Sotheby’s New York Auction of American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture

. May 7, 2010

Sotheby’s New York auction of American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture on 19 May 2010 will offer collectors a rich array of works by American artists from the 19th and 20th centuries. The auction contains a strong selection of modern pictures, with many paintings that are both rare and fresh to the market. Works from the sale will be exhibited at Sotheby’s New York galleries beginning 15 May.


Georgia O’Keeffe, Inside Clam Shell. Oil on canvas, 24 by 36 in. Painted in 1930. Est. $3/5 million. Photo: Sotheby’s

Featured among the selection of modern works is Georgia O’Keeffe’s Inside Clam Shell, 1930 (est. $3/5 million), from a Private Collector. A pioneering modernist, O’Keeffe continually looked for ways to paint natural objects in new ways; moving from realism to abstraction and back again. By manipulating scale and context in ordinary objects, such as shells, she taught herself to transform them into compelling new subjects. Painted in 1930, Inside Clam Shell, and its close companion Clam Shell, in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, were recently featured in the traveling exhibition organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art entitled Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstraction.

O’Keeffe’s Black Petunia and White Morning Glory I (est. $2/3 million) was a gift to the present owner from the artist’s sister, Anita O’Keeffe Young. The 1920s were a prolific period for O’Keeffe, when she spent summers at her husband and dealer Alfred Stieglitz’s family home on Lake George. The natural world there provided a wealth of subject matter, but it was her ground-breaking larges-cale images of flowers that captured the New York art world’s attention. Black Petunia and While Morning Glory I is part of her refined series of the same name consisting of three pictures, in which the juxtaposition of the two flowers, one a delicate pinkish-white and the other a rich purple-black, create a complex play of color and volume.

Painted in 1929, Café, Place des Vosges, by Stuart Davis, (est. $3/5 million) from the Collection of Carolyn and Roger Horchow, Dallas, was completed during the artist’s year-long sojourn in Paris. As a lover of urban life, Davis was immediately seduced by the city’s charms and, in his paintings, returned from abstraction to the vernacular, Cubist-inspired imagery of his earlier New York cityscapes and New England harbor scenes. Café, Place des Vosges, like all of Davis’s Paris pictures, is extremely adventurous in terms of color, with planes of airy pink, blue and creamy white contrasting against opaque dark and red-brown shapes. Also from the Collection of Carolyn and Roger Horchow, Marsden Harley’s Berlin Series, No. 1 (est. $1.5/2.5 million) is one of a group of four smaller canvases closely related to Hartley’s well known Amerika series. Hartley scholar Gail Scott has proposed that this group of works is among the artist’s earliest paintings done in Berlin, which would become the subject of Hartley’s groundbreaking entrance onto the international stage of modernism.

The sale will also feature works by American Impressionists, including John Singer Sargent’s In a Gondola (Jane de Glehn), also from the Horchow Collection (est. $1.5/2.5 million). The watercolor depicts Sargent’s friend Jane de Glehn leisurely floating along a canal and seen from Sargent’s ‘floating studio’ as he sketches her from the opposite end of their gondola. A rare 1889 salon picture by George Hitchcock, Tulip Culture (est. $700/900,000) showcases the artist’s skill as a colorist and his life-long interest in Holland’s brilliant flower blooms. Highlights by Mary Cassatt include Margot in White, circa 1903-04 (est. $800,000/1.2 million), which embodies Cassatt’s mature portrait style, and Mother and Child, circa 1898-99 (est. $500/700,000).

Robert Henri painted Zenka (Portrait of Eugenie Stein) (est. $400/600,000) in 1904, by which point he had fully transitioned from landscapes to portraiture, concentrating on paintings intended to impress juries. In 1909, however, when a portrait by fellow artist George Luks was rejected by the National Academy of Design’s jury, Henri was outraged and organized the first exhibition of The Eight, a group of independent like-minded artists. Luks painted Lily Williams (est. $800,000/1.2 million) in 1909 after frequenting the tenements of New York for inspiration for the popular comic strip “Hogan’s Alley.” While there researching and sketching, he began to paint the immigrant children of lower Manhattan. Captivated by their expressions, he eschewed sentimentality and imbued his models with tenderness and dignity. Maurice Prendergast, who also exhibited with The Eight, painted Crépuscule (est. $600/800,000) during the latter part of his career, and may have exhibited it at the landmark 1913 Armory Show.

Among the 19th century highlights is Martin Johnson Heade’s Two Sun Angel Hummingbirds on a Branch New Two Orchids, painted circa 1890-1904 (est. $800,000/1.2 million). Heade had a self-proclaimed ‘monomaniacal’ fascination with hummingbirds and painted some fifty-five canvases depicting hummingbirds and orchids in a delicate balance of landscape and still-life, including the present work. Severin Roesen’s Flowers, dated 1850 (est. $500/700,000) is the earliest known dated work by Roesen to use a landscape background, suggesting it was a motif he started while working in New York, not when he later moved to Pennsylvania as scholars once thought.

Two early important portraits include an 18th century portrait of George Washington at Princeton by Charles Peale Polk (est. $400/600,000) on offer from the James S. Copley Library, known for its astonishing collection of original manuscripts of American history. Gilbert Stuart’s Master Clarke (est. 400/600,000), which dates from Stuart’s studies in London during the 1780s, depicts a young boy as an archer, a mandatory activity for upper-class boys at the time.

Thomas Moran’s Coconino Pines and Cliff, Arizona, 1902 (est. $500/700,000) is a highlight of the Western works on offer. As one of the preeminent painters of the American West, the Santa Fe railroad sponsored Moran to make numerous trips to the Grand Canyon to promote travel to the region. Moran’s rich scenes of the area erase any sign of tourism that had encroached on the landscape, omitting train tracks, roads and buildings and allowing the viewer to experience the landscape as if for the first time. The sale will also include cast no. 6 of Frederic Remington’s Mountain Man. Estimated at $700/900,000, this example is one of only a few versions of the Mountain Man where the rear leg of the horse is in the air. After cast no. 7, Remington adjusted several details, changing the rider’s head, the flintlock gun, the tail, and most notably bringing the hind leg down to the precipice. Leon Gaspard’s travels throughout the Asian continent inspired Manchurian Forest (est. $700/900,000). Likely painted upon his return to his adopted home of Taos in 1924, the painting’s towering trees envelop a small caravan of travelers, while pockets of dappled light reflect off of the trees, creating a luminous backdrop.

Lower Image: John Singer Sargent, In a Gondola (Jane de Glehn). Watercolor on paper, 18 by 12 in. Est. $1.5/2.5 million. Photo: Sotheby’s

Category: Fine Art

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