Mod­ernist Of­fer­ings

With an em­pha­sis on Taos and New Mex­ico mod­ernism, the Santa Fe Art Auc­tion re­turns Novem­ber 10.

Western Art Collector - - AUCTION PREVIEW -

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

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