Purchase Story

"Environs of Milford" Tops American Art Sale

Sotheby’s, New York City

Photos courtesy Sotheby’s

A 142-lot auction of American art at Sotheby’s in New York City on the morning of September 17 totaled $3,740,250 (with buyers’ premiums). The sell-through rate was 62%.

Sotheby’s offered bidders the opportunity to bid online before the live auction—a first for one of its American art sales. The auctioneer recognized these bids as “advanced paddles” during the sale. According to Sotheby’s, 37% of all bidders in the sale participated in advance bidding.

Clients were sent an e-mail notifying them that the American art auction was open for advance online bidding. There was a link to the online sale catalog along with instructions about how to place a bid online.

The auction house also said most of its sales “will adopt the format in coming seasons as an additional option for clients to bid. Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for a client to engage with us, and marrying the virtue of an online-only auction with a live auction, we can ensure that the preferences of all bidders can be met in one event.”

Furthermore “online bidding is now the most popular way to bid, and we have seen tremendous growth in both our online-only sales as well as online bidding in our live auctions.” Sotheby’s noted, “This is overall, not just American sales.”

Some 20 to 25 people were seated in the salesroom, with only a handful staying for the entire sale, which lasted two and a half hours. Most of the 88 lots that sold were bought either on the telephones, with advance bids left with the auctioneer, or online. A few sales were made in the salesroom.

The top lot of the sale, featured on the cover of the sale catalog, was Environs of Milford by Daniel Garber (1880-1958), a signed oil on canvas, 28" x 30", painted in 1946. Estimated at $200,000/300,000, the work hammered down at $260,000, and with buyer’s premium it totaled $325,000. It sold to an anonymous buyer.

The cover lot of the sale, Daniel Garber’s Environs of Milford,sold for $325,000 (est. $200,000/300,000) to a bidder on the phone with the head of sale, Charlotte Mitchell, heading off bids from a man in the salesroom and another on the phone. The 28" x 30" oil on canvas, painted in 1946, was fresh to market, having been acquired in 1947 from the artist by Dr. Maurice H. Friedman of Washington, D.C. The work descended to his daughter, who was the consignor. Environs of Milford was painted outside Riegelsville, New Jersey.

“The market is highly selective,” noted Charlotte Mitchell, head of sale, in an e-mail a few days after the auction. She said the market is “seeking best-in-class examples that are fresh and attractively estimated—whether that is an exceptional work on paper by a ‘blue chip’ name or an outstanding canvas by an artist that is rare to auction.”

Among the artists commanding attention lately is Milton Avery, whose four works in the sale sold and “ranged in terms of medium, subject, and date of execution.” Works by black artists, such as Jacob Lawrence, Norman Lewis, and Henry Ossawa Tanner, “have been consistently in demand in recent seasons, and the market for American illustration remains strong,” Mitchell added.

Mitchell said she was pleased with the sale of the cover lot, Daniel Garber’s Environs of Milford,and with Tanner’s untitled work(A Water Carrier), which sold for $65,000 (est. $15,000/25,000).

The top-ten selling lots of the sale achieved prices over $100,000, she noted, including Nahant Rocks by William Stanley Haseltine (1835-1900), which sold for $162,500 (est. $120,000/180,000) to Questroyal Fine Art, New York City, bidding on the phone, and Milton Avery’s Gaspé Bay, painted in 1940, which sold to a private European collector for $162,500 (est. $150,000/250,000). The signed oil on canvas, 28" x 36", had been in one collection since 1963.

Of the 142 lots offered, 16 were reoffers. Further information can be found online at (www.sothebys.com).

Untitled (A Water Carrier) by Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937), a signed oil on panel, 10" x 8", elicited bids from the salesroom and two phone bidders. Estimated at $15,000/25,000, it sold for $65,000 to a bidder on the phone with the head of sale, Charlotte Mitchell. The work is signed “H.O. TANNER” and inscribed indistinctly “To Mademoiselle K***Ma**** / Paris 1898” lower right and dated “Cairo Feb 1897” on the reverse.

