From the lavish brushwork of a Western landscape to the myriad of textures embodied by a metropolitan setting, the representation of the American experience, as captured on canvas, is awash in color, texture, beauty and light. On April 8, 2008, Bonhams & Butterfields – California’s oldest and largest auction house– will bring artworks embodying the American visual experience to auction with their highly anticipated spring sale of California & American paintings and sculpture.
Simulcast in both Los Angeles and San Francisco, the auction will highlight masterworks from notable and iconic artists such as William Wendt, Maurice Braun, William Herbert Dunton, Ernest Martin Hennings, E. Charlton Fortune, Granville Redmond, Edgar Payne, Joseph Raphael, Joseph Kleitsch, Percy Gray, Thomas Hill, David Howard Hitchcock and Phil Dike. Works with strong ties to the California landscape, it’s cities, and the American experience will fill out the sale, along with a smattering of more decorative still-life paintings and portraiture.
Highlighting the April sale is William Wendt’s monumental landscape View to the Valley (est. $200/300,000). The 36×60-inch lush green landscape flows over rolling hills connecting earth and sky while captivating the viewer.
“View to the Valley is one of the largest compositions by the artist to come to auction in recent years. Offering this rare work on April 8th reinforces this firm’s position as the preeminent source for California and American art at auction,” said Scot Levitt, Director of California & American Painting and Sculpture at Bonhams & Butterfields.
Additional paintings by Wendt featured in the auction include California Landscape (est. $70/90,000), El Toro Road at Laguna Beach (est. $60/80,000) and A Trickle of Road (est. $50/70,000).
Also featured in the Spring auction are exceptional fresh-to-market works including Sunset in the Foothills by William Herbert Dunton (est. $150/200,000). Typical of Dunton’s technique, the 16×20-inch oil on canvas work is a reduction of shape to vital geometric form, creating recurring patterns pleasing to the eye.
Anxious from the pressures associated with being a commercial illustrator, Dunton relocated to Taos, New Mexico in 1914. He became head of Taos Fish and Game Conservation Group after 1915. In 1920, the artist’s health began to fail and he was relegated to “dry” hunt, producing landscape sketches in a variety of sizes in the mediums of paint and pencil. “Many of his later sketches, including the very abstract and ornamental Sunset in the Foothills are by far the most sought after of Dunton’s works,” said Levitt.
Following the strong market interest for works by female artist E. Charlton Fortune (much created during the August and December 2007 sales), Bonhams & Butterfields is pleased to offer St. Ives Harbor (est. $150/200,000). Although the artist is possibly better known for her later work in the genres of portraiture and religious compositions, St. Ives Harbor is an earlier impressionistic style painting with emphasis on subtle color and light. The fresh-to-market work captures the natural beauty of the English coast and a working harbor.
In a letter written from St. Ives on November 20th, 1922, Fortune wrote: “… It is impossible to take large canvases out of doors here, as the light changes so rapidly, but I am doing some of the best stuff I have ever done now…when the tide is in, it’s generally a sheet of melted silver…all silhouette against a silver background. The color of it all is too amazing for words. When we first came here, everyone spoke of the grayness of St. Ives. It is like a Claude Monet but never gray…”
“Collectors are currently seeking Fortune’s rare early pieces, such as St. Ives Harbor for its use of color, light and Impressionistic qualities,” said Levitt. “We were by no means surprised when a similar work entitled Late Afternoon, Monterey set a new world auction record for the artist here at Bonhams in December 2007, bringing $1,832,000. The work more than tripled the previous auction record we’d set at $480,000 only four months prior. Fortune’s paintings are becoming highly sought after at public auction.”
An additional highlight also depicting a European scene is Spring Rue (est. $125/175,000) by Joseph Raphael. Impressionist in style, the work is infused with light and a feeling of the open air. It features interesting brushwork and use of pastel tones, highlighting the overall movement across the canvas.
“Similar to Spring Morning which sold well in the December 2007 auction, Spring Rue possesses some of the same modernist overtones and themes,” said Levitt. “We continue to see a strong demand for impressionist works.”
Two works similar in impressionistic tone to be offered are Joseph Kleitsch’s San Fernando Mission (est. $50/70,000) and Garden Reflection (est. $40/60,000) by Donna N. Schuster. Schuster’s Garden Reflection depicts a woman in an intimate garden setting, seemingly enjoying a moment of relaxation and reverie. Kleitsch depicts his San Fernando Mission with a quiet and calmness, only showing a few small birds interacting in the scene before the large statue adjacent to the fountain. Both works showcase the artists’ ability to use color, light, shadow, and depth of composition to convey the desired feelings.
David Howard Hitchcock’s Waimanalo Beach on Windward Oahu, 1934, will also be featured in the spring auction. Signed and inscribed by the artist, the work is infused with the local colors, sensations and experiences native to the Hawaiian Islands. “The artist spent a great deal of time traveling around the area while documenting indigenous subject matter and tropical vistas native to the Hawaiian Islands. Works rich in local color and picturesque beach subject matter such as Waimanalo Beach on Windward Oahu are always very popular with collectors.” said Levitt.
Additional highlights for the April sale include two works by Granville Redmond. A rare nighttime painting entitled Moonlight on the Marsh (est. $80/120,000) and an Antelope Valley landscape filled with wildflowers (est. $125/175,000) will be offered. Other works on offer include Edgar Payne’s Home of the Golden Trout, Sierras (est. $70/90,000); and a rare oil painting entitled Seagulls and Beach Bathers (est. $40/60,000), by Phil Dikea principal figure of the California watercolor movement.