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Purchase Story

Maine Artists Dominate Thomaston Auction

Mark Sisco | August 27th, 2017

Thomaston Place Auction Galleries, Thomaston, Maine

This year, Thomaston Place Auction Galleries, Thomaston, Maine, expanded its end-of-summer sale to three days, opening the August 25-27 presentation with about 220 paintings and sculptures from Maine artists, some contemporary, some earlier, some living, and some dead. Company vice president John Bottero explained, “We have been in a position to promote both living and past Maine artists…. Some chose to be part of it, some choose not, because there is a significant price point between gallery prices and auction prices….” Auctioneer and president Kaja Veilleux summed up after the first day had ended: “It was up and down and up and down. Some of the guys that should have brought nothing brought too much. Some of the guys that should have brought a lot didn’t bring enough…. It was an experimental sale.” But the experiment was successful enough that Thomaston Place Auction plans to repeat it next year.

Marsden Hartley (1877-1943), one of Maine’s best known and most successful native-born artists, produced a 29½" x 23¾" oil on canvas Modernist view of beams of sunlight streaming down from a multicolored sky to a similarly colored harbor below. Initialed lower right and titled simply Landscape on a label from New York City’s Downtown Gallery, the painting evinced Hartley’s characteristic style of clear, heavily delineated shapes and vivid, often sharply contrasting colors. It had been offered at auction at least once before, in 2016, but had failed to sell. This time, estimated at $100,000/150,000, the painting topped the entire sale when it sold for $169,650 (including buyer’s premium).


Marsden Hartley’s Landscape led the auction at $169,650.


This enormous oil on canvas of two women in a Riviera apartment setting by Waldo Peirce brought $33,000.

Scores of paintings by Maine artist Waldo Peirce (1884-1970) have come to market in the past few years, and at 50" x 35", an oil on canvas of two women in a French Riviera apartment has to be the largest of all of them. It was initialed and dated lower right “WP.25.” At first, the subjects were said to be Peirce’s wife at the time, actress Ivy Troutman, and Elizabeth Hadley Richardson, the wife of Peirce’s compatriot novelist Ernest Hemingway. All four were known to be living in Paris at the time of the painting. Troutman and Peirce are thought to be the inspiration for a pair of characters in Hemingway’s first novel, The Sun Also Rises, completed in 1926. But the subjects’ names were removed post-publication from auction descriptions when they could not be verified. Estimated at $20,000/30,000, the painting came up a solid winner at $33,000.

An untitled 21½" x 29½" gouache on paper by sculptor and abstract Modernist artist Alexander “Sandy” Calder (1898-1976) came with high but not unrealistic expectations at $40,000/60,000. In its original thin gilt metal frame, it was signed and dated “Calder 61” and pencil marked on the back “51 Krasner,” suggesting a connection to compatriot artist Lee Krasner (1908-1984), who became closely associated with Calder following the passing of her husband, Jackson Pollock. The painting closed at a strong $64,350.


Alexander Calder abstract gouache on paper, sold for $64,350. Thomaston Place photo.


The Butterfly Collection, this oil on canvas by Dahlov Ipcar, sold for $19,305. Thomaston Place photo.

Maine lost an art treasure when Dahlov Ipcar (1917-2017) passed away earlier this year at the age of 99. She painted until the very last day of her long life. She had no formal art training other than that given by her parents, William and Marguerite Zorach. Her career spanned nine decades, beginning with her first solo exhibition at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art in 1939. One of nine Ipcar works in the sale, The Butterfly Collection, a 31½" x 25½" framed oil on canvas, sold for $19,305, which is likely a world record and was a fitting tribute.

For more information, see (www.thomastonauction.com) or call (207) 354-8141.


