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Strong August Sale Highlights the Robust Market for California and Western Paintings and Sculpture
E. Charlton Fortune (1885-1969), Drying sails I, 1926, signed 'Fortune' (lower right) and signed and titled 'Charlton Fortune / Drying Sails' (on the reverse), oil on canvas board, 12 1/2 x 16in, overall: 20 1/2 x 24in. Est. $120,000-160,000, sold for $170,000. Photo: Courtesy of Bonhams & Butterfields.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- The August 9, 2011 sale of California and Western Paintings and Sculpture at Bonhams & Butterfields offered a wide array of important Western scenes, Plein Air, Society of Six and landscapes and cityscapes. Simulcast to San Francisco, the highly-anticipated auction brought more than $2.28 million and featured artists such as E. Charlton Fortune, Hanson Puthuff, Granville Redmond, Arthur Grover Rider, William Frederick Ritschel and William Wendt, among others.

Scot Levitt, Vice President and Fine Arts Department Head said of the sale, “During this turbulent week that we witnessed in the world stock markets, the market for California and Western paintings and sculpture continues to be strong. Solid prices, renewed energy and vibrant bidder participation were seen in a number of collecting areas. Interest in the August sale reflected an ongoing constancy in the marketplace for fresh and unique works.”

Leading the 173-lot sale was the auction catalogue’s cover lot Marsh under golden skies by noted Plein Air artist Granville Redmond (est. $200,000-300,000, sold for $338,000). Acquired from the artist's son, Jean Granville Redmond, the 40 x 50-inch oil on canvas displayed dashed brushstrokes and bright shades of blue, orange, pink and green, as well as brilliant golden yellow.

According to Levitt, “Drawing on the contours and colors of the rich California landscape, Redmond illuminates ideal places with pointillist dabs of flowers and washes of shadows. Marsh under golden skies is a powerful example of his quintessential style.”

Four additional works by Redmond were prominently featured during the summer auction, all of which found new homes. Works of note included California wildflowers and distant snowcapped mountains (est. $70,000-100,000, sold for $115,900), California wildflowers in an extensive landscape (est. $25,000-35,000, sold for $36,600), Misty morning, shepherd with flock (est. $15,000-20,000, sold for $17,080) and River and oaks (est. $15,000 - 20,000, sold for $13,420). Bonhams & Butterfields currently holds the world auction record for a painting by Redmond, which was set in April of 2009 for $542,000.

Also of note was an impressionistic work by noted painter and Hollywood scenic artist, Arthur Grover Rider. Titled Boats at Valencia, the oil on canvas work measures an impressive 50 1/2 x 56 ½ inches (over all) and sold for $170,000 on August 9th.

During his early training at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, Rider painted for the Chicago Lyric Opera. He continued his studies at Académies de la Grande-Chaumiére and Colarossi in Paris before moving to Spain. There, he met Joaquin Sorolla, who was a great influence on his work. Together, they painted on the Valencian Beach and Rider exhibited at the court of Valencia. In the 1920s, Rider made several trips to California before he settled in Laguna Beach following Sorolla’s passing.

For more than thirty years, Rider was one of the leading scenic artists in Hollywood. He worked with Fox and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios. Rider is recognized by the Internet Movie Database as an uncredited scenic artist on the 1939 classic film The Wizard of Oz. Bonhams & Butterfields currently holds the world auction record for a painting by Rider, which was set in April of 2009 for $254,000.

Also on offer was Drying Sails I, 1926, an impressionist work by E. Charlton Fortune (est. $120,000-160,000, sold for $170,000). Fortune worked in obscurity for much of her career and utilized the ‘E’ (for Euphemia) to disguise her gender when submitting art to shows and competitions.

Fortune was born in Sausalito, Calif., in 1885 and by 1913 she was spending summers on the Monterey Peninsula. Although the artist is possibly better known for her later work in the genres of portrait and religious compositions, Drying Sails I is an earlier impressionist style painting with emphasis on subtle color and light. The fresh-to-market work is one of several known Fortune depictions of Monterey, each capturing the natural beauty of its rugged landscape. Bonhams & Butterfields currently holds the world auction record for Fortune’s Late Afternoon, Monterey, which was set in December of 2007 for $1,832,000.

According to Levitt, “Fortune continues to have a stellar run at Bonhams & Butterfields. Since 2000, the company has offered a majority of the artist’s work available at public auction and has become the market leader. Prices for Fortune at Bonhams & Butterfields have historically exceeded their estimates, and in the case of Fortune’s Late Afternoon, Monterey, set a world auction record."

Further works of note from the summer auction included an impressionistic costal scene by William Frederick Ritschel titled Moonbeams, California Coast (est. $50,000-70,000, sold for $79,300), a Plein Air scene titled San Juan Creek near the mission by William Wendt (est. $60,000-80,000, sold for $61,000) and a Western landscape titled Desert rampart by Hanson Puthuff (est. $20,000-30,000, sold for $54,900).

Auctions of California and Western Paintings and Sculpture will continue in November 2011. Highlights for the sale will be announced in the early fall.

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