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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Westervelt Collection for Christie’s American Paintings Auction

On May 18, as part of its sale of Important American Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture, Christie’s will offer 29 paintings from the private collection of The Westervelt Company, formerly Gulf States Paper Corporation, based in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Amassed over four decades by Jonathan (Jack) Westervelt Warner, the former chief executive of Gulf States Paper Corporation, the selection includes masterworks by the leading American artists of 19th and 20th centuries, including Albert Bierstadt, William Trost Richards, Childe Hassam, Frederick Carl Frieseke, Marsden Hartley, Thomas Hart Benton, Charles Ephraim Burchfield, and Andrew Wyeth, among others. The complete group is estimated to achieve in excess of US$ 10 million.

Eric Widing, Senior Vice President, American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, stated: “The Westervelt Company collection is one of the most celebrated in the field of American art. The selected works represent a cross-section of American art at its finest, from the landscapes of the Hudson River School to the vibrant experiments of the Early Modernists and the Stieglitz Circle. For years, collectors, dealers and curators have anticipated art from this storied collection becoming available, and the sale is expected to be one of the high points of the year.”

Highlights of the collection include:

Childe Hassam (1859-1935)
Celia Thaxter’s Garden
Oil on canvas
Painted circa 1890

A superlative example of Hassam’s lively Impressionist style, Celia Thaxter’s Garden is an idyllic summertime vision of nature. Painted circa 1890, during one of Hassam’s first visits to the remote island of Appledore off the coast of Maine, the setting is the lush piazza and garden owned by the poet Celia Thaxter, an engaging figure who introduced Hassam to the island. He was so inspired by the unique setting that he returned to the island time and again for the next 30 years. Among the many works Hassam completed on the island, Celia Thaxter’s Garden, with its brilliant light and jewel-like color, remains one of the best examples of this early period in the artist’s long career.

Frederick Carl Frieseke (1874-1939)
Oil on canvas
Painted circa 1915

Frederick Frieseke’s images of young women are celebrated as some of the finest achievements of American Impressionism, and Sunspots is widely recognized as a masterpiece of his oeuvre. Painted in Giverny, France circa 1915, this masterful painting depicts a reclining nude arrayed against a lush landscape, her skin dappled with sun spots. Painted in a tapestry of short, dense Impressionist strokes, Sunspots cleverly combines traditional figuration with modern elements, including rich decorative patterns and a daring use of vivid color.

William Trost Richards (1833-1905)
Mackerel Cove, Jamestown,
Rhode Island
Oil on canvas
laid down on masonite

One of the finest canvases painted by the master landscape artist William Trost Richards, Mackerel Cove, Jamestown, Rhode Island, is at once sweepingly panoramic and stunningly detailed. Richards traveled widely along the Eastern seaboard, executing vivid coastal landscapes and seascapes that celebrate their expansive beauty. In this work, Richards combines his Pre-Raphaelite style of intricate detail with his later preference for broad vistas. As with all of his closely-studied views of particular inlets and coves, Mackerel Cove is celebrated for its intense attention to detail and faithful depiction of the idyllic Rhode Island shoreline.

Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975)
Shipping Out
Oil on canvas

Painted in 1942, in the wake of the attacks on Pearl Harbor, Shipping Out belongs to a deeply patriotic series of paintings in which Benton sought to convey the daily lives and struggles of the troops caught up in World War II. Here, he focuses on a single GI as he embarks for war, his gear slung across his back and taking a last glance backward before stepping aboard. Benton’s narrative works of this period — which demonstrate a dramatic shift in style from his earlier, harmonious scenes of figures in rural settings — were immensely popular and were often reproduced in news reels, newspapers and even as war bonds posters.

Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902)
Seal Rock, California
Oil on paper laid down on canvas
Executed circa 1870

Capturing in marvelous detail the splendid light and powerful energy of nature, as well as the misty air and rugged shore so characteristic of the San Francisco coast, Bierstadt’s depictions of Seal Rocks are among the artist’s most famous and beloved West Coast subjects. This scene takes in the rocky coastal isle located below San Francisco’s historic Cliff House, where to this day travelers dine and gaze with wonder at the multitudes of sea lions that gather there to sun and frolic. Larger in scale and more highly finished than most of his compositions of this type, Seal Rock, California was most likely painted by Bierstadt on the spot, making it one of the earliest California landscapes painted directly from nature.

Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009)
Dory and Spritsail (Silver Cove)
Tempera on Masonite

Painted in 1937 — the same year of Wyeth’s breakout solo exhibition at the Macbeth Gallery in New York — Dory and Spritsail (Silver Cove) embodies the most exceptional hallmarks of Andrew Wyeth’s accomplishments in the tempera medium. Here, Wyeth demonstrates his early mastery of the characteristic blend of precision and subtlety that would make him one of the most celebrated figures in American art.

Marsden Hartley (1877-1943)
Autumn Cascade
Oil on board
Painted circa 1910

At the time of its creation, during the summer of 1910, Hartley’s Autumn Cascade represented the height of the avant-garde movement in the United States. Influenced by the great master Henri Matisse and his fellow painter Max Weber, the 33-year old artist was pioneering an entirely new visual vocabulary for American Art based on high-key Fauve colors and thickly impastoed brushstrokes. Works such as Autumn Cascade both revitalized Hartley’s art and gave rise to a new form of gestural abstraction that would foreshadow the Abstract Expressionist movement still to come.

Auction: Important American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture May 18, 2011

Viewings: Christie’s Rockefeller Center Galleries May 14-17, 2011

Image: Childe Hassam (1859-1935), Celia Thaxter’s Garden, oil on canvas. Estimate: $1 – 1.5 million. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2011

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium

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