Spirited and Emotionally Charged American Art

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From Alfred Thompson Bricher's elegant landscape to Robert Henri's unique portrait, Sotheby's American Art auction features an exciting selection of works from a variety of distinguished institutional and private collections. Prominent artists in the 7 April sale were inspired from all walks of life. Whether it was John Marin's meeting with Alfred Stieglitz in Paris, Edward Moran's 1870 move to New York or Charles Ephraim Burchfield's tendency to paint the world as he felt it, each artist captured their era. Click ahead to explore several highlights from the upcoming auction.

American Art
7 April | New York

Spirited and Emotionally Charged American Art

  • Robert Henri, MacNamara. Estimate $200,000–300,000.
    Henri's portraits, particularly those of children, wonderfully capture the unique spirit of his sitters. McNamara, from 1925, was painted on Achill Island, on the western coast of Ireland, where the artist spent most summers with his family from 1913 onward. He is known to have remarked, "If you paint children, you must have no patronizing attitude toward them.  Whoever approaches a child without humility...and without infinite respect misses in his judgment of what is before him."

  • Alfred Thompson Bricher, Winter’s Glow. Estimate $80,000–120,000.
    Bricher, known for his elegant, tonalist landscapes and seascapes, grew up around the pastoral countryside of northern Massachusetts. As a young man, he lived in Boston, where he studied art at the Lowell Institute and was inspired by the work of the Hudson River School artists, in particular, that of local Luminists, Martin Johnson Heade and Fitz Henry Lane.

  • John Marin, The Berkshires. Estimate $30,000–50,000.
    One of the most important events in John Marin's life was his meeting American photographer Alfred Stieglitz while in Paris in 1909. In the following year, Marin’s first major U.S. exhibition was held at Stieglitz’s 291 Gallery. From this point on, the bond between Marin and Stieglitz remained until Stieglitz’s death in 1946.  Stieglitz was Marin’s greatest supporter, both philosophically and financially, and was essential to Marin's prolific output and popularity. The present work was a gift from Alfred Stieglitz to his secretary, Marie Rapp Boursault.

  • Charles Ephraim Burchfield, Winter Sun. Estimate $30,000–50,000.
    Burchfield, a master of the watercolor medium, painted the natural world, not just as he saw it, but, as he felt and heard it.  His mystical, emotionally charged landscapes can be joyful or brooding and haunted. In his words, "An artist must paint not what he sees in nature, but what is there. To do so he must invent symbols, which, if properly used, make his work seem even more real than what is in front of him."

  • Joseph Leyendecker, Soldier Kneeling at French Memorial. Estimate $40,000–60,000.
    During the 1910s, Joseph Leyendecker was the preeminent illustrator for the Saturday Evening Post, painting well over 100 of the covers for the decade. Prior to the United States’ entrance into the war, the Post avoided war-inspired covers, but after the April 6, 1917 declaration of war, the covers of the Post swiftly changed to a patriotic narrative. Leyendecker’s portrayals of Doughboys were often affirmations of the sacrifice and patriotism for the nation. This work was illustrated on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post on June 1, 1918.

  • Edward Moran, New York Bay. Estimate $60,000–80,000.
    Edward Moran, the elder of the artistic Moran brothers, moved to New York City in 1870, a time when New York harbor was bustling with marine traffic. In this work, Moran presents a windy day with wave’s crashing against the hull of the Cutter ship in the foreground jostling the passengers, as a dinghy approaches. Littered across the background are several different vessels, including clipper and steam ships, and to the left is Castle Williams, a circular fortification which still exists on the northwest point of Governors Island. 

  • Edgar Alwin Payne, Arizona Trail. Estimate: $50,000–70,000.
    Edgar Payne's love of the rugged wilderness began during his childhood in rural Missouri. Restless and largely self-taught, the artist's wanderlust and quest for noteworthy subjects took him to many places throughout the United States and Europe. He became particularly famous for his Indian inspired scenes of the Southwest and the High Sierras. In fact, he spent so much time in the latter, that Lake Payne was named after him.

  • Guy Carlton Wiggins, Flags Up Fifth Avenue. Estimate $20,000–30,000.
    Guy Wiggins and paintings of New York City during a snowstorm are almost synonymous. He became famous for his lively, impressionistic depictions of the subject early on. The inspiration is said to have to have come to him on a cold, wintry day in his studio, circa 1912. As he was trying to paint a summer landscape, the creative juices refused to flow, but, as he looked out of his window and saw the whirling snow coming down and blurring the outline of the buildings and landmarks in his neighborhood, he began to paint them and found his most enduring theme.

  • Edward Willis Redfield, Early Spring. Estimate $200,000–300,000.
    One of the leading lights of the New Hope School of artists, Edward Redfield is renowned for his vibrant, glistening views of the pastoral landscapes of his native Pennsylvania. He chose to paint en plein air for the most part and his work is characterized by the unsentimental individualism so prevalent in early twentieth century American landscape painting.  In Early Spring, a prime example of the artist’s work at the height of his talent, he portrays the beauty of the changing season with his hallmark thick, bold strokes of pigment and skillful treatment of light and color. A mother and child walking along a country road, placed as a bold diagonal, draw us into the picture plane.  The lush, pastel colors of burgeoning blossoms evoke the essence of early spring in Bucks County, an area Redfield became intimately familiar with over the course of his career, studying and painting it for sixty-five years.

  • Milton Avery, Potted Plant. Estimate $40,000–60,000.
    In mature works by Milton Avery, such as Potted Plant, the focus is a dialogue between line, shape and fields of color. Within this work, Avery has used this dialogue to reimagine a classic subject and modernize it. The simplified forms and flattened areas of color are contrasted by his use of sgraffito to add texture to the branches of the plant.

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