Sotheby’s New York Announce Auction of American Paintings Drawings & Sculpture Dec 1

Sotheby’s New York auction of American Paintings, Drawings & Sculpture on 1 December 2011 will feature a strong selection works across the diverse genres that the category encompasses, with many of the highlights on offer from distinguished institutions and celebrated collections. Following Sotheby’s 2004 sale of a group of 31 George Catlin paintings, on offer from The Field Museum in Chicago and originally in the collection of Benjamin O’Fallon, the December 2011 sale will be led by four additional works from the collection that represent the finest from the original group. The sale will be on exhibition in Sotheby’s York Avenue galleries beginning 26 November.

Edward Hopper, Construction in Mexico. Est. $800,000/1.2 million. Photo: Sotheby’s.

Native American Paintings by George Catlin, from the Benjamin O’Fallon Collection
George Catlin was a 19th century painter who specialized in depicting Native American tribes of the Old West, and Benjamin O’Fallon – nephew of William Clark and the ‘United States Indian Agent’ for the Missouri River Tribes – was one of his first patrons. The collection that O’Fallon assembled is remarkable for including only works that Catlin painted in the West during the first two years of his effort to visit every tribe in the United States, as opposed to those he painted later from Europe.

The paintings have resided in the collection of The Field Museum in Chicago since 1894, when it purchased the 35 surviving Catlin paintings from Benjamin O’Fallon’s collection. In December 2004, the museum consigned 31 of the canvases to Sotheby’s, which sold them at auction as a single lot to a private collector. At the time of the 2004 sale, the Field Museum retained what were arguably the four finest canvases from the O’Fallon Collection, which are the four works on offer this December in New York.

The group features two portraits and two scene paintings. One Horn, Head Chief of the Miniconjou Tribe, Teton Dakota (Western Sioux) is one of the first portraits that Catlin made in the field (est. $1/1.5 million*), while Black Hawk, Prominent Sauk Chief, Sauk and Fox depicts the man who gave his name to a brief but bloody war in the summer of 1832 (est. $1/1.5 million). Interior of a Mandan Lodge is one of six surviving pictures from the Collection that depict Mandan sitters (est. $800,000/1.2 million), and Buffalo Chase, a Surround by the Hidatsa is a dramatic and chaotic hunting scene that is among the most dynamic of Catlin’s canvases (est. $800,000/1.2 million).

A Rare Portrait by Winslow Homer
The December sale will feature Winslow Homer’s rare oil painting Reverie (est. $1.2/1.8 million) from the collection of Joan Whitney Payson. The work is from a small series of four canvases executed in the summer of 1872, while the artist was staying in Hurley, New York. Each shows a young woman in a dark interior, beside a bright window view of the outdoors – the composition and costume of the girl recalling the tradition of 17th century Dutch interiors. The works stand alone in Homer’s career, as nothing the artist did before or after these works directly refers to them. Relatively small in scale, they are gem-like in execution. They are the work of an artist who had already made his mark critically both in the United States and abroad, but was still striving to find his own voice and to establish his own market.

Another rare work from the 19th century will be Red Hollyhocks by John La Farge, an artist whose works infrequently appear at auction (pictured right, est. $500/700,000). La Farge was known for experimenting with color and technique, and in this spirit he painted his 1860s hollyhock compositions in encaustic – a mix of oil and wax credited to the ancient Greeks that gives the present work its unique texture and striking coloration.

Property from the Estate of Helen Marx Sotheby’s is honored to offer a group of 18 works from the highly personal collection of Helen Marx this December. As a successful publisher under the imprint Helen Marx Books, she specialized in literary fiction, biographies and works in French. Over a period of 30 years, Mrs. Marx assembled a collection that reflected both her sophisticated taste and lifelong dedication to the arts, including beautiful examples by several of the most notable American artists of the 19th century.

Property from the Estate of Helen Marx will be led by works from Martin Johnson Heade and Winslow Homer. Heade’s Orchids and Hummingbirds is an example of the artist’s coveted pairings of the flora and fauna he first witnessed in Brazil in 1863 (est. $500/700,000). Orange Trees and Gate is one of a series of watercolors executed by Homer during his first trip to Nassau, Bahamas in 1884-85 (est.$500/700,000). Recognized as one of the 19th century’s most gifted masters of this medium, Homer’s work captures the brilliant sunshine and the abundant tropical foliage of the islands. The Marx collection will also feature still lifes by artists including Severin Roesen and William Michael Harnett, as well as a charming group of genre paintings.

Mexican Inspiration
The American Paintings, Drawings & Sculpture auction will feature two works executed in 1946 by iconic American artists visiting Mexico. Made after a three-month long trip to Mexico in that year, Crucifixion exemplifies Milton Avery’s ability to create works appealing to serious and popular audiences, while responding to a contemporary cultural dialogue between the United States and Mexico around the time of World War II (est. $1/1.5 million). The work depicts a local woman worshipping in the Parrochia church of San Miguel de Allende.

To escape the tense climate of New England, Edward Hopper and his wife Jo began visiting Mexico for their summers in 1943. On their first trip they discovered the small town of Saltillo, and they returned there each summer for several years. Always painting en plein air and after 5 pm in order to record the best late afternoon light, Hopper produced an impressive group of watercolors inspired by the old town, including Construction in Mexico in 1946 (est. $800,000/1.2 million).

Property from International Museums
In addition to the Catlin paintings from the Field Museum, Sotheby’s is pleased to offer works from several additional museums as part of the December auction. Property from the Birger Sandzén Memorial Gallery features Marsden Hartley’s Untitled (Still Life) from 1919, which depicts a blooming cactus in a Pueblo Indian blackware olla, set on a red and white striped table cloth with a view of the New Mexico landscape behind (est. $700/900,000). Johan Oscar Thorsen – a colleague of artist Birger Sandzén at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas – had purchased the work directly from Hartley after a trip to Santa Fe, and on his death it was bequeathed to the Birger Sandzén Memorial Gallery at Bethany.

Property from the Textile Museum, Washington, D.C. will include a bronze portrait medallion of Robert Louis Stevenson that documents his friendship with the artist Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the acclaimed sculptor of the monument to Civil War hero David Farragut installed in Madison Square Park (est. $100/150,000). Property from the Amerind Foundation Collection features Robert Henri’s Untitled [Alanna] from 1928 (est. $400/600,000). The work is among Henri’s last paintings, and depicts a young girl from Achill Island, Ireland, where the artist and his wife lived in the 1920s. And Property from the Israel Museum, Jerusalem will offer works by Thomas Hart Benton and Marsden Hartley.

American Illustration by Norman Rockwell
American Illustration in the sale will be led by a group of eight works by quintessential American artist Norman Rockwell. The group will feature the Saturday Evening Post cover Couple with Milkman, which depicts a couple on their way home from an evening event, stopping a milkman to check the time (est. $1.2/1.8 million). The work reflects the central role that young romance had come to play in Rockwell’s life – after divorcing his first wife Irene O’Connor in 1930, he married the young schoolteacher Mary Barstow – and further conveys the inherent humor the artist found in all walks of daily American life.

The December auction will also feature Rockwell’s work in advertising. Whispering Sweepstakes is a group of four paintings commissioned by the Corn Products Company for use in ads for Skippy peanut butter (est. $200/300,000), while both Young Husband Checking Grocery List (est. $250/350,000) and Pregnant Woman Drinking Tea (est. $200/300,000) were commissioned by the Brooke Bond Foods Company for use in ads for its Red Rose Tea label.

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