Two spectacular western paintings by W.R. Leigh, Home Sweet Home, 1932 and Renegade at Bay, 1941, are estimated to bring in a combined $700,000+ when they are offered as part of Heritage Auctions’ Nov. 5 Art of the American West Signature® Auction, at the company’s Design District Annex, 1518 Slocum Street. The paintings carry $400,000+ and $300,000+ estimates, respectively.
“Acquired in the early 1940s, these works belonged to Eric Jonsson, co-founder of Texas Instruments and one of the most revered mayors Dallas has ever known, deservedly credited with putting Dallas on the business map,” said Kirsty Buchanan, Consignment Director for Western Art at Heritage. “Home Sweet Home and Renegade at Bay both demonstrate Leigh’s expert draftsmanship and evoke the strong narrative quality that collectors seek in his work.”
“Home Sweet Home was painted during the depression and is a very introspective canvas,” added Buchanan. “A major work, this large painting reveals an emotional depth and a restrained energy pulsing just beneath the surface, while Renegade at Bay was painted prior to Leigh’s 1944 national exhibition, where it received critical acclaim as an audience favorite. Both paintings are quintessential Leigh: isolation of man in the wilderness, highly narrative, imminent human struggle, signature palette and both are truly museum quality.”
Leigh’s Home, Sweet Home, 1932, a masterpiece of oil on canvas, is an evocative painting of three men sharing a campfire set against a golden Southwestern sky. It contains all the elements that have made Leigh’s work a perennial favorite among Western art collectors.
By that time, Leigh, who was born in rural West Virginia in 1866, had spent many years traveling throughout the West, taking a particular interest in the Indian lands of New Mexico and Arizona. He used his travels to make meticulous sketches and oil studies of the land and people of the Southwest, often producing more than 100 images in a single location. Later, back in his New York studio, he referred to those sketches to create large works such as this painting. In Home Sweet Home, Leigh utilized the long hours he spent painting directly in the field to present a quiet scene rich in detail and color. His three companions, two cowboys and a Navaho Indian are dramatically lit by a small campfire and are surrounded by their provisions and gear. The three riders’ horses are tethered at the horizon line and contrast against a brilliantly colored sky.
With Renegade at Bay, 1941, another superb oil painting, Leigh fully showcases his talent as both a figure painter and a landscapist, skills masterfully honed through his rigorous training in the European academies.
As always, Leigh deftly incorporates details and nuances that add to the painting’s overall feeling of reality. A meandering stream pools water just to the left of the rider adding yet another authentic detail, while the cowboy’s hat lies in the sand to the horse’s right giving the viewer the sense of having just walked up on the scene as it is unfolding. At the forefront of the scene is a beautifully drawn and painted horse whose calm demeanor is an effective contrast to the tension displayed by the cowboy who is awaiting whatever danger lies just around the bend.
The auction will also feature paintings by George Hallmark (Calor del Sol, 1997, estimated at $15,000+), recently recognized by the Eiteljorg Museum as their 2011 Artist of Distinction at Quest for the West, and Curt Walters (Bodeful Comber[Point Lobos], estimated at $15,000+), recipient of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum’s 2011 Buyers Choice Award at Prix de West.
“I am also very pleased to present an exceptional work by Clark Hulings, Landscape #2 (Horses Before the Storm), 1973, estimated at $40,000+. Hulings was a great representational artist that we lost this year.”
Other notable works in Heritage’s Art of the American West auction are The Raven Followers by Tom Lovell (Estimate: $150,000+), which was created for the 1975 National Academy of Western Art invitational – now known as the Prix de West. Birger Sandzén’s Early Fall, Smoky River (estimate: $70,000+) is a marvelous painting which is being offered by the Pratt Community College Foundation. This work was exhibited in Pratt, Kansas, in March of 1941 where it was acquired by the college directly from the artist.
“Pratt College is offering this work from its private collection,” said Buchanan, “and with the resurgence in Sandzén’s popularity, we’re optimistic that the market value of this lovely work will hold true and be a much-needed boon to the school.”
Anchoring the Nov. 5 auction are works by other 19th, 20th, and 21st century masters such as Maynard Dixon, Grace Carpenter Hudson, Wilson Hurley and Joseph Fleck.
Taking place on the same day, Saturday, Nov. 5, Heritage will also present its Texas Art Signature® Auction, with examples of many Texas masters expected to tempt collectors. Highlights include Julian Onderdonk’s sublime Bluebonnets at Sunrise(estimate: $60,000+) and Otis Dozier’s Old House, McKinney Ave Dallas, 1932, a classic regionalist work by the artist, estimated at $20,000+. Ha.com