George Bellows: "Men of the docks"
Edward Hopper: "Prospect street, Gloucester"
Led by George Bellows’ Men of the Docks , Expected to Break the World Auction Record for the Most Expensive American Painting Sold
Important American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture
November 29, 2007
New York – After a remarkable season of American Paintings sales in Spring 2007 that totaled $62.2 million and saw Christie’s lead the market, the auction house is delighted to announce details of its Fall 2007 Important American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture auction.
The most valuable selection of American Art from a variety of sources ever gathered into one auction, the sale signals a milestone in the American art market. Led by a George Bellows masterpiece expected to break the world auction record for the most expensive American painting sold, the selection of works on offer also include the most important collection of American Western art to appear on the market for a generation, masterworks by American Impressionists, fine Ashcan School canvases, images from Modernist masters and an American folk art masterpiece.
Eric Widing, Head of American Paintings, says: “We are honored that so many consignors this season have entrusted their masterworks to Christie’s. Never before have we offered in a single sale so many great achievements and artistic milestones in American art.”
George Wesley Bellows: Men of the Docks
Men of the Docks by George Wesley Bellows, painted in 1912, is a monumental masterwork by the undisputed leader of the Ashcan School. Polo Crowd, also by Bellows, and illustrating the American social set at play, established the world auction record for an American painting in 1999 when it realized $27.7 million. Men of the Docks, with its gritty, realist depiction of New York City at the start of a brave new century, is a classic Bellows subject. Expectations are high for this work, one of his most forceful and powerful achievements, and the painting is estimated to realize between $25 to $35 million.
At the beginning of the 20th century, New York City pulsed with an influx of millions of immigrants as America began to develop its new industrial and mercantile power. Bellows’ work, well set with the city’s skyscrapers and a wonder of the new world, an ocean liner, in the background, captures the daily search for work by these new arrivals as they gather for the crew boss to choose the day’s contingent of labor.
Beyond the tour-de-force Bellows, the sale features excellent examples of paintings by his fellow Ashcan School contemporaries, including works from the Samuel B. and Marion W. Lawrence Collection. A stunning example of Robert Henri’s celebrated portraits of children, Francine was completed in the summer of 1921 on a visit to the Woodstock artists’ colony and exemplifies all the hallmarks that make his portraiture some of his most coveted work – with a concentration of color and focus on revealing the personality of his young sitters (estimate: $500,000-700,000). Vaudeville by Everitt Shinn is a visually spectacular and sociologically complex picture that reveals his fascination with the everyday experiences of New York urban living and particularly the very popular burlesque scene. With a dramatic color scheme and inventive composition, Vaudeville is one of his most captivating endeavors, and encapsulates the magic and aura of the New York stage (estimate: $500,000- 700,000). William Glackens, another leader of the Ashcan School, distinguished himself from his peers in his use of a high-keyed palette that was influenced by the French Impressionists, particularly Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Claude Monet. A Stroll in the Park celebrates his mastery of palette and his love of the city’s parks, where he observed and retold the daily lives of the diverse and fascinating people who populated such public spaces (estimate:$300,000-500,000).
The selection of Western art to be sold at the sale is the finest to be offered in a generation – and 16 paintings and two bronze sculptures will tour the western United States before the auction in New York. Three remarkable paintings and sculpture by Frederic Remington are at the forefront the
Western selection, with the oil on canvas work The Signal (If Skulls Could Speak) leading the charge (estimate: $4,000,000-6,000,000). Remington’s depictions of the action and drama of the American West were unrivaled among his generation, and this painting represents one of the
enduring themes of his art, the Native American. Painted here as a solitary figure on horse rearing up on one hoof, the Native American is positioned just behind a buffalo skull in the foreground, a poignant reminder of the fate of Native American in the West. Two exceptional lifetime Remington bronzes provide two further excellent examples of the artist at the height of his powers. ‘The Cheyenne’ is among his most famous, and effortlessly captures the vitality and action of a horse and rider in mid-stride (estimate: $3,000,000-5,000,000). Prior to its creation, the bronze animal image had been interpreted at a stationary form, and Remington established a new standard for capturing dynamic animal imagery in sculpture. ‘The Bronco Buster’ was his first bronze subject, and nowhere else in his oeuvre is the cowboy more celebrated. Depicting a cowboy breaking in a wild horse, the bronze was an immediate success, symbolizing all that was triumphant and heroic of the West (estimate: $2,500,000-3,500,000).