Cabaret by Reginald Marsh (1898-1954), painted by 1938, sold for $125,000 (est. $120,000/180,000) to a bidder on the phone with senior vice president and director of private sales Liz Sterling. The tempera and pencil on gessoed masonite, 35¾" x 23¾", was property from the collection of Senator William Benton, sold by the estate of Helen Boley, his daughter. The work had been on long-term loan at the Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin-Madison, from 2006 to 2018. Marsh, a Yale graduate, supplemented his income as a freelance illustrator by designing curtains and sets for theatrical productions, according to an entry in Sotheby’s catalog.

This circa 1904 oil on canvasboard by Stanley Massey Arthurs, The Refugees from the Niagara Frontier (War of 1812), illustrated as the frontispiece of Scribner’s Magazine, September 1904, sold to a buyer on the phone for $11,875. Several bidders on the phones and one online went after the signed 29¼" x 19½" painting, which had an estimate of $2000/3000. It was property from a collection of American illustration, with provenance that included American Illustrators Gallery, New York City, and S. Hallock du Pont Jr., Florida, 1992.

This mixed media on paperboard by Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000), untitled (Card Players), executed around 1941-42, sold to a bidder on the phone for $125,000 (est. $100,000/150,000). It had previously sold at Swann Galleries on October 7, 2010, for $67,200. The work will be included in the forthcoming addendum to the catalogue raisonné of the artist’s work being prepared by Peter T. Nesbett and Michelle DuBois.

The Water’s Edge by Philip Leslie Hale (1865-1931) sold for $200,000 to a bidder in the room who outbid a phone bidder. The 36" x 42" oil on canvas, “property of a lady,” sold for $160,000 on an $80,000/120,000 estimate.

Porch Sitters by Milton Avery (1885-1965), signed and dated 1944 lower right, also inscribed in another hand “‘Porch Sitters’ by Milton Avery wc 1944  / 22 x 30” on the reverse, sold for $100,000 to a bidder on the phone with the head of the department, Kayla Carlsen. The watercolor, gouache, and pencil on paper, 22½" x 30¾", property from the collection of Arthur and Sara Jo Kobacker, had an estimate of $80,000/120,000.

Nestled Barns by Luigi Lucioni (1900-1988) sold for $62,500 to a bidder on the phone. The signed and dated 1948 oil on canvas, 19" x 25", had an estimate of $40,000/60,000.

Lake George by Alfred Thompson Bricher (1837-1908), signed “ATB” and dated ’63, sold for $32,500 to a buyer on the phone. The 7" x 12" oil on canvas, part of the “All That Is Glorious Around Us” collection of landscapes consigned by “an important American collector,” had been estimated at $10,000/15,000.

Franklin at the French Court by Stanley Massey Arthurs (1877-1950), signed “S.M. Arthurs,” 33" x 23¾", painted in 1915, sold to a phone bidder for $8125 (est. $4000/6000). The work, property from a collection of American illustration, depicts Secretary Conrad Alexandre Gerard, Charles Gravier, Count de Vergennes, Arthur Lee, Silas Deane, and Benjamin Franklin, according to an entry in Sotheby’s catalog.

Frederic Remington’s The Outlaw, consigned by the Art Institute of Chicago, went to a buyer who had made an advance bid of $120,000 online before the live auction. With the buyer’s premium, the total was $150,000 (est. $100,000/150,000). The bronze with brown and green patina, 23" tall, modeled in 1906 and cast in 1913, is inscribed “Frederic Remington / Copyright by” (on the base) and “ROMAN BRONZE WORKS N-Y,” along the base; it is also inscribed “No 20” beneath the base. The sculpture was gifted to the Art Institute of Chicago in 1987 by Arthur Rubloff of Chicago.

This fresh-to-market work by Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902), South and North Moat Mountains, painted circa 1862, sold in the salesroom for $106,250 (est. $80,000/120,000). The buyer was art advisor and dealer Mark Brock of Concord, Massachusetts, who was bidding while on his phone in the back of the room. Signed with monogrammed initials “AB,” the 26" x 19¼" oil on paper laid down on canvas was property from “an important American collector” whose group of consigned landscapes was entitled “All That Is Glorious Around Us.”


Originally published in the December 2019 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2019 Maine Antique Digest

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