With an emphasis on Taos and New Mexico modernism, the Santa Fe Art Auction returns November 10.
The Santa Fe Art Auction returns to the City Different on November 10 with more than 200 lots of art that includes every facet of Western art, from majestic landscapes and thoughtful portraits to cowboys with pack horses and scenes of Native Americans in the Pueblos. This year’s sale is a major milestone: 25 years offering Western artworks to collectors.
“I’m always excited to see which treasures present themselves in the course of these sales,” says auction co-director Gillian Blitch. “Here we are the deadline of the catalog and we’re still having things pour in at the 11th hour. There’s been some softening of the market in recent years, but I’m really excited for the sale and the market this year. We have a good sale lined up.”
Blitch adds that the auction house, which has added a contingent of regular online shows, is seeing a high volume of materials come through. “The interest has been great and collectors have been lively,” she says. “For many there’s been a renewed interest in collecting. Some of it relates to the classic New Mexico imagery, others are related to the modernist work that regularly appears in the Santa Fe Art Auction. Some of it is the prices—this is a sale that is very accessible to the mid-level collector, which are key in the economy of Southwest art.” One of the top lots in this year’s sale is expected to be Joseph Henry Sharp’s oil Hunting Son and Eagle Star, a work that shows two Native American figures in blankets sitting against a wall. The work is estimated at $350,000 to $500,000. The piece was last at auction under the title Morning Conversation in 2007, when it sold for $756,000. “With this piece the color and the size of those figures…it’s really Sharp at his best. The whole painting is just magnificent to behold,” says Blitch. “It’s a strong and powerful piece, and from a very distinct private collection here in New Mexico.”
Other works from Taos include Sharp’s fellow Taos Society of Artist member E. Martin Hennings, whose Taos Indian Maiden (est. $80/120,000) will be offered, as well as Transcendental Painting Group member Emil Bisttram, whose 1974 work Rancho de Taos Church
(est. $30/50,000) will be available.
“For the Hennings, compositionally it’s marvelous. You can really see the mastery of the artist. It’s so easy to say, ‘isn’t she an attractive maiden,’ but when you really start to analyze the work you can see it was done by a master. It was very dirty when we received it, so we had it cleaned and we quickly realized some of those stripes in the blanket are almost pink. She has this very dignified expression,” Blitch says of Taos Indian Maiden, which was given to the artist’s sister and passed down through her family. “For the Bisttram, this was done in 1974, just a couple years before his death, so it’s a very late-career painting. You can see the sophistication and the confidence in this nocturne—it is the work of a very mature artist. His use of color and detail are not unusual for Bisttram at this stage in his career. He really explored so much in his lifetime. In addition to this one, we also have
two marvelous watercolors from his very abstract period.”
The sale will also be offering a Gerard Curtis Delano work, Canyon Trail, estimated at $100,000 to $150,000. The work was acquired by the current owner’s father, who received the work directly from the artist. It’s been in the family ever since. “With this burro, figure and canyon, it’s as classic as Southwestern scenes get,” Blitch says.
Other works include pieces by Eliseo Rodriguez, Carlos Vierra and a number of Native American artifacts, including a Zuni olla from around 1900.
One of the more curious pieces is Natalie
Curtis Burlin’s King’s River Canyon, Sierra Nevada, a masterful landscape measuring 60 inches wide. The detail and color of the work would suggest Hudson River School, but the name Burlin might not ring familiar to many collectors. Even if it does sound familiar, many would mix it up with Paul Burlin, Natalie’s artist husband. Natalie was a prominent ethnomusicologist who is mostly known today for her recordings of Native American tribes and her study of African-american music.
“It’s a remarkable piece at 5 feet wide. It has the skill and substance of an Albert Bierstadt, yet it’s signed Burlin and we have it attributed to Natalie Curtis Burlin. Paul Burlin’s work was more modern and impressionistic, so we don’t think he painted it,” Blitch says. “How did she find the time, let alone the skill, to paint this? It’s no mere plein air sketch—it’s a fully realized work. It’s something of a conundrum for us.”
Another interesting work is Leon Gaspard’s Russian Musicians, a pastel work on paper mounted on board. The painting, expected to sell for $125,000 to $175,000, is designed to look like a triptych, but is actually painted on one surface with small wooden dividers that are laid on top of the board to give the illusion of three separate works.
Other works include a study for a desert still life by Thomas Hart Benton that is expected to fetch $100,000 to $150,000; John Falter’s Eastern Dudes, showing several men fixing an early automobile in a desert scene, expected to sell for $20,000 to $40,000; and Allan Houser’s stone work Pueblo Woman, estimated at $25,000 to $40,000.
Zuni Olla, ca. 1900, clay,15¼ x 15" Estimate: $15/20,000
E. Martin Hennings (1886-1956), Taos Indian Maiden, oil on canvasboard, 12 x 14" Estimate: $80/120,000
Natalie Curtis Burlin (1875-1921), King’s River Canyon, Sierra Nevada, ca. 1917-20, oil on canvas, 36 x 60" Estimate: $15/25,000
Gerard Curtis Delano (1890-1972), Canyon Trail, oil on board, 28 x 33" Estimate: $100/150,000
Eliseo Rodriguez (1915-2009), Untitled (New Mexico Scene),1940, oil on Masonite, 99¾ x 45¾" Estimate: $70/100,000