Purchase Story

Coeur d’Alene Art Auction Exceeds $13 Million Mark

Coeur d’Alene Art Auction, Reno, Nevada

Photos courtesy Coeur d’Alene Art Auction

The Thirsty Trapper by American artist Alfred Jacob Miller (1810-1874) led the way at the 2018 edition of the Coeur d’Alene Art Auction, held July 28 in Reno, Nevada. The 24" x 20" oil on canvas sold for $1,715,000 (including buyer’s premium). Its subject matter is synonymous with this artist’s main interest: trappers and Native Americans in the fur trade of the western United States.

The Thirsty Trapper by Alfred Jacob Miller (1810-1874), oil on canvas, 24" x 20", is signed and dated lower right. Painted by Miller in 1850, it sold for $1,715,000 (est. $1,500,000/2,500,000). According to the catalog, The Thirsty Trapper is recorded in the Alfred Jacob Miller catalogue raisonnéas number 459B.

Speaking about the painting, the artist wrote, “One of the greatest privations to be combated on the prairies is the want of water. The Trapper leaves his camp in the morning, and after traveling all day under a hot and oppressive sun, his tongue parched and swollen, and almost cleaving to the roof of his mouth;–you may fancy, under such circumstances with what delight he hails at a distance, the life-giving stream.

“The subject of the sketch is an Indian girl supplying an exhausted Trapper with a draught of water, which she has brought in a Buffalo horn.

“To fully appreciate the boon, one must absolutely go through the ordeal, by being subjected to the privation,–it is impossible otherwise.”

The Conspiracy 1763 by Robert Griffing (b. 1940), oil on canvas, 36" x 50", signed and dated lower left. Painted in 2003, it sold for $95,200 (est. $80,000/120,000). The catalog listing quoted the artist: “It is late May in 1763, and these Ojibwa men conspire outside the former French garrison of Fort Michilimackinac where the Great Lakes of Michigan and Huron meet. Wampum belts, calling for the expulsion of the British occupiers, had circulated for several years before the decision to attack was made. Native leaders expected British officials to treat them as allies rather than subjects, but with the French army gone, presents to Indian allies were considered unnecessary. On June 2, the garrison watched a familiar sight as hundreds of Ojibwa and Sauk men played lacrosse. Suddenly, a player threw a ball over the wall as a signal to attack the fort. Within minutes more than a dozen soldiers lay dead and the rest of the garrison were prisoners. By the end of the summer of 1763, a loose alliance of American Indians drove British soldiers and traders from all but a handful of posts lying west of the Allegheny Mountains.”

Images such as this and other classic Western and American art representing past masters and the best contemporary artists known have been the specialty of the Coeur d’Alene Art Auction for more than 30 years. In the last 15 years alone, this company has netted its clients more than $325 million, with numerous world records at auction being garnered along the way. The 33rd annual Coeur d’Alene Art Auction finished just over the $13.5 million mark, and in the process several records were again set.

“It was a great auction,” stated Mike Overby, one of the three principals of the Coeur d’Alene Art Auction, established in 1986 by art dealers Bob Drummond, then of Hayden, Idaho; Stuart Johnson, then of Kalispell, Montana; and Peter Stremmel of Reno, Nevada. This trio understood that the best place to sell classic Western art was out west, and the organization’s success continues.

The Mountain Man, casting #36, by Frederic Remington (1861-1909), bronze, 28" high, inscribed in base “Frederic Remington Roman Bronze Works - NY N.36.” The circa 1918 casting sold for $154,700 (est. $150,000/250,000). According to Thomas Brent Smith in The American West in Bronze: 1850-1925, “Remington’s admiration for the mountain man is apparent throughout his early illustrations as well as in his major oil paintings, but he attempted only one such subject in bronze.”

River Camp – Moonlight by Eanger Irving Couse (1866-1936), circa 1928, oil on canvas, 24" x 29", signed lower right, sold for $95,200 (est. $80,000/120,000). Couse historian Virginia Couse Leavitt explained, “Couse was famous for his depictions of both moonlight and firelight, and on numerous occasions he challenged himself to explore the qualities of both in the same canvas. River Camp – Moonlight is a prime example of this interest.”

Drummond, an expert in deceased artists of this genre, retired in 2006, and when Mike Overby joined the group, he took on that role. Overby explained, “I previously ran my own Western art gallery, the Coeur d’Alene Galleries, which I sold in 2005. I had worked for the auction since 1996. Historical Western artists are my specialty.”

Johnson, owner of Settlers West Galleries, Tucson, Arizona, is well schooled in contemporary artists of this field. Stremmel, executive director of Stremmel Gallery in Reno, stepped down from auctioneering for the organization about five years ago but is still active in the business in all areas.

“Our auctioneer is now Troy Black, one of the most well-respected auctioneers in the Western business,” Overby stated.

The company holds two auctions annually: one in March, marketed as “March in Montana” (the 2019 edition will be held March 22 and 23) in Great Falls, Montana; and one in July, the Coeur d’Alene Art Auction, which was once again held at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno.

