American Art, Pennsylvania Impressionists

June 4th, 2017

Freeman’s, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Photos courtesy Freeman’s

More than 100 collectors came to Freeman’s sale of American paintings on June 4 in Philadelphia to bid on a good selection of Pennsylvania Impressionist paintings and works by American artists active from 1850 to about 1950. With the exception of the failure of a large and impressive Daniel Garber—a 56" x 53" painting of a lone sycamore with a $400,000/600,000 estimate—the sale showed solid support from mostly local collectors.

Auctioneer Alasdair Nichol, head of paintings at Freeman’s, said more people bid in the salesroom at American painting sales than they do at any of Freeman’s other sales. At this sale, they bid against a dozen staffers at the phone bank, Internet bidders, and several successful absentee bidders. The top lots sold in the salesroom.

Daniel Garber (1880-1958) signed Portrait of Hervey Allen and dated it 1935 on the bottom center. The 42 1/8" x 46 1/8" oil on canvas was a commission by the sitter from the artist. It sold to a New Hope, Pennsylvania, collector in the salesroom for $87,500 (est. $100,000/150,000). Hervey Allen authored the novel Anthony Adverse, which was made into an award-winning film in Hollywood. Garber also painted a companion portrait of Mrs. Allen and her daughters. The Allens’ Maryland estate is the landscape seen through the windows. Garber rarely painted portraits.

Signed on the bottom left by Fern Isabel Coppedge (1883-1951), Mill by a Stream, an 18" x 20" oil on canvas, sold in the salesroom for $50,000 (est. $25,000/40,000).

Seven phone bidders competed for this 22½" x 28¼" oil on canvas by Hugh Bolton Jones (1848-1927). The Road to the Farm, with a Schwarz Gallery provenance, sold for $21,150 (est. $3000/5000). The sky reflected in the water is masterful painting.

Freeman’s makes it easy to preview on Sunday from noon until the 2 p.m. sale start time, and those who came to preview during the week left absentee bids or bid by phone or online. A large contingent came from Bucks County to bid on works painted in their neighborhood, where some views have not changed much in the last 70 years since the Impressionists were painting in the fields and along the roadsides.

It was Fern Coppedge’s day at Freeman’s. Five of six paintings by Coppedge in this sale sold; four of them sold over estimates. The sale also demonstrated that it is still possible to buy appealing paintings by lesser-known painters for under $10,000. For example, W. S Nichols’s At Lock 15-16, Smithtown, Bucks County, 18¼" x 24¼", sold with buyer’s premium for $6250 (est. $3000/5000). One of the underbidders said the house pictured still stands. “I see it every day,” he said. House by the Canal, 12" x 15¾", by John Wells James, which went for $5344 (est. $3000/5000), is a tapestry in paint depicting a snug white house tucked into a verdant landscape with a pastel sky by an artist who was noted in an issue of Arts Magazine in 1928, but little else is written about him.

George Sotter’s Moonlit River, a small (10" x 12") study painted almost entirely in orange and blue, sold for $13,750 (est. $12,000/18,000). It is as abstract as it is realistic. All these paintings will give immeasurable pleasure to the buyers, as will the small (12" x 12") Little House at Lambertville (Village Road) by Fern Coppedge, which sold for $40,625 (est. $25,000/40,000).

George William Sotter (1879-1953) signed Gloucester on the bottom right. The oil on canvasboard, 15¾" x 20", is in a Badura frame and sold to an absentee bidder for $25,000 (est. $10,000/15,000).

Little House at Lambertville (Village Road) by Fern I. Coppedge (1883-1951) is signed on the bottom center and inscribed with the title on the back. The 12" x 12" oil on canvas sold for $40,625 (est. $25,000/40,000).

“I was pleased to see new private collectors participating,” said Nichol. “This sale focused on Coppedge; our next American art sale in the fall will focus on George Sotter.”

