View full screen - View 1 of Lot 418. H. C. WESTERMANN | SEE AMERICA FIRST.


California Straight Ahead: Property from the Collection of Dr. David Sanders and Prof. Jesse Dukeminier



California Straight Ahead: Property from the Collection of Dr. David Sanders and Prof. Jesse Dukeminier


1922 - 1981


signed and dated '68

watercolor on paper

Sheet: 10¾ by 13¾ in. (27.3 by 35 cm.)

Framed: 14¼ by 17¼ in. (36.2 by 43.8 cm.)

This work is in good condition overall. The sheet is hinged at the upper corners of the reverse to the backing board. There is undulation to the sheet, most notably along the upper third of the sheet due to the artist's chosen media. There is minor discoloration to the sheet, visible upon close inspection. There are 3 faint adhesive remains from prior hinging at the upper edge, most notably at the upper left corner, visible upon close inspection. Framed under glass.

The lot is sold in the condition it is in at the time of sale. The condition report is provided to assist you with assessing the condition of the lot and is for guidance only. Any reference to condition in the condition report for the lot does not amount to a full description of condition. The images of the lot form part of the condition report for the lot provided by Sotheby's. Certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot. In particular, the online images may represent colours and shades which are different to the lot's actual colour and shades. The condition report for the lot may make reference to particular imperfections of the lot but you should note that the lot may have other faults not expressly referred to in the condition report for the lot or shown in the online images of the lot. The condition report may not refer to all faults, restoration, alteration or adaptation because Sotheby's is not a professional conservator or restorer but rather the condition report is a statement of opinion genuinely held by Sotheby's. For that reason, Sotheby's condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot.

Rolf Nelson Gallery, Los Angeles

Acquired from the above by the present owner in October 1969

“H.C. Westermann is one of postwar art’s great misfits. Emphasis should immediately be placed on ‘postwar.’ For generations increasingly remote from the events, it is World War II, America’s last ‘good war,’ that is primarily at issue, though it is important to note that after serving in the Pacific during that global confrontation, Westermann signed up for a tour of duty in the Korean War, a murkier cause… This trajectory entailed Westermann’s increasing disillusionment with the use of moral righteousness and heroic virtue as alibis for carnage… Like Otto Dix, the German painter of social and physical decay, or Ivan Albright, the Chicago-based virtuoso of the macabre, both of whom saw action in World War I, Westermann emerged from his exposure to wholesale slaughter with no utopian dreams, but a few recurring nightmares.”


[Westermann’s] love of country was genuine and deep, and it was renewed by transcontinental car trips taken in the 1960s, when the ‘United’ States was on the brink of coming unstuck. Those migrations were documented in letter drawings and his See America First [drawings and] prints, whose principal motifs are not big-city sights but the empty spaces between – two-lane blacktop cutting through the desert past vintage signs, roadkill and roadside attractions, car wrecks and bleached bones, all of them metaphors of pioneer solitude in the age of V-8 engines. These scarred wastelands were also the nation’s blasted heartland, and if Westermann’s iconography was bleak, his rendering was vigorous and often gleefully obscene. His patriotism was for a place with room enough to get away from the air-conditioned nightmare of modernity. Far from treading the bitterly circular path cut by Thomas Hart Benton and the artistic America-firsters of the Depression, Westermann cut his own zigzag course across the landscape of American culture. To the extent that it resembles anyone else’s, it is Jack Kerouac’s minus Kerouac’s “O Wow” epiphanies and leavened by a wild sense of human akin to that of another Beat icon, Lord Buckley.”

(Robert Storr, “The Devil’s Handyman”, H.C. Westermann: Exhibition Catalogue and Catalogue Raisonné of Objects, p. 19-23)