“The venue is perfect for us, and we were excited that this year’s crowd was the largest ever,” Overby stated. “We were also quite happy to see new collectors in attendance, including young collectors in their thirties and forties. It’s always a good sign when you see a younger generation participating and getting excited about the material we have for sale.”

Oil on canvas works that set world records at auction for the artists included Hopi Corn Dance by Grace Ravlin (1873-1956), which sold for $32,725; A Critical Moment by Frank Stick (1884-1996), $44,625; and A Friendly Conversation by Frank B. Hoffman (1888-1958), $89,250.

The Horse Wrangler by Peter Hurd (1904-1984), egg tempera on board, 20" x 18", signed lower left, was painted in 1947. It sold for $107,100 (est. $20,000/30,000). According to an article in Country Gentleman magazine, the cowboy in this image is artist Peter Hurd’s friend and neighbor Leroy McKnight. Hurd’s cover for the magazine in June 1946, a year earlier, also included McKnight as his model. Hurd related that the image sparked great interest in McKnight, with many dubbing him “the pin-up boy of Lincoln County.”

The 1947 painting The Horse Wrangler by Peter Hurd (1904-1984) shattered the artist’s previous top number when it sold for $107,100, a world record at auction for the artist. “That was a great moment,” Overby stated. “There is a great deal of interest in Hurd’s work right now, which I think is influenced by his association with N.C. Wyeth.”

Hurd left West Point after two years and instead enrolled in and graduated from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He then became a private student of N.C. Wyeth. Hurd also acted as Wyeth’s assistant at Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and in 1929 married Wyeth’s daughter Henriette. Hurd moved with Henriette to San Patricio, New Mexico, where he created gorgeous Western landscapes and portraits while raising their children, Peter, Carol, and Michael, on their 40-acre homestead, which later grew to become their 2200-acre Sentinel Ranch.

Before the Cold Winds Come by Logan Maxwell Hagege (b. 1980), oil on canvas, 40" x 60", is signed lower right. Painted in 2016, it sold for $95,200 (est. $50,000/75,000).

Overby also noted that there was much interest in the up-and-coming contemporary Western artist Logan Maxwell Hagege (b. 1980). “His Before the Cold Winds Come, done in 2016, is a unique, stylized image and representative of the impact ‘blue chip’ contemporary artists are having on the Western art market,” Overby noted. Before the Cold Winds Come sold for $95,200, a world record at auction for this artist.

Dust of Many Pony Soldiers by Howard Terpning (b. 1927), oil on canvas, 38" x 56", signed and dated lower left, sold for $819,000 (est. $800,000/1,200,000). This 1981 painting won numerous awards at the Cowboy Artists of America event held that same year, including first (Gold Award) for oil painting, Colt Award (Artists’ Choice), and Western Art Association Best of Show. Overby stated, “This Terpning, the gold medal winner in the 1981 Cowboy Artists of America show, sold well under the $100,000 mark shortly thereafter by our auction partner, Stuart Johnson, to the collector who consigned it to the auction. The consignor was quite pleased with this sale.”

Chased by the Devil by Howard Terpning (b. 1927), oil on canvas, 40" x 34", signed and dated lower left, sold for $651,000 (est. $400,000/600,000). There is a label on the reverse of the 1990 artwork for “Cowboy Artists of America, Phoenix, AZ”; this work was exhibited at the 25th anniversary exhibition, Cowboy Artists of America at the Phoenix Art Museum, October 19 through November 18, 1990.

Beaver n’ Blackfeet by Howard Terpning (b. 1927), oil on canvas, 30" x 40", signed and dated lower left, sold for $386,750 (est. $300,000/500,000). The 1980 painting is also signed and titled on the reverse with a label for “Troy’s Cowboy Art Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ.” The auction catalog includes a comment about this painting by the artist: “Trappers were drawn to Blackfoot country because of the abundance of beaver. The Blackfoot did not want anyone encroaching on their hunting grounds and made every effort to keep their enemies out. The title simply suggests to the viewer what the scene represents.”

Howard Terpning (b. 1927) is an example of a contemporary artist who already enjoys a strong following. “All of the Terpnings we offered sold,” Overby noted. “It is great to see this artist’s market doing so well.” Terpning’s Dust of Many Pony Soldiers sold for $819,000; Chased by the Devil sold for $651,000; and Beaver n’ Blackfeet was purchased for $386,750.

Night Birds by Eanger Irving Couse (1866-1936), circa 1923, oil on canvas, 30¼" x 36", signed lower left, sold for $238,000 (est. $150,000/250,000). This work is a classic Couse moonlight painting showcasing his interest in painting any kind of light: twilight, moonlight, firelight, or daylight. According to the auction catalog, “Couse was born in Saginaw, Michigan, in 1866. Following his art studies, first in New York and then in Paris in the late 1880s, Couse eventually established a home in Taos, New Mexico, where he could fulfill his ambition to paint Native Americans. His favorite model from Taos Pueblo, Ben Lujan, is seen in Night Birds, along with Ben’s son, Eliseo. The painting is in its original frame, designed by Couse and made by L. Vigdor, one of his New York frame makers.”

