Christie’s American Art Sale
New York, NY
Christie’s fall American art sale will include a stunning array, in subject and size, of Western works, from Eanger Irving Couse’s 46-inch-tall Flute Player at the Spring to George de Forest Brush’s 4½-by-7½-inch Indian in the Snow, which is roughly the size of a paperback book. “We try hard to bring a great grouping of Western works, and this year is no different,” says Tylee Abbott, vice president and specialist at Christie’s. “It’s a diverse bunch.”
An important highlight from the sale is Albert Bierstadt’s Afterglow, an 1889 oil estimated at $600,000 to $800,000. “It’s very characteristic of Bierstadt’s style: dramatic, big and bold. And while Bierstadt was certainly known for his luminist pictures, this one really glows. It reads to me as sunset, and the title, Afterglow, alludes to that as well,” Abbott says. “The figures are important because they give the scene scale. The grandeur of the Western landscape is paramount, and the people increase the drama.”
Another Bierstadt in the sale—the American Rockies, estimated at $120,000 to $180,000— comes from the collection of Diane Disney Miller, daughter of Walt Disney. Disney Miller, who died in 2013, lived in California and frequently collected works that glorified the beauty of the state. Select works from the collection are being offered with a portion of proceeds benefiting organizations she supported throughout her life, including the Walt Disney Family Museum, Jane Goodall Institute, Los Angeles Philharmonic and others. The bulk of the collection was acquired in the 1980s so many of the works, including pieces by Thomas Hill and Andrew Wyeth, have been off the market for nearly 40 years.
Couse’s Flute Player at the Spring is another work that is generating a lot of interest from bidders, Abbott says. “It’s impressive at 46 inches tall. It’s large for a Couse, which makes it very rare to the market. What’s so wonderful about it is the elaborate detail in the painting, including in the beadwork, the moccasins, the hairpieces and the belt,” he says of the work
created by one of the founders of the Taos Society of Artists. “It also retains its original Couse-designed frame, which are extremely sought-after. The piece has never been to auction, and we’re quite excited about it because it’s a significant work.”
Two other works by Taos Society of Artists members include Walter Ufer’s Indian Mother, Isleta (est. $80/120,000), Oscar
E. Berninghaus’ In the High Aspens (est. $60/80,000) and Joseph Henry Sharp’s Jerry of Taos (est. $80/120,000), which shows one of Sharp’s favorite models, Elk-foot, who also used the name Jerry Mirabal.
Another important offering is Henry Farny’s 1903 gouache on paperboard work The Return to Camp, estimated at $100,000 to $150,000. “This is classic Farny. Like
Bierstadt, luminosity is key, and you can see how Farny uses it in this beautiful end-of-day glow,” Abbott says. “It’s also important to note that he paints a sympathetic viewpoint, as opposed to the ‘noble savage’ that you see in some others works around this time.”
In addition to a Frederic Remington bronze of The Rattlesnake (est. $100/150,000), Christie’s will also offer Brush’s Indian in the Snow (est. $80/120,000). Works by Brush, especially Native American works, rarely come to auction, which begins to explain the estimate for a painting the size of a postcard. “There are never enough opportunities for a Brush. It is extremely rare,” Abbott says, adding that the market is in great shape for Western art. “People are committed to collecting great pictures, especially the kinds of works that Christie’s is offering—the best work that’s in great condition with good provenance and properly estimated. We’re happy with what we’re offering.”
Eanger Irving Couse (1866-1936), Flute Player at the Spring, 1918, oil on canvas, 46 x 35” Estimate: $250/350,000
Henry Farny (1847-1916), The Return to Camp, 1903, gouache on paperboard, 12½ x 7¼” Estimate: $100/150,000
George de Forest Brush (1855-1941), Indian in the Snow, ca. 1915-20, oil on canvas, 4½ x 7¼” Estimate: $80/120,000