The catalog listed this sandstone sculpture, with some faint remnants of pigment remaining in the facial features, as “Head of Amun, New Kingdom, post-Amarna Period, Dynasty 18, reign of Tutankhamun, ca. 1336–1327 B.C.,” with a carefully added parenthetical disclaimer of “in our opinion.” It further suggested that the bust might have been a representation of Tutankhamun. Apparently there was enough confidence in it for bidders to chase it well past the $2000/3000 estimate all the way up to $17,550. Thomaston Place photo.


Something about this late 19th-century hooked rug caused bidders to take it very seriously. The oval vignette shows a classic one-room schoolhouse with a bell tower and a flagpole flying an American flag surrounded with “ABC” and “ 1 + 1 = 2” academic notations, over the initials “HSR.” One plus one still equals two, but Internet plus phones plus floor bidding equaled a great report card at a mighty $3627 (est. $500/700). Thomaston Place photo.


Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás (1863-1952) was better known in the English-speaking world as George Santayana, author, philosopher, poet, and cultural critic. A collection of 50 illustrated holographic letters and poems from Santayana to fellow 1886 Harvard alumnus and businessman Herbert Lyman (1864-1941) drew $18,135. The correspondence spanned the years from 1885 to 1940. Most pages were embellished with ink drawings ranging from satiric doodles to well-detailed vignettes. His talents as an artist, humorist, writer, and art critic were all on display with such bon mots as “Chastity shrinks from the Italian school and Rubens is a danger to virginity.”


This counterbalance Tiffany floor lamp, with a base and adjustable neck in verdigris patina over bronze and a green Linenfold shade, marked on the base “TIFFANY STUDIOS / NEW YORK / 681,” had a $4000/6000 estimate and closed at $16,800. Thomaston Place photo.


Here is James Taylor Harwood’s 23" x 30" oil on linen of Pont Neuf, the oldest standing bridge over the Seine River in Paris, France, as viewed from the Louvre. Signed lower left and dated 1929, the painting brought $28,080, not far below the top estimate. Harwood was born in Utah and traveled to Paris to study and paint. Over the years, his style evolved from Realism to Tonalism to Impressionism. His first wife passed away in 1921. This painting reflects a renewed energy in his work, following his remarriage to much younger artist, Ione Godwin, one of his former students.


By Solon Francis Montecello Badger (1873-1919), this oil on canvas portrait of the two-masted fishing schooner Flora L. Nickerson came fresh to the market at another Maine auction in September of 2016 when it brought $7700. At first it was thought that the ship was built in Boothbay, Maine. But I found a record indicating that the “Indian header” was built in 1894 in Essex, Massachusetts, and that the ship sailed from her home port of Boston. This time through it found a new home for $10,530. Thomaston Place photo.


This Federal mahogany tall clock by George Hoff Jr. (1788-1822) of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, circa 1815, is signed on the face. It has a full-column, broken-arch pediment topped by three wooden urn finials, and the face has hand-painted spandrels and a moon-phase dial with a rocking ship fronted by two globe hemispheres. It retains the original winder, keys, weights, and pendulum. All these features brought the price up to $7020. Thomaston Place photos.


At least two bidders knew more than anyone else about this small 9" x 7" oil on canvas illustrating Shylock and Jessica from William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. Unsigned and dating from the late 18th century, with an inscription on the back reading “Esquisse de son Tableau” (“sketch of the scene”), it trashed the $800/1200 estimate and pulled in a hefty $14,040. Thomaston Place photo.


All the stars were in alignment for this matching pair of Boston or Salem, Massachusetts, demilune gate-leg card tables in mahogany—a serpentine conforming top, shadowed conch shell inlaid cartouches at the blocks, “codfish” inlaid panels, single family provenance, not a speck of restoration, and original polished surfaces. It all added up to an estimate-topping $18,000. Thomaston Place photo.


From time to time, good Orientalia brings forth startling results. Here is a pair of wood-framed Chinese coromandel lacquered panels, inlaid with semiprecious gems and showing near mirror images of birds, butterflies, leaves, and berries on a gnarled branch, all against a cream background. Estimated at $1500/2500, they stopped at a commanding $14,400. Thomaston Place photo.


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

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