Heritage Auction’s American Art Auction
Over the past few years, Heritage Auctions has noticed an uptick in illustrations entering the market and finding new homes with buyers. Their May 4 American Art Signature Auction shows no signs of this trend slowing with five major Norman Rockwells, works by J.C. Leyendecker and other Golden Age illustrators being among the most significant lots. That trend has continued into the Western segment of the sale, with works coming from calendars and The Saturday Evening Post depicting the Western way of life. Alissa Ford, director of California and Western art at the auction house, elaborates, “We’re finding there’s an increase in illustration overall, and we’re hoping this bleeds into the Western market with significant pieces [by] Frank B. Hoffman and W.H.D. Koerner [in this sale.]”
Hoffman is represented in the auction by a Brown & Bigelow calendar illustration titled Daniel Boone Goes Bear Hunting. During the 1940s, the artist worked exclusively for the company producing Western images. This piece, which has a presale estimate of $15,000 to $25,000, arrives fresh to the market from a collection where it’s resided for more than 50 years. “It is fabulous, and there is not a piece of restoration on it,” says Ford, who also notes a smaller study of the work sold at another auction house previously, with this being the masterwork.
Dude Wrangler, by Koerner, was done as an interior illustration for the March 10, 1934, edition of The Saturday Evening Post. The work, depicting two cowboys on horseback taking a break from their daily duties, is a classic scene of everyday life on a ranch. Along with The Saturday Evening Post, Koerner’s illustrations often appeared in the Chicago Tribune. The oil on canvas is expected to fetch between $10,000 and $15,000.
Outside the illustration realm is a strong Glacier National Park landscape by John Fery titled Lake St. Mary, Going to the Sun Mountain (est. $20/30,000) that has an interesting history. “This painting had been in a crate from 1948 until 2005,” says Ford. “It has been passed down in the family, and was given to my client who consigned the work. He was watching Antiques Roadshow and saw that there was a Fery, and said, ‘I think that’s the artist that I have.’”
Ford explains the collector then made contact with the Hockaday Museum of Art, and they asked if they could borrow the work. The piece arrived on loan to the museum in 2006 and remained there for the next 12 years. “It’s a wonderful painting,” says Ford. “And while we cannot confirm with 100 percent accuracy, the story goes that it was believed to have been in the Vanderbilt collection because [the consignor’s] grandfather knew the Vanderbilts.”
Also among the Western lots is the oil painting Portrait of Chief John Williams, by Henry Farny, from the collection of Kenneth S. “Bud” Adams. The work, estimated at $12,000 to $18,000, was painted on a war drum and also
includes the drumstick. Conrad Schwiering’s Mountain Rhapsody (est. $10/15,000); Allan Houser’s 1983 bronze Night Drum (est. $8/12,000), a sculpture that mimics one of his marble pieces; and Eanger Irving Couse’s Indian Brave Kneeling Before the Firelight (est. $20/30,000), are other notable highlights.
W.H.D. Koerner (1878-1938), Dude Wrangler, The Saturday Evening Post interior illustration, March 10, 1934, oil on canvas, 36 x 27” Estimate: $10/15,000
Frank B. Hoffman (1888-1958), Daniel Boone Goes Bear Hunting, Brown & Bigelow calendar illustration, oil on canvas, 20 x 26” Estimate: $15/25,000
John Fery (1859-1934), Lake St. Mary, Going to the Sun Mountain, oil on canvas, 48¼ x 70¾” Estimate: $20/30,000