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Purchase Story

Foster Completes the Maine Summer Auction Rush

Mark Sisco | September 3rd, 2017

Robert L. Foster, Newcastle, Maine

Four names dominated the September 2 and 3 end-of-summer coastal Maine auction in Newcastle. One was Robert Foster, the owner and auctioneer who presided over his usual standing-room-only crowd. The others were Vern Broe and Louis Michel Eilshemius with a dash of Louis Vuitton thrown in.


The Louis Vuitton steamer trunk, filled with fitted clothing compartments and with leather and hardware apparently intact, captured bidders’ attention to the tune of an auction-leading $11,500.


A square Louis Vuitton steamer trunk in the familiar monogrammed canvas and with quilted interior closed at $7762.50.

Foster is still shaking the Louis Michel Eilshemius (1864-1941) tree, and lots of fruit has fallen out. But the current batch of 29 paintings is probably the last of the crop. “This is the end of the third phase of the Eilshemius estate, so that’s the end of those,” Foster said. In the latter portion of his life, Eilshemius worked for almost three decades with virtually no professional encouragement other than what he provided for himself. Eventually, according to one source, he declared himself to be a superior genius and the mightiest intellect in the world. Three oil on masonite artworks by the quirky artist topped the selection offered by Foster. They appeared to have been produced in the earlier part of his career, before he veered off into the melodramatic fanaticism that sabotaged his reputation. A contemplative trio of burros stood before a mountain fortress in a 21½" x 27½" painting that brought $3910 (including buyer’s premium). A 21¾" x 30¾" phantasmagorical swirl, Date Palm Trees, which seemed to presage the artist’s later style, sold for $5635. And a 19" x 29" work dated 1909, Sunset Lake Geneva, NY, seemed an inaccurate reflection of the artist’s increasingly unsettled frame of mind, and it went to a new owner for $4140.

Three oils on masonite by Louis Michel Eilshemius (1864-1941) sold:


 a trio of burros and a mountain castle, $3910;


 Sunset Lake Geneva, NY, $4140;


Date Palm Trees, $5635.

Foster continues to mine a mother lode of oil paintings by Vern Broe (1930-2011) coming directly from the artist’s estate. Ten oils on canvas by Broe were offered, and there may be more to come. One was a standard Vern Broe rendition of a yacht under full sail against a violet-hued sky, signed lower right, which sold for $1035. Another was a crisply realistic sunset-tinted scene of two boats with partially furled sails, 13½" x 17½". It sold for $1667.50. And if Broe’s favorite subject was sailboats, his second favorite was young children playing in flower gardens or on the waterfront. A 10½" x 13½" oil on canvas rendition of kids gathering seashells brought in $805.

Three of ten Vern Broe offerings in the sale included:


 a yacht under full sail against a violet sky for $1035;


sailboats at sunset for $1667.50;


and children gathering seashells for $805.

Another good name that came up was Leonard Tsuguharu Foujita (1886-1968). Last year at this time, Foster brought forth a collection of 22 loose prints from Foujita’s 1930 volume Book of Cats, published by Covici Friede, which sold for $14,850. This time around, he offered 14 more from the 1929 version titled A Book of Cats. Thirteen were stamped “Made in France” and had Foujita’s printed identification and date, and one was also signed in pencil by the artist, a key to the value of the set. The whole collection brought $4025. Much of Foujita’s career was centered on cats and women. In a 1935 interview he remarked, “Ladies who would be alluring to men should surround themselves with cats.”


Two of 14 Leonard Tsuguharu Foujita prints from A Book of Cats. The entire lot of 14 sold for $4025.

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


This small naïve watercolor of a young woman and her dog is titled in flowing calligraphy “Come, Daphne, let us go home.” Within the image, in a similar hand, is “Executed at the request of Everett / to present to his little sister / Deborah Ann / April / 1829.” There was more information on the back, and it charmed someone right out of $2587.50.


The decorations on this Connecticut schoolgirl box in curly maple with black delineated seashells on the sides and a house or church scene on top were sufficient to propel it to $2185.


These two watercolor profile portraits on paper in matched églomisé mats are stylistically attributed to seminal New England muralist, portrait painter, inventor, and editor Rufus Porter (1792-1884). Although the subjects aren’t identified, the paintings are clearly a match with Porter’s known modus operandi of sketching his sitters in silhouette via a camera obscura, then filling in the facial details. That plus the use of the églomisé mats is sufficient to make the Porter attribution a virtual certainty, and bidders were confident enough to chase them to $2300 for the pair.


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

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