Works from thewest and illustration bring in huge results at Christie’s fall American art sale in Newyork
Works from the West and illustration bring in huge results at Christie’s fall American art sale in New York
Thomas Moran and Norman Rockwell, each representing iconic periods of American art—landscape painting for Moran, and the Golden
Age of Illustration for Rockwell—helped bring in $34.1 million at Christie’s November 21 American art sale in New York City.
“We were very pleased. We saw satisfying results from every category,” says William Haydock, the head of Christie’s American art department, who added that the market for American art is going to continue to go up. “For our collectors, anytime the stock market is doing what it’s doing now, we’re certainly going to see renewed strength. what we’re seeing now is very encouraging.” Rockwell’s What Makes it Tick? (The Watchmaker) was the star of the sale when it sold for nearly $7.3 million, well above its $6 million high estimate.the work, executed in 1948, was a commission from the Watchmakers of Switzerland, now known as the Federation of Swiss Watchmakers, which wanted the painting and accompanying ad to elevate the brand globally. “there was a lot of enthusiasm for this Rockwell, who we’re still seeing a lot of depth for in the bidding. I think there’s still some growth ahead for the Rockwell market,” Haydock says. “for him and for other illustrators such as J.C. Leyendecker or John Philip Falter.” another Rockwell lot that sold well was Girl Returning from Camp, which sold within estimates for $2.2 million.
The second-best lot was Thomas Hart Benton’s Night Firing of Tobacco (est. $2.5/3.5 million) that sold for more than $2.6 million. another Benton, Study for ‘Forward Pass,’ also performed strongly when it sold for $588,500, well over its $350,000 high estimate.
Additional top lots were Childe Hassam’s Apple
Trees in Bloom, Old Lyme
(est. $300/500,000) that sold for $672,500,William Aiken Walker’s Big B Cotton Plantation (est. $150/250,000) that sold for $648,500, and Frederic Church’s A New England Lake (est. $1.5/2.5 million) that sold for $1.8 million. Haydock calls the Church one of the auction’s best deals. “it’s one of the nicest ones to come to auction in a while, and you won’t likely see another large-scale, 1850 Church painting come to market for another 10 years,” he says. Another star of the sale was Moran, who was represented by several key watercolor and oil paintings, all of them from the West, where he documented natural wonders such as the Grand Canyon and yellowstone. The landscape painter’s top lot—and the third best of the entire auction, behind the Rockwell and Benton—was Canyon of the virgin River (est. $1/1.5 million) that sold for $2.4 million. Not far behind it was Zion Valley, South Utah (est.
$2/3 million) that sold for $2 million and Upper Falls of the Yellowstone (est. $500/700,000) that sold for nearly $1.2 million.two other Moran works sold well: Survey Party in the valley of the yellow stone
(est. $200/300,000) sold for $564,500 while Castle Geyser, Yellowstone (est. $300/500,000) sold for $300,000.
Christie’s Western specialist Tylee Abbott says this grouping of Moran paintings is “historic and will likely not be repeated in a very long time.”
Other top Western lots were victor Higgins’ The
Sisters (est. $150/250,000) that closed at $324,500, Joseph Henry Sharp’s Rabbit Hunters (est. $150/250,000) that sold for $212,500, Charles M. Russell’s When Meat Was Plentiful (est. $250/350,000) that sold for $275,000, and two works by Henry Farny, both of which exceeded estimates when they sold for $372,500 and $384,500. Also of note was John Philip Falter’s Young Sammy Sixgun (est. $150/250,000), showing a young boy watching a Western show on television, that sold for more than double its high estimate when it closed at $516,500.The painting set a world record for the illustrator. “The Western market in and of itself is one of the strongest subcategories in American art along with American illustration.we are extremely fortunate to have really good-quality examples, top-notch examples, from some of the best artists and always with excellent provenance,” he says. “everything we had for this sale hadn’t been on the market for at least 15 years, but in some cases as long as 30 or 40 years. And everything was in great condition.”
Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975), Night Firing of Tobacco, 1943. Oil and tempera on board, 18 x 29¼ in., signed lower right: ‘Benton’, and signed again and inscribed on verso: ‘“Tobacco Firing” (North Carolina)’. Estimate: $2.5/3.5 million SOLD: $2,652,500
Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), What Makes It Tick? (The Watchmaker), 1948. Oil on canvas, 26¼ x 26 in., signed lower right: ‘Norman/rockwell’. Estimate: $4/6 million SOLD: $7,287,500
Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009), Five and a Half and Study for ‘Oliver’s Cap’: A Double-sided Work, 1981. Watercolor on paper, 28¼ x 22 in., Five and a Half signed upper right: ‘Andrew Wyeth’. Estimate: $80/120,000 SOLD: $212,500
Thomas Moran (1837-1926), Canyon of the Virgin River, 1909. Oil on canvas, 20 x 30 in., signed with initials in monogram and dated lower right: ‘Copyright By/tmoran. 1909.’ Estimate: $1/1.5 million SOLD: $2,412,500