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Purchase Story

Hartley Tops Art Auction

Julie Schlenger Adell | May 24th, 2017

Bonhams, New York City

Photos courtesy Bonhams

Marsden Hartley was hot at Bonhams’ American art auction on May 24. His 1930 oil Landscape No. 39 (Little River, New Hampshire), estimated at $400,000/600,000, attracted bids from two phone bidders who battled for it from the opening bid of $300,000 to the hammer price of $1,150,000. The winning bidder was Debra Force of Debra Force Fine Art, New York City, who bought the 23 7/8" x 19 5/8" oil on board for a private client. She paid $1,387,500 (includes buyer’s premium), according to head of department Kayla Carlsen, who was on the phone with the dealer.


The top lot of the sale was Marsden Hartley’s Landscape No. 39 (Little River, New Hampshire), painted in 1930 upon the artist’s return to New England after living in Europe for almost ten years. It sold for $1,387,500 to dealer Debra Force of Debra Force Fine Art, New York City, who bought it for a client. Force was one of the two phone bidders who competed for the 23 7/8" x 19 5/8" oil, estimated at $400,000/600,000. “The work came from the estate of Jane Rau and was unlocated since 1975,” said Kayla Carlsen, head of the American art department. “It’s in excellent condition, had been lightly cleaned, and is very appealing.” An addendum noted that the work will be included in Gail R. Scott’s forthcoming publication, Marsden Hartley: The Complete Paintings. The painting is one of five identified works Hartley (1877-1943) completed along Little River; three are in private collections, and the fourth is in the collection of Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, Maine, according to a catalog entry.

The Hartley autumnal riparian scene was the top lot of the morning sale, which attracted approximately 25 collectors and dealers to the salesroom on Madison Avenue around the corner from Trump Tower. Seven specialists took bids on the phone while auctioneer Patrick Mead sought to sell 84 lots. An addendum noted that two lots had been withdrawn.

The sale totaled about $3.6 million with a 60.7% sell-through rate. After the auction, several lots sold privately, including works by Robert Henri, Henry F. Farny, Charles Demuth, Edward Middleton Manigault, and Malvina Hoffman. The auction house does not reveal post-sale prices but rather lists the lots online as “sold.”


Three phone bidders as well as a man in the salesroom competed for Composition in Blue by Balcomb Greene (1904-1990). The 23 7/8" x 36" oil is signed with initials “BG” lower right and again with “Balcomb Greene” on the reverse. It sold to one of the phone bidders for $27,500 (est. $6000/8000).


42nd Street and Fifth Avenue by Guy Carleton Wiggins (1883-1962) sold in the salesroom for $43,750 to a private collector from Newport, Rhode Island. The 12" x 16" oil on canvasboard, authenticated by Guy A. Wiggins, was estimated at $40,000/60,000.

“We did a number of after-sales we don’t usually do,” Carlsen acknowledged, explaining, “Good things got passed up. Folks expected some to sell higher. We don’t normally do as many” post-auction sales.

“Illustration art was strong this season,” the specialist said in a phone interview a week after the auction. She added that finding Impressionist works “is a supply and demand issue.” There weren’t many examples in this sale, although she noted that “stronger consignments are in the air for the fall.”

“We’re always looking for blue-chip American artists from private collections,” she stated. Bonhams will “focus on bigger names and more substantial pictures” for November.

The captions illustrate the sale. Further information is available by calling (212) 644-9001 or checking the website (www.bonhams.com).


Study for Flying Carpet by Stuart Davis (1892-1964), gouache, crayon, and graphite on paper, 6¼" x 8¼", executed in 1942, sold to a man in the salesroom for $20,000 (est. $20,000/30,000). The study is one of three the artist did in preparation for the final design of the rug Flying Carpet, which was commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art, New York City. Bonhams had a financial interest in the lot.


Frederick Carl Frieseke (1874-1939) painted After the Bath in 1911. It had been in the family of Charles Hovey Pepper of Boston, Massachusetts, for the past 99 years. Estimated at $20,000/30,000, the 16" x 14" oil, signed lower right, sold for $75,000 to a private collector from Newport, Rhode Island, who was bidding in the salesroom. An entry in Bonhams catalog noted that according to scholar Nicholas Kilmer, a larger version of this subject might exist, known only from a photograph left in the artist’s estate.


Declaration of Independence by Jamie Wyeth (b. 1946), a signed 40" x 30¼" oil on canvas painted in 2002, sold to a buyer bidding on the phone with department head Kayla Carlsen for $307,500 (est. $150,000/250,000). In the mid-1970s Wyeth finished several portraits of Thomas Jefferson. This work has been recorded in the database of Jamie Wyeth’s work being compiled by the Wyeth Center at the Farnsworth Museum, Rockland, Maine, according to the auction catalog.


Hollyhocks Panel II by Mary Elizabeth Price (1877-1965) sold for $60,000 (est. $30,000/50,000) to a buyer bidding on the phone. “We had the most inquiries on this work,” said Kayla Carlsen. “It’s by a rare artist, female, and it caused excitement.” The 47½" x 24" oil and gold leaf on board is signed and inscribed.


Eastman Johnson (1824-1906) painted Crossing a Stream (Pig-a-Back) in 1866, a year after the end of the Civil War. The 21 1/8" x 17" oil, signed and dated, was bought by dealer Thomas Colville of New York City and Connecticut, who was bidding in the salesroom. Estimated at $100,000/150,000, it sold for $118,750. The painting will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist’s work being prepared by Dr. Patricia Hills and was accompanied by her letter of authenticity.


Randolph Rogers (1825-1892), a classical sculptor, conceived Ruth Gleaning in 1850 in Rome. Signed and inscribed, the 35½" high marble on a 40" tall ornately carved black marble pedestal (not shown) sold to a private collector from Delaware, who paid $27,500 for it (est. $25,000/35,000). Other similar marbles are in public collections around the country.


Sunset at Sea by Thomas Moran (1837-1926), signed and dated 1907, sold to New York City dealer Betty Krulik, who paid $247,500 (est. $200,000/300,000) for the 24 3/8" x 30 3/8" oil painting. “It was in excellent condition,” remarked Kayla Carlsen. The work will be included in Stephen L. Good and Phyllis Braff’s forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Moran’s work.


Two works by Paul Sample (1896-1974), painted circa 1936, sold to a buyer bidding in the salesroom for $37,500 (est. $10,000/15,000). Red Hot Bar on Chain (shown) is 16½" x 20½", and Worker Holding Curled Metal with Tongs is 16 1/8" x 20¼". Each is signed, numbered, and inscribed and has provenance of the Anaconda Wire and Cable Co., Great Falls, Montana. The lot was accompanied by a copy of the January 1937 issue of Fortune magazine, in which both artworks were originally published.


Blueberry Pickers by Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009), acquired in 1943 from Macbeth Gallery, New York City, and having descended in the family of Robert Rau, was bought by a private collector from Delaware, who was bidding in the salesroom and paid $97,500 (est. $80,000/120,000) for the 17 7/8" x 21 7/8" watercolor and pencil on paper laid down on board. Executed in 1942, the work depicts two people raking blueberries at Broad Cove Farm in Cushing, Maine, a property owned by the artist’s wife’s family, according to the catalog.


Originally published in the August 2017 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2017 Maine Antique Digest

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