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Benson Masterwork to Lead Christie's Sale of Important American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture
Frank Weston Benson (1862-1951), Eleanor and Benny, signed 'F.W. Benson.' (lower left)--signed again and dated '16' (lower right), oil on canvas, 36¼ x 44¼ in. (92.1 x 112.4 cm.). Estimate 3,000,000 - 5,000,000 U.S. dollars.

NEW YORK, NY.- Christie’s announces further details of its upcoming auction of Important American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture on 18 May 2011, at 10 am. A total of 138 lots will be offered, featuring outstanding works drawn from a cross-section of styles and genres, including Hudson River School, American Impressionism, Regionalism, Modernism, and Western Art. The sale is expected to achieve in excess of $29 million total.

Christie’s previously announced that the upcoming sale would include the Westervelt Company Collection (see dedicated press release), widely recognized as one of the best assemblages of 19th and 20th century American art in private hands. Amassed over four decades by Jonathan (Jack) Westervelt Warner, the former chief executive of Gulf States Paper Corporation (now the Westervelt Company), the selection includes masterworks by the leading American artists of the 19th and 20th centuries, including Albert Bierstadt, William Trost Richards, Childe Hassam, Frederick Carl Frieseke, Marsden Hartley, Thomas Hart Benton, Charles Ephraim Burchfield, and Andrew Wyeth, among others. The complete group of 29 Westervelt works is estimated to achieve in excess of US$ 10 million.

A lead highlight of the main portion of the sale is Frank Weston Benson’s Eleanor and Benny (estimate: $3-5 million), an important example of the artist’s highly personal style of American Impressionism. As a leader of the Boston School, Benson was one of the first American artists to introduce figures into Impressionist landscapes, creating a new style of painting that remains among the most beloved genres of early 20th century American art. Painted in 1916, at the height of Benson’s talents, Eleanor and Benny is a tender portrayal of the artist’s daughter and grandson sharing the crisp summer light at the family compound in Maine. With its refined subject matter and sensitive execution, this superb, large-format painting brilliantly captures the aesthetic of the Boston School and recalls in both subject and style the major masterpieces of Benson’s early career. Offered from a distinguished private collection, Eleanor and Benny was last exhibited publicly more than 15 years ago and has been requested for inclusion in a major museum exhibition in 2012.

Further highlights of the sale include:

North Wall Panel, oil on canvas, painted in 1918
Estimate: $2,000,000 – 3,000,000

Originally commissioned by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney for her Fifth Avenue mansion, Parrish’s 18-foot wide North Wall Panel is among the largest American paintings ever offered at Christie’s New York. This fanciful panorama employs a myriad of brilliant hues and patterns to create a captivating and complex multi-figural scene that blends pre-Raphaelite sentiment, Old Master technique and a playful sense of wonder, as though offering a view into an imaginary world. As was his practice, Parrish employed family and friends to serve as models for his works, and the North Wall Panel includes many recognizable faces, including his own and that of his wife’s. In total, Parrish produced four murals for Ms. Whitney, who installed them in her sculpture studio in Old Westbury, Long Island. North Wall Panel is offered from the personal collection of Ms. Whitney’s granddaughter, Pamela LeBoutillier of Old Westbury.

The Love Call, oil on canvas, painted in 1908
Estimate: $500,000 – 700,000

A founder of the Taos Society of Artists, Couse sketched Indian subjects from his earliest days as an artist. Impressively scaled at nearly four feet wide, The Love Call exhibits the finest aspects of Couse’s work, portraying an intimate scene of a man serenading a woman in a clearing in the woods. Depicted with the dignity and quiet spirituality that the artist most appreciated in his subjects, the two Native American figures are portrayed with remarkable attention to detail and accuracy of form, while retaining the romantic and mystical qualities that are the hallmarks of Couse’s style.

Ladies in the Shade: Abriès, watercolor on paper, executed in 1912
Estimate: $500,000-700,000

Renowned for his portraits, Sargent’s most innovative works were completed outside his studio, during his travels to the European countryside when he felt most inspired and at ease. During his stays in the Alps in the summers of 1900 to 1914, Sargent produced a body of watercolors celebrated for their freedom, intimacy and modernity. Painted during his August 1912 visit to the resort of Abriès in the French Alps, Ladies in the Shade is exemplary of Sargent’s work from this period and demonstrates the artist at the height of his abilities. This work was originally offered for sale in 1925 at Christie’s London as part of the sale of the artist’s estate and studio. It was purchased by the Widener family of Philadelphia and has descended within the family collection since.

The Falls of Saint Anthony, oil on canvas, painted circa 1887
Estimate: $400,000 – 600,000

Albert Bierstadt's paintings of the untamed American West are some of the most significant historical and artistic accomplishments of the 19th century. While other artists had made expeditions throughout the area as early as the 1830s, few could rival Bierstadt in his ability to convey the grandeur of this wondrous region to the American public. Painted circa 1887, The Falls of Saint Anthony depicts the only natural major waterfall on the Upper Mississippi River. Before European exploration, the falls held cultural and political significance for native tribes who frequented the area. The Dakota Indians associated the falls with legends and spirits, including Oanktehi, god of waters and evil, who lived beneath the falling water. Filled with vivid light and dramatic elements, the painting embodies Bierstadt's powerful vision of the pristine, unspoiled Western landscape.

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