Other established names of the Western art genre that did well included Eanger Irving Couse (1866-1936). Two of his paintings reached six figures; Night Birds sold for $238,000, and Quail Hunters sold for $202,300.

Grand Canyon by Clark Hulings (1922-2011), oil on canvas, 22" x 44", signed and dated lower left. Painted in 1970, the artwork has a label on the reverse reading “Grand Central Art Galleries, New York, NY,” and it sold for $202,300 (est. $200,000/300,000). The auction catalog noted, “In A Gallery of Paintings by Clark Hulings, the artist wrote, ‘In the fall of 1967, the United States Department of the Interior embarked on a project to have paintings made of all the national parks. It fell to me to paint the Grand Canyon. At that time, I had never seen the canyon which was to play such an important part in my career. I had, of course, seen many pictures of the canyon. I wanted to try to do something different, perhaps a mid-air view from a helicopter of a look-up view from Phantom Lodge at the bottom. For this reason, I asked the government to promise the use of a helicopter. This was given very reluctantly as there was at that time much pressure to keep commercial interests out of the parks. Helicopters were banned except for very special government business. Mary and I had another private reason. We were expecting a baby and the doctor had said no mule rides or four-hour hikes.... I spent five days exploring the South Rim from end to end, taking hundreds of photographs and learning something about the canyon itself.’”

The Broncho Buster, casting #167, by Frederic Remington (1861-1909), bronze, 22¼" high, inscribed on top of base, “Copyright by Frederic Remington | Roman Bronze Works No 167,” sold for $119,000 (est. $80,000/120,000).

Pastures New by Henry Farny (1847-1916), oil on canvas, 15" x 28", is signed and dated lower right and was created in 1901. It sold for $535,500 (est. $400,000/600,000). It has a label on the reverse for “Cowboy Hall of Fame Gaylord Broadcasting Collection.” Julie Schimmel, a contributing writer to Henry Farny Paints the Far West by Susan Labry Meyn, writes, “...Farny’s upbringing in a politically aware family, and his familiarity with the conditions of Indian life on the reservations, shaped a number of the images he created like none painted by any other western American artist.”

West Virginia Woodchopper (a.k.a. West Virginia Farm Boy) by William R. Leigh (1866-1955) sold for $297,500, while Solitude’s Enchantment by Edgar Payne (1883-1947) was bought for $476,000.

The sell-through rate was “a solid” 93%, Overby stated. “And we again saw interest not only from American buyers but from those in England—about eight lots went there—as well as mainland Europe, especially Switzerland, with several paintings going to collectors in that country.”

For more information, visit the website (www.cdaartauction.com) or call (208) 772-9009.

No More Bugles by Tom Lovell (1909-1997), oil on canvas, 22" x 34", is signed and dated lower left. Painted in 1979, it sold for $142,800 (est. $150,000/250,000). The artist’s description on the reverse states, “Two Sioux Indians have been riding double, one having lost his pony in a recent battle. They come upon a stray cavalry mount, and strip off the heavy McLelland saddle. The dismounted brave is securing the prized cavalry blanket with an improvised surcingle, and in another moment the big bay horse will start his education in the Sioux tongue and there will be no more bugles.”

Solitude’s Enchantment by Edgar Payne (1883-1947), oil on canvas, 43" x 43", is signed and dated lower right. The 1921 artwork sold for $476,000 (est. $300,000/500,000). Two original letters from Payne to Mr. and Mrs. Alvah G. Strong (who commissioned the painting), a rare copy of the book Edgar Alwin Payne and His Work, and other ephemera relating to the painting sold with this lot. This image of the north face of Temple Crag in the High Sierra is considered “by scholars as one of Payne’s most important High Sierra paintings,” according to the Coeur d’Alene Art Auction catalog.

West Virginia Woodchopper (a.k.a. West Virginia Farm Boy) by William R. Leigh (1866-1955), oil on canvas, 37" x 49", signed and dated lower left, 1903, sold for $297,500 (est. $300,000/500,000). June DuBois wrote in W.R. Leigh: The Definitive Illustrated Biography: “During the summers between 1899 and 1903, the year of his divorce [from Anna Seng, whom he married in 1899], Leigh traveled as often as he could to West Virginia. ‘I was not idle during those summers in Martinsburg,’ he says. ‘I painted a composition which I entitled Loitering.... I shifted my field of action to the mountains and the whole troop of us, including my mother and sister, went to Boomery, Hampshire County, West Virginia, where I painted a life-size, full-length portrait of my cousin Sophie Colston. The next season I painted a wood interior and the next summer a woodchopper with a wagon and team.’”

Originally published in the November 2018 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2018 Maine Antique Digest

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