Sotheby’s American Art Sale
New York, NY
During Sotheby’s more than 120-lot sale of American art on October 2, collectors will be treated to a dynamic grouping of nearly two dozen Western art lots. The pieces, arriving at auction from an array of consignors, are both historic and contemporary, providing a variety of works for collectors to enjoy.
“I think we’ve really made a great effort to put together a very well-rounded sale,” says Charlotte Mitchell, associate specialist in the auction house’s American art department. “We tried to be selective in terms of the works we included, and hoped we could select work of the highest quality and select examples from across different categories. We are very pleased with how things have come together.”
Among the standouts of the Western segment are works with a more illustrative quality to them. Included is William R. Leigh’s dynamic bucking bronco painting Hell Bent, which has a presale estimate of $250,000 to $350,000 and is arriving to market from a family that has owned the piece since around 1975.
“It is a dynamic example of the artist’s work, and I think it showcases Leigh at his best,” describes Mitchell. “It’s from 1954, toward the end of his career and really shows how he incorporated everything he learned throughout his career and showcases his accomplishments as an illustrator. The movement he achieves [in the painting] is incredible and the color is fresh and bright...we think it will also appeal to collectors in illustration, which is a market doing quite well.”
An untitled cover for Country Gentleman, by N.C. Wyeth, is another painting with crossover appeal, as Wyeth is recognized
for his illustrations of many books and magazines. The work, as Mitchell explains, appeared on the cover of the publication in 1917 and was gifted by Wyeth to its first owners then it has descended through the family. It is expected to sell between $80,000 and $120,000.
Several watercolors are also of note in the sale, including Thomas Moran’s 1874 painting Yellowstone Lake (est. $150/250,000), which was completed three years after the artist’s first trip west. “The color on this is truly exquisite,” says Mitchell. “The blue pool and green of the trees is a good combination. It’s a lovely example of his watercolors. It’s nice and intimate in scale, which isn’t something we always see. It’s a great example of one of Moran’s early watercolors and his interpretations of the West.”
Victor Higgins’ intimately sized painting Fish Ponds II (est. $15/25,000) is also noteworthy, as the watercolor is from his Taos period. As Mitchell explains, it has nice and fresh color, and it is a variation on a larger scale piece that sold at auction about five years ago. Several Western lots arrive at auction from the Collection of Patrick and Carlyn Duffy. Patrick is best-known for his role as J.R. Ewing on the TV series Dallas. Included in the group will be several bronzes, paintings by Gary Ernest Smith, and a rare Ogden M. Pleissner oil painting of a farm scene. The work, titled Reaping Along Wing River, Wyoming, is a subject matter and medium by the artist that does not come to market often. It has a presale estimate of $15,000 to $25,000
N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945), Untitled (Country Gentleman Cover), 1917, oil on canvas, 30 x 30” Estimate: $80/120,000William R. Leigh (1866-1955), Hell Bent, oil on canvas, 30 x 25”Estimate: $250/350,000
Thomas Moran (1837-1926), Yellowstone Lake, ca. 1874, watercolor and gouache on paper, 9¾ x 19” Estimate: $150/250,000
Victor Higgins (1884-1949), Fish Ponds II, watercolor and pencil on paper, 12 x 15¾” Estimate: $15/25,000