First Look: Highlights of American Art

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From titans of folk art like Grandma Moses to timeless masters like Norman Rockwell, the American Art auction on 6 October has it all. Highlights include a street scene by Childe Hassam, a woodland scene by Charles Burchfield and a canvas from Milton Avery’s period in the Manadnock area of New Hampshire. Click ahead for a first look at the sale’s highlights.

American Art
6 October | New York

First Look: Highlights of American Art

  • Grandma Moses, Sugaring Off. Estimate $100,000–150,000.
    Grandma Moses is one of America's best-known folk artists. Moses spent most of her life working on farms in upstate New York and rural Virginia, though at 75 years old she took up painting, with no prior experience. Inspired by her childhood memories of growing up on farms, Moses' works embrace the simplicity of rural life. With the help of her longtime dealer, Otto Kallir, Grandma Moses gained national acclaim for her primitive painting style.

  • Childe Hassam, Street Scene In Sannois.. Estimate $150,000–250,000.
    During his tenure in Paris from 1886-89, Childe Hassam dedicated his time to documenting the daily life of Parisians, particularly flower sellers and shopkeepers. The bright wares of these women afforded Hassam the opportunity to incorporate bright color accents in otherwise subdued compositions. In Sannois, the dots of vermillion and peach draw the eye to the bounty in the baskets the women are carrying to market. The pale orange hues in the sky and light reflecting off one facet of the spire indicate early morning as the figures begin the work of the day.

  • Oscar Edward Berninghaus, Autumn Aspen Forest. Estimate $80,000–120,000.
    Oscar Berninghaus dedicated his life to capturing the beauty of the landscape and people of New Mexico. He first became entranced by Taos in 1899 while on assignment as a commercial artist for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. Berninghaus regularly returned to the area to paint and sketch until 1915, when he became a founding member of the Taos Society of Artists. The success of the traveling exhibitions put on by the Society allowed Berninghaus to permanently relocate to Taos in 1925. Following this move, Berninghaus's tones became richer and his compositions became more complex. As we see in Autumn Aspen Forest, Berninghaus has interwoven the greens, yellows, and oranges of the trees to capture the changing of the season.

  • George Inness, After Sundown, Montclair, New Jersey. Estimate $80,000–120,000.
    "Like other landscape painters of the period, Innes sought for the moment, weather, or lighting that could make the most prosaic motif poetic and evocative. The plentiful specific detail in the silhouetted large tree is essential to establishing the other soft shadowed forms. The delicately nuanced yellow of the sunset sky is characteristic of the subtler sunset effects Inness favored toward the end of the decade."
    -Michael Quick, George Inness: A Catalogue Raisonné, 1880-1894, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 2007, vol. II, no. 929, pp. 226

  • Albert Bierstadt, Ocean Pool, Farallon Islands, California. Estimate $70,000–100,000.
    In a letter from Gordon Hendricks regarding this work, he states, "The Farallons are islands twenty miles due west of San Francisco, and were the inspiration for several large pictures by the artist, including the well-known Seal Rocks, Farallon Islands in the New Britain Museum of American Art."

  • Laurence A. Campbell, 5th Avenue. Estimate $50,000–70,000.
    The present work depicts a view looking down 5th Avenue. To the right of the picture are the trees in front of the Plaza Hotel and the steeple in the distance is part of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church.

  • Norman Rockwell, Study for ‘The Thing To Do With Life is Live It!’ (Outrigger Canoe). Estimate $50,000–70,000.
    The present work is a study for Rockwell's painting The Thing to Do with Life is Live It! (Outrigger Canoe), which is one of several works the artist created for Pan American World Airlines. In 1956, Pan Am commissioned the prominent advertising agency J. Walter Thompson to create their new marketing campaign, one that would showcase the company as the country’s premier airline. The final version of this painting was first published in Life magazine in 1956.

  • Milton Avery, Towering Fir. Estimate $30,000–50,000.
    During the 1950s, Milton Avery spent several summers at various art colonies including the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire and the Yaddo Art Colony near Saratoga Springs, New York.  It is likely that this work was painted in 1953 during Avery’s first residency at the MacDowell Colony. 

  • Charles Ephraim Burchfield, Woodland Scene. Estimate $30,000–50,000.
    In the present work, Charles Burchfield has captured the essence of late summer with the lush green leaves and grass with just a twinge of yellow, hinting at the beginning of autumn.

  • Robert Henri, The Blue Tam. Estimate $80,000–120,000.
    While the identity of this sitter is unknown, she was quite the fashion forward girl, sporting a Tam (or Tam o' Shanter cap), which was considered very fashionable in the early 1920s. This portrait was painted in 1918 in Monhegan, Maine.

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