Sotter’s view of Gloucester at dusk sold at this sale for $25,000 (est. $10,000/15,000), and a typical Sotter snow scene sold for $35,000 (est. $25,000/40,000), but another typical Sotter, Carversville at Night, with a $70,000/100,000 estimate, failed to sell.

The market is selective. Of the 102 lots offered, 83 sold for an 81% sell-through rate and a sold total of “just over $1,155,000” according to Freeman’s press release. This total is well under the $1,547,000/2,386,800 presale estimates (figured without 25% buyer’s premium) because several of the high-priced items failed to meet reserves. Nichol said he was not aware that the large Garber had been offered privately for $1 million recently, so it was not fresh to all who saw it.

For more information, call (215) 563-9275 or check the website (

Hugh Bolton Jones (1848-1927) signed The Old Road to the River on the bottom left, and on the back are labels with titles. The oil on canvas laid on board is 37¾" x 59 7/8" and sold on the phone for $12,500 (est. $8000/12,000).

Martin Lewis (1881-1962), Rainy Day, Queens, 1931, edition of 70. The pencil-signed drypoint sold for $37,500 (est. $20,000/30,000) to an absentee bidder who was underbid by someone in the salesroom. The rainy day scene was a favorite at the preview. Not shown, another Lewis print in the sale, The Tree, Manhattan, a nostalgic New York City dusk view with two laundry lines attached to a tree, estimated at $6000/10,000, failed to sell.

Gil Elvgren (1914-1980) painted What’s Cooking in 1944. The 29 1/8" x 23 1/8" oil on canvas sold for $22,500 (est. $7000/10,000). Elvgren was one of the most skilled illustrators of the 20th century and is best known for his pinup portraits of young women. His works were featured in magazines and calendars, including the Louis F. Dow Calendar Company and later the Brown & Bigelow Calendar Company. Because his work had such commercial appeal, his advertising accounts included Coca-Cola, Sylvania, Orange Crush, Schlitz beer, Horlacher Brewery, General Electric Company, and Napa Auto Parts. Classic, nostalgic illustration remains a strong segment of the market. Not shown, two other works by Elvgren, the same size, sold over estimates: Bird’s Eye View, with a penguin getting the view up a skirt, sold for $21,250 (est. $7000/10,000); and Blind Date, a repaint of a 1944 work titled Going Up, sold for $11,700
(est. $3000/5000).

Wood’s Cove, Laguna Beach or The Little Cove, Laguna Beach by Walter Elmer Schofield (1867-1944), oil on canvas, 25" x 30", sold in the salesroom, underbid on the phone, for $23,750 (est. $12,000/18,000). Not shown, another by Schofield, A Rocky Coastline, failed to sell.

Pigeon Cove by Fern Isabel Coppedge (1883-1951) is signed on the bottom left and also inscribed with her name and the title on the upper stretcher on the back. The 32" x 36 1/8" oil on canvas sold for $75,000 (est. $40,000/60,000) to a Bucks County, Pennsylvania, collector in the salesroom.

The Rocky Stream by Antonio Pietro Martino (1902-1988) is signed and dated “A.P. Martino ‘30” on the bottom left and also signed, inscribed with title, and dated 1930 on the upper stretcher on the back of this 36" x 40" oil on canvas, which sold for $16,250 (est. $8000/12,000). The big vigorous picture is in a suitably robust frame.

Raven Rock Wing Dam by Edward Willis Redfield (1869-1965), signed and dated “E.W. Redfield ‘98” bottom left, oil on canvas, 23¼" x 32¼", sold in the salesroom for $40,625 (est. $30,000/50,000). Redfield moved to Center Bridge, Pennsylvania, in 1898, the same year this landscape was painted. According to Dr. Thomas Folk, who will include this work in his catalogue raisonné, it was executed north of his home, near River Road. The River Rock Bridge depicted here—also known as the Lumberville Foot Bridge—is located on Bull’s Island and connects Raven Rock, New Jersey, with Lumberville, Pennsylvania. It is located in close proximity to the Black Bass Inn, still a popular destination to this day.

Originally published in the August 2017 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2017 Maine Antique Digest

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