Three other spectacular canvases are notable highlights in the collection. The Check – Keep Your Distance by Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait evocatively depicts the riveting drama of a battle between pioneers and Native Americans among the prairie grass, a popular image of the danger and adventure associated with the West (estimate: $800,000-1,200,000). Tait had only arrived in America two years before this painting was completed and is one of only 22 Western canvases he completed, yet with its sense of authenticity and grandeur, it is no surprise that Tait quickly secured his reputation. Through the Arroyo by Ernest Martin Hennings is the finest example of the artist’s work to appear on the auction market (estimate: $1,000,000-1,500,000). Like many of his contemporaries, Hennings was drawn to the beauty of Taos and northern New Mexico and its spectacular landscape and lifestyle inspired Hennings for over 30 years. This sublime example, with its rich, warm palette and atmospheric light, masterfully emphasizes the undulating lines of this unique landscape.
A towering influence in American art, and in the art of New Mexico particularly, Georgia O’Keeffe remains a constant favorite for Western and Modernist collectors across the world and the sale includes a stunning example, Trees at Glorieta, New Mexico (estimate: $3,000,000-5,000,000). Painted during her first visit to the South West in 1929, the work’s strength lies in its careful balance of realism and abstraction, its intricate layering of objective and subjective meaning and its wonderful synthesis of form and color, and this important example reflects the intense spirituality and wonder the artist found in the New Mexico landscape.
Excellent examples by Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth are included in the auction. Three watercolors by Hopper are on offer, including Prospect Street, Gloucester, a work which compares favorably with his finest watercolors (estimate: $800,000-1,200,000). Depicting an everyday street scene, Hopper blends the traditional Gloucester architecture with a subjective transcendence that creates a work that is perpetually fresh, modern and distinctly American. At first glance, the work seems an inviting street scene, but upon closer examination, the absence of humans, and the largely shuttered windows, transform the image and Hopper’s signature fascination with modern isolation is made clear. In May of this year, Andrew Wyeth’s Ericksons became the most expensive American painting of the Spring season at $10.34 million and set a new world auction record for the artist. This sale features The Intruder, painted in 1971 on the Goose River in Maine (estimate: $3,000,000-5,000,000). A work that embodies all the exceptional hallmarks of Wyeth’s accomplishments in the tempera medium that have made him one of the most enduring figures in American art, the image conveys the seeming simplicity and sheer beauty of his vision. A celebration of rural American life, the painting is imbued with the haunting, plaintive silence that pervades all his masterworks.
Two Impressionist works recently deaccessioned by The Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University and the Saint Louis Art Museum to benefit their respective Acquisitions Funds, offer collectors a rare opportunity to bid on two fine American Impressionist pictures. A shimmering Childe Hassam, Sunset at Sea, from The Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, is a spectacular example of Hassam working at the height of his powers (estimate: $2,000,000-3,000,000). After his three-year stay in France from 1886 to 1889, Hassam ventured to the remote island of Appledore off the coasts of Maine and New Hampshire, and the light and color of the island became a recurring motif for the artist for almost 30 years. This stunning example, with its focus on the sea’s expanse moves towards abstraction and is a brilliant display of Hassam’s Impressionist technique. Françoise in Green, Sewing by Mary Cassatt, from the Saint Louis Art Museum, is a great example from her pictures of children, a subject she pursued throughout her career (estimate: $1,500,000-2,500,000). This late work, from her final and most serious exploration of the theme of the solitary child, manifests the stylistic maturity and compositional complexity of her mature style.
Other Notable Highlights
A Peaceable Kingdom by Edward Hicks, one of the most recognized and enduring images in the canon of American Folk Art, is offered in the sale (estimate: $4,000,000-6,000,000). Hicks presents Isaiah’s prophecy of a time when wild animals would lie down with their prey and a child would lead them in peace. Representing the tenants of his Hicksite Quaker theology, the image symbolizes Hicks’s ideal world, one in which men of different religious or secular ideologies are able to coexist in harmony.
Just in time for the Holiday season, a much-loved Santa Claus image from America’s most-celebrated 20th century illustrator, Norman Rockwell, appears in the auction. Entitled Extra Good Boys and Girls, the work was used as the cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, December 16, 1939 issue and captures the spirit of Christmas and the allure of Santa in the American psyche (estimate: $2,500,000-3,500,000). Like all of Norman Rockwell’s great successes, the illustration captures nostalgic moments that strike pleasant remembrances and recall a bygone era in America’s history