S otheby’s American Art sale on 26 June features an exceptional group of paintings, sculpture and works on paper by some of the most celebrated American artists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Among the highlights are two works from the Collection of Marylou Whitney, led by Thomas Hart Benton’s Noon, a dynamic tempera from 1939. Additionally, the sale features a tightly curated section entitled Tell Me a Story: The Art of American Illustration, anchored with works by Maxfield Parrish, Joseph Christian Leyendecker and N.C. Wyeth. We are also proud to present Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ Abraham Lincoln: The Man (Standing Lincoln), a reduction of the larger-than-life monument the sculptor designed to adorn Chicago’s Lincoln Park.
Estimate 700,000 - 1,000,000
A rich, engaging scene depicting domesticity in late 19th century America, the present work is the artist’s largest known composition. Shortly after its completion, the work was shown at the eighth annual Society of American Artists exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where it was praised by critics for its arrangement, coloring and scale.
I n 1930, 18-year-old Jackson Pollock moved to New York to study painting at the Art Students League. There, he studied under renowned American painter Thomas Hart Benton. Benton's signature, rhythmic style strongly influenced Pollock’s early painting, and, on a personal level, the older artist was a source of early encouragement. Pollock even served as model for Benton’s momentous mural America Today (1930–31), which is now in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Pollock and Benton's relationship wasn't always perfect. As art historian Debra N. Mancoff notes:
Throughout their years as teacher and student, and well beyond, the two men shared a close and significant alliance – as much an exchange as a competition – as both strove toward a singular goal: to portray the American experience in an art that was as dynamic as the volatile years between the wars.
As Pollock matured as an artist, he moved away from his training, progressing instead into the realm of Abstract Expressionism. But In Pollock's early paintings, we see the influence of Benton's style and subject matter – and no where is this more evident than in the two artworks offered in Sotheby's upcoming American Art auction: Benton's Noon, and Pollock's Landscape with White Horse.
This curated section seeks to explore the critical importance illustration played in 19th and 20th century American Art, and in the careers of the beloved artists whose imaginative voices defined a generation of American advertising and material culture. From Norman Rockwell to John Steuart Curry, the work of these artists continues to resonate with audiences today.
- Chadds Ford, PA
N.C. Wyeth lived most of his adult life in Chadds Ford Township, PA, on an 18 acre plot of land bordering the Brandywine River. In addition to a main house, the property includes the elder Wyeth's principal studio, as well as a barn and pump house. Today, the N. C. Wyeth House and Studio is a historic house museum; it was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1997.
Chadds Ford is also where N.C.'s son, Andrew grew up and learned to paint. The town was one of Andrew's favorite subjects, appearing frequently in his oeuvre.
Self-portrait by N. C. Wyeth, 1940 (National Academy of Design). In the background, the Brandywine River.
- Needham, MA
The birthplace of N.C. Wyeth (born 1882).
From a young age, Wyeth showed artistic talent – which thrilled his mother, though his more practical father was less keen. Wyeth attended the Mechanics Arts School in Boston, but soon transferred to the Massachusetts Normal Arts School (now the MA College of Art). Howard Pyle, the great American illustrator, invited Wyeth in 1902 to study with him; Wyeth accepted, and left Needham for Wilmington, D.E.
- Cushing, ME
Cushing, a small town along the coast of Maine, served as a major source of inspiration for Andrew Wyeth throughout his life. It is here that he painted perhaps his most famous work, Christina's World – and through Christina, the model of the work, Andrew met his wife, Betsy James.
- Tenants Harbor, ME
Tenants Harbor, just a few miles from Cushing, is the subject of many works by both Andrew and Jamie Wyeth. In 1978, Andrew and Betsy Wyeth purchased the lighthouse the Tenants Harbor Lighthouse, turning the base into a studio. In 1990, Jamie Wyeth purchased the lighthouse from his father.
Andrew painted the present work, entitled Crow's Feet, of the Tenants Harbor harbormaster, Forrest William "Crow" Morris.
- Monhegan Island, ME
Jamie Wyeth shares his father's love of the Maine coast and, in the 1960s, purchased the Lobster Cove property on Monhegan Island. The property was previously owned by famed American painter Rockwell Kent. Lobster Cove served as inspiration and subject for a number of Jamie's paintings.