The American Art auction concluded today in New York with an exceptional total of $83,915,500– well in excess of its $62.1 million high estimate – and a strong sell-through rate of 88.2% by lot (see ‘Notes & Highlights’ below). The centerpiece of the auction was a selection of seven paintings by Norman Rockwell from the family of Kenneth J. Stuart, Sr. – the artist’s longtime friend and art editor at The Saturday Evening Post – all of which sold for a stunning total of $59,663,000.
The group was led by Rockwell’s masterpiece Saying Grace, which set a new record for any work sold in an American Art auction and nearly tripled the previous auction record for the artist when it achieved $46,085,000 – soaring past its $20 million high estimate. The painting, which was voted by Post readers as their favorite cover, was sought after by two determined phone bidders who competed for more than 9 minutes. Additional highlights of the Stuart Family Collection included The Gossips, which fetched $8,453,000 (est. $6/9 million) and Walking to Church, which brought $3,245,000 (est. $3/5 million).
Our 4 December 2013 sale of American Art is highlighted by an unprecedented group of works by Norman Rockwell from The Stuart Family Collection, including the artist’s 1951 masterpiece Saying Grace, as well as The Gossips and Walking to Church.
Other 20th Century highlights include Edward Hopper’s bold and vibrant watercolor Church in Eastham from the Whitney Museum of American Art, sold to benefit future acquisitions, and several modernist works from An Important American Collection. The Collection features Arthur Dove’s striking 1941 painting Lattice and Awning a mature work that expresses the exuberance with which Dove viewed the world around him, as well as Blue Flower by Georgia O’Keeffe, a beautiful example of the artist’s exploration of the abstract qualities of the natural world. Also included in the Collection are several important 19th century paintings by such masters as Frederic Edwin Church (Final Study for ‘The Icebergs’), Albert Bierstadt (A Lake in the Sierra Nevada) Martin Johnson Heade (White Orchid and Hummingbird) and Thomas Moran (Grand Canyon in Mist).