Purchase Story

Foster Auction Signals Change of Season

Robert L. Foster, Newcastle, Maine

By the beginning of September the Maine summer visitor season is almost over. As he’s done for the last several decades, auctioneer Robert Foster laid out his traditional end-of-summer Labor Day weekend auction in Newcastle, Maine, held this year on September 1. He offered the usual packed crowd of dealers, retailers, locals, and homeward-bound tourists a strong assortment of jewelry, artworks, and Americana.

Leading all lots was a 2.72-carat woman’s diamond engagement ring in white gold, bordered with two sapphires weighing 1.32 carats each, that sold for $15,525. Foster photo.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) created a famous poster for the Divan Japonais, a Paris café-chantant, or singing café. The poster depicts three persons from the Montmartre area of the city, dancer Jane Avril (1868-1943), author Édouard Dujardin (1861-1949), and performing on the stage Yvette Guilbert (1865-1944), recognizable only by her pose and long black gloves. The poster Foster offered came with a 1977 receipt from the Merrill Chase Galleries, Chicago, Illinois, for $11,000, and a certificate of authenticity. It drew $5750 (including buyer’s premium).

A sword and scabbard by the Ames Manufacturing Company, Chicopee, Massachusetts, once belonged to U.S. Congressman John Addison Gurley (1813-1863) of Ohio. Gurley was born in Connecticut, and before turning to politics, he worked as hatter, a minister, and owner/publisher of the Star and Sentinel newspaper in Cincinnati, Ohio. While still serving as a U.S. congressman, he also served in the Civil War as a colonel and aide-de-camp to General John C. Fremont. He was appointed governor of the Arizona Territory in 1863, but he died of appendicitis just before taking office. His sword was consigned by family descendants, and it sold for $2415.

Except for his service in the Civil War, during which he was captured and sent to Libby Prison, Austin Wooster (1838-1916) is believed to have spent his entire life in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, area, painting landscapes and portraiture, before turning to simple still lifes, such as a 17½" x 19½" (sight size) oil on canvas of grapes, pears, plums and a watermelon laid out on a white tablecloth. Signed and dated lower right “A. C. Wooster 1896,” it landed at $2990.

Crisp and clear fruit still life by Austin Wooster (1838-1916), $2990.

A Charles Dana Gibson (1867-1944) oil on canvas landscape without a single Gibson girl in sight still amounted to a strong sale. Gibson was a seminal figure in American art, but he is virtually unknown for his landscapes. In 1904 he built a summer “rusticator cottage” on Seven Hundred Acre Island, which he owned, just off the southeastern shore of Islesboro, Maine, and he summered there until his death in 1944. He dedicated a 26" x 31" oil on canvas harbor scene to his friend and caretaker of the island Merrell Young, signing it lower right “To Merrell from his friend C. D. Gibson.” Mounted in a silver- and gold-painted frame, it found a new home for $3450.

For more information, visit (www.fosterauctions.com) or call (207) 563-8110.

Poster by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) for the Parisian café Divan Japonais, $5750.

This 9" high little piggin went to market, complete with a coat of red paint and natural and bentwood hoops. But it brought home only $172.

This beautiful swan decoy in all its original glory, accurately carved in solid wood with a gracefully curved neck, minus about 90% of its coat of white paint, was a crowd pleaser at $2530.

This unsigned watchmaker’s trade sign in gilded wood, in the form of a double-sided pocket watch, 25" high counting the knob, stopped at $1380.

Foster continues to pull forth works from the family of Maine artist Vernon George “Vern” Broe (1930-2011), and about 13 Broe works were offered at this sale. The 23" x 34½" (sight size) oil on board Little Lady, in Broe’s ultra-
realistic crisply delineated style, which had been exhibited at the National Academy of Design in Washington, D.C., sold for $3565. Broe’s 16" x 20" (sight size) oil on board view of two racing sailboats, minus his near-signature
violet sky, hit $1322. And his 12" x 18" (sight size) oil on canvas of a green-hulled catboat drew $805.

This large handmade wooden roulette wheel must have been a collaborative effort in construction, as it is signed and dated on the back “T. R. Bailey, E. W. Coburn, V. Smith 1971, for a provost party at Old Temple.” It has applied fringe in all the key places, and somebody spun the wheel for $1380.

Here’s the more familiar kind of George Hathaway work, a 5½" x 10" oil on board of the Portland Head Light, with a three-masted schooner in the distance. Signed lower left “GMH,” it edged into four figures at $1092. The similarly sized Hathaway oil on board of a country shore road leading to a saltwater cove, minus any lighthouses, signed lower left “G. M. Hathaway,” went for $805.

A pair of two-gallon stoneware jugs in simple but classic blue cobalt decorations, one stamped “HAXSTON, OTTMAN & CO. / FORT EDWARD, N. Y.,” the other “SOMERSET / POTTERS WORKS,” sold in tandem for $172.

It wasn’t a banner day for big pine cupboards. The open-top two-part corner cupboard in blue-gray paint with curvilinear cutout shelves, a beaded upper section, and wooden latches sold for $575.  Even a nice coat of dull blue paint and an off-white interior couldn’t push the stepback cupboard past $460. One of its lower doors appears to be replaced with a single flat-board door. And with no paint at all, the one-piece cupboard with H-hinges, non-original wooden latches, and two single-board doors slunk out for $201.


Originally published in the December 2019 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2019 Maine Antique Digest

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