Bonhams May 22 American Art auction at the Madison Avenue salesroom saw success across categories, particularly for 19th century paintings as well as sculpture from a variety of periods. Interest came overwhelmingly from the US, with discerning bidders from the UK and Europe also represented. Bidding by telephone proved to be the most popular method overall, yet fortunate attendees and enthusiastic online bidders still managed to take home a significant share of the top lots.
Eastman Johnson (American, 1824-1906) Indian Family oil on canvas 19 1/8 x 22 3/4in Painted circa 1856-57. Sold for US$ 422,500 inc. premium
The auction’s cover lot, Eastman Johnson’s “Indian Family,” painted circa 1856-57, led the auction, achieving $422,500. Coming directly from the artist’s family, the work was painted during a little-known period in Johnson’s career when he observed the lifestyle of the Ojibwe Indians living near Superior, Wisconsin, first-hand.
Works by Albert Bierstadt also performed well. A mammoth Bierstadt, “Early Snow in Yosemite Valley, Sentinel Rock,” realized $338,500. The painting embodied all the compositional elements for which Bierstadt is renowned, such as sweeping vistas and dramatic angles. In addition, “Study of a Bighorn Ram,” a small and charming Bierstadt on offer also proved popular, selling for $47,500.
Other highlights included “Homestead at Night,” a classic nocturnal scene by George William Sotter, that sold for $128,000. Theodore Earl Butler’s “New York Harbor,” showing a distinctly Impressionist influence, was one of several lots that surpassed its pre-sale estimate, selling for $86,500. Another example, Worthington Whittredge’s “A Catskill Brook,” realized $40,000, quadrupling its pre-sale low estimate.
Sculpture was very successful, with every example on offer selling. Paul Howard Manship’s “Flight of Night” realized the highest price for a sculpture in the auction, selling for $116,500. Often considered one of Manship’s most elegant works, the 13-inch bronze from 1916 shows the early influence of classical Greek sources on the artist. A 22-inch Max Kalish bronze of a hammer-wielding worker from his renowned Labor Series sold for $35,000, and William Zorach’s bronze “Innocence: Portrait of the Artist’s Daughter” achieved $27,500.
“We are pleased with the results of the May 22 sale, particularly for the Johnson, the Bierstadts and all of the sculptures on offer,” said Kayla Carlsen, Bonhams Senior Specialist and head of the American Art auction. “Interest was consistent across categories indicating increased activity and market strength. With nearly $7 million sold in American art at Bonhams in 2013 so far, we are feeling very positive about the upcoming American Art and California & Western Art auctions.”
Bonhams next American Art auction will take place in December in New York.