have a larger-than-usual group of paintings with six-figure estimates. I wondered if the high-end market could absorb so many high-end pieces, but the high end drives the market now and not just for us. All the auction houses are looking for high-end material, because that’s what collectors want.” At this auction, “there was very little dealer activity.”

This auction featured works by Charles Reiffel, Guy Rose, and E. Charlton Fortune “all in one sale. We really lucked out and increased the world record for Charles Reiffel fivefold and reaffirmed E. Charlton Fortune’s status as the top-selling California painter, along with Guy Rose. I ask myself, ‘Can I do it again?’”

For more information, call (323) 850-7500 (Los Angeles), (415) 861-7500 (San Francisco), or visit (

At Duck Cove, 29" x 24", sold for $458,500 (est. $200,000/300,000). Levitt called the painting “beautiful, looking like a French Impressionist painting, with a perspective that draws you in.” This painting by Guy Rose (1867-1925) was unsigned and was purchased by collectors in Los Angeles.

Charles Reiffel’s To Wander - In San Diego Back Country, from the same consignor as Reiffel’s Rainy Evening, is a “top, top example.” The 42" x 48" painting sold to a San Diego collector, who is also an artist, for $206,500 (est. $100,000/150,000).

Elmer Wachtel’s High Sierra Lake, 18" x 13¾", sold for $30,000 (est. $15,000/ 20,000) to a Los Angeles collector.

Indian Smoking Peace Pipe, 9¾" x 7½", by Charles Marion Russell (1864-1926) sold to a Texas collector for $47,500 (est. $25,000/35,000).

A collector from the East Coast bought Tracks on the Trail, 25" x 30", by Oscar Edmund Berninghaus (1874-1952) for $284,500 (est. $100,000/150,000). Levitt said this was “a really good example. Usually his Indians are small and in the distance. These are front and center.”

California Splendor, 42" x 60", by Maurice Braun (1877-1941) sold for $188,500 (est. $50,000/70,000) to the same La Jolla collector who bought a Guy Rose painting.

View of Haleakala, Maui, 27" x 36", by David Howard Hitchcock (1861-1943) sold for $32,500 (est. $10,000/15,000) to an Oakland collector who owns a house in Hawaii.

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

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