Purchase Story

Freeman’s American Paintings

Freeman’s, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Photos courtesy Freeman’s

More than 100 people filled the seats in the salesroom and stood at the back for Freeman’s sale of American art on December 3, 2017. Thirty-one of them were successful, and they went home with paintings by Pennsylvania Impressionists, an Andrew Wyeth letter with a watercolor of a moose, and a design for a poster by children’s book author and illustrator Maurice Sendak. There were nearly as many successful phone bidders—29 to be exact—and 28 successful online bidders between Invaluable and Freeman’s new platform.

The Snow Storm by Edward Willis Redfield (1869-1965), oil on canvas, 277/8" x 31¼", painted in 1915 and exhibited in Chicago, Buffalo, and Worcester before 1918. Not on the market since 1927, it sold to a New Hope collector in the salesroom for $187,500 (est. $100,000/150,000). It was accompanied by the original letter of authenticity from dealer J.J. Gillespie of Pittsburgh, and by a letter from the artist.

Woodchopper’s Home (Bohl’s Mill) by Arthur Meltzer (1893-1989),signed and inscribed with title and “Bohl’s Mill” on upper stretcher on reverse, oil on canvas, 20" x 24", sold in the salesroom for $11,875 (est. $3000/5000) to the New Hope collectors who had bought the Redfield snow scene.

One couple, who said they had never come to a Freeman’s sale before, bought four paintings: The Snow Storm by Edward Willis Redfield (1869-1965) for $187,500 with buyer’s premium (est. $100,000/$150,000); Winter in Manayunk by Antonio Pietro Martino (1902-1988) for $7500 (est. $2000/3000); Woodchopper’s Home (Bohl’s Mill) by Arthur Meltzer (1893-1989) for $11,875 (est. $3000/5000); and Houses by the River by Susette Inloes Schultz Keast (1892-1932)for $16,250 (est. $2500/4000). They said they live in New Hope where the Bucks County painters are collected with gusto.

Another collector in the room paid $81,250 (est. $30,000/50,000) for an early Redfield painting, Coast of France, and another in the room paid $50,000 for Godolphin Farm, a view of a Cornwall estate by Walter Elmer Schofield (1867-1944). Schofield was born in Philadelphia but emigrated to the U.K. in 1897.

Four phone bidders and an absentee bidder competed for this 30" x 28" Daniel Garber (1880-1958) oil on canvas in a Harer frame, A Jersey Road. It sold on the phone for $334,000 (est. $200,000/300,000). Fresh to market and not shown since the 1930s, it came from the collection of Dr. H. M. Ullmann of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. According to the catalogue raisonné, it was painted from a hilltop in Lambertville, New Jersey, in 1929.

Six phone bidders competed for this Childe Hassam (1859-1935) watercolor heightened with white gouache on paper laid down on board, 9⅞" x 7¾". It sold for $28,750 (est. $10,000/15,000). Rainy Day, Columbus Avenue, Boston has an impressive provenance. It was once thought to depict Old Chelsea, London, and now is identified as showing Columbus Avenue in Boston. From 1885 to 1896, Hassam painted many views of Boston in rain and snow with luminous effects of precipitation. This view looking northeast—from a vantage point not far from Hassam’s then-home, the Albemarle Hotel at 282 Columbus Avenue—has in the background the tower of the Boston and Providence Railroad station, which was built in 1871 in Park Square. It will be included in Stuart Feld and Kathleen Burnside’s catalogue raisonné of the artist’s work.

 

Buffalo by Alexander Phimister Proctor (1860-1950) with “Alexander Phimister Proctor” on a plaque on the back of the base, bronze with greenish-brown patina, 12" high (including base), sold for $35,000 (est. $30,000/50,000). Alexander Phimister Proctor created a large-scale sculpture of a buffalo for a planned bridge in Washington, D.C. This is likely an early working model of the final sculpture, which, along with three other Buffalo sculptures by Proctor, adorns the bridge now known as Dumbarton Bridge.

Charles Ephraim Burchfield (1893-1967), The Yellow Bank, signed with artist’s monogram and dated 1939 bottom right, also inscribed “April 17, 1939 / (North of Otto-Springville-Otto RD)” on reverse, watercolor on board, sheet size 18" x 25", sold on the phone for $21,250 (est. $7000/10,000).

Miss Eleanor S.F. Pue by Thomas Eakins (1844-1916). Records indicate that this oil on canvas, 20" x 16", in a Wilner frame was inscribed on reverse in the sitter’s brother’s hand “Eleanor S.F. Pue by Thomas Eakins, 1908.” It sold for $56,250 (est. $50,000/80,000) to an agent in the salesroom. According to the catalog, “Eakins met Miss Pue at a party when she was twenty years old. Taken with Eleanor’s striking appearance, he stared at her the entire night and followed her throughout the room. He later sent her a letter asking if he could ‘make a little painting of [her] head.’ Pue was hesitant at first as she knew Eakins’ scandalous reputation with women all too well, and was afraid he would make advances. She eventually accepted and posed for Eakins three or four mornings a week. Eakins had her wear a very low-necked gown, a trend that can be observed in other portraits of women he made after 1900. While she posed, he complimented her features, admired the bones of her shoulders and chest, and would poke at them with the handle of his brush and say ‘beautiful bones.’ Pue’s mother is said to have cried when she discovered the finished portrait. Pue herself loathed it. When it was exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy in 1908, her friends mocked her and nicknamed the portrait ‘The Goddess of Murder.’ According to 19th century standards of beauty, the portrait is not the least bit flattering. Eakins seemed to have fully recreated all of Miss Pue’s physical imperfections, namely her small head, long nose and low forehead.” The portrait was sold along with three letters from the artist regarding arrangements for the painting of Pue’s portrait. Two of them are dated June 30, 1907, and August 3, 1907. The third letter (undated) reads: “My dear Miss Pue, On the 8th I meet the National Academicians at their annual banquet in New York. I want to make a little painting of your head. Could you come up tomorrow Tuesday morning about 9 o'clock? You might bring a dress or two or short waist, that we may fix a pose. I will give you the study but you must lend it to me if I want it for exhibition purposes. Yours truly, Thomas Eakins.” It is one of the last portraits of young women Eakins painted in his career.

Small paintings were popular, and most sold above estimates. Country Circus by Paulette Van Roekens (1896-1988),8" x 10¼", sold for $6875 (est. $3000/5000); John Folinsbee’s Lock-New Hope,81 /16" x 103/8", sold for $8125 (est. $4000/6000); and George William Sotter’s Gloucester Scene—a daylight view rather than one of the night scenes he is known for—sold for $8750 (est. $5000/8000).

Godolphin Farm by Walter Elmer Schofield (1867-1944), signed and inscribed with title and date “Oct. 9-1939” on the back, oil on canvas, 30" x 36", sold for $50,000 (est. $25,000/40,000). It was painted in Cornwall, England, where the artist lived during World War II.

The first 95 lots of sale were not Pennsylvania Impressionism, and their performance reflected the current state of the market. A couple in the salesroom paid $62,500 (est. $40,000/60,000) for Maurice Sendak’s Reading is Fun!, the original watercolor and gouache artwork produced for National Reading Day, as requested by former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, for a poster depicting the characters from Where the Wild Things Are. The first lot of the day, Rainy Day, Columbus Avenue, Boston by Childe Hassam (1859-1935), 97/8" x 7¾", sold on the phone for $28,750 (est. $10,000/15,000). Once thought to depict Old Chelsea, London, it is now identified as showing Columbus Avenue in Boston looking northeast from a vantage point not far from where Hassam lived, the Albemarle Hotel. The painting demonstrates Hassam’s ability to paint a wet day.

There were some bargains. A 1937 lithograph by Benton Murdoch Spruance (1904-1967), one from an edition of 40, The People Work - Night, sold for $2625 (est. $2000/3000) to the Woodmere Art Museum. The same museum bought Branches and Boats by Henry Bayley Snell (1858-1943)for $6875 (est. $3000/5000).

Of the 150 lots offered, 133 sold for a combined total of $1,816,632 with an 88.6% sell-through rate by lot. The market for 19th-century landscapes is selective, but the sale total was well over estimates. Alasdair Nichol knows how to estimate, and he has a large private following. The beginning of the holiday season is a good time for an American paintings sale.

For more information, contact Freeman’s at (215) 563-9275 or check the website (www.freemansauction.com).

Letter to Richard Carr by Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009) with a watercolor depiction of a moose, sheet size 11" x 8½", dated “Oct. 14, 1983” left, signed “Andrew” bottom right on reverse. The letter reads: “Dear Dick, Came back to the Lighthouse on Southern Island the other day and found this: bull moose in our front yard!! What a sight. I was able to make a couple of pencil drawings which might be useful for some future painting. He swam onto the island while we were away and a fisherman friend of mine saw him late in the morning, swimming off to another island. This place is certainly wild. It was good to hear from you, and to hear you are well. We will be coming back to Chadds Ford about November first. Look forward to seeing you. Warmest wishes to your lady and yourself.” It sold in the salesroom for $15,000 (est. $3000/5000). Carr was Wyeth’s studio assistant in Chadds Ford. Betsy Wyeth purchased Southern Island in 1978, and in the early 1990s the island was transferred to Andrew and Betsy Wyeth’s son Jamie.

Street scenes by Impressionist painters are popular. Guy Carleton Wiggins (1883-1962), The Old and New New York, signed, titled, and dated “Mar. 1956” on reverse, oil on canvas, 24¼" x 361/8", sold to a collector on the phone for $100,000 (est. $50,000/80,000). According to the catalog, The Old and New New York, painted in 1956, just six years before the artist’s death, depicts the Plaza Hotel from the intersection of West 59th Street and Fifth Avenue, looking south, which was a favorite subject for the artist, whose wintry New York City scenes define his oeuvre. The painting shows horse-drawn hansom cabs lined up in front of the Plaza Hotel and yellow cabs and buses on Fifth Avenue. A letter from Guy Wiggins Jr. confirming the authenticity of the work accompanied the lot.

The Inner Harbor by Susette Inloes Schultz Keast (1892-1932), oil on canvas, 25 1/8" x 30 1/8", sold on the phone for $40,625 (est. $10,000/15,000), a record for the artist. Keast, the grandniece of Franz Xaver Winterhalter, court painter to Napoleon III of France, studied at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, now Moore College of Art and Design, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where she received a Cresson European Fellowship at age 19. She traveled widely and lived with her husband, a Philadelphia architect, in a townhouse on Rittenhouse Square, where her home studio was designed to resemble the palace of a Chinese emperor. She exhibited with the Philadelphia Ten, a group of women artists of whom Fern Coppedge is the most famous. Keast died at age 40. Five of her paintings were consigned to this sale by her granddaughters.


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

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