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Heritage Auctions' inaugural California art auction features brightest stars of the Golden State
John Bond Francisco (American, 1863-1931), The Foothills of California, Tejon Ranch, circa 1929. Oil on canvas, 33-1/2 x 45 inches.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA.- A spectacular early 20th Century landscape by Alson Skinner Clark (1876-1949), Shore by the Saint Lawrence (October Bouquet), 1916, is expected to bring $ 175,000+ when it crosses the block as a principal highlight of Heritage Auctions’ inaugural California Art Signature® Auction, March 20, in the company’s Beverly Hills salesroom.

“This work is one of the major artistic achievements of Clark’s career,” said Deborah Solon, West Coast Director of American Art at Heritage, “and it’s a good one indeed to anchor our first auction of early California art. Shore by the Saint Lawrence, painted upon his return to America after being forced from France at the beginning of World War I, literally explodes in a riot of color, divided brushwork and wonderful lighting effect.”

Raised in Chicago, Clark took evening classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and went on to study with luminaries such as William Merritt Chase and James Abbott McNeill Whistler. While influenced early by Whistler’s somber palette, Clark became a devotee of French Impressionism, spending time in Giverny, where a large American colony had developed. After settling in California, Clark retained his devotion to the techniques typical of Impressionism.

The auction importantly marks the first time that Heritage will be featuring the art of California exclusively, following the recent additions of Solon and Alissa Ford as Director of California Art.

“The market for the best of California art is full of dedicated, passionate collectors,” said Ford, “and Heritage is in a perfect place to fill that need. This auction will be just the first of many that will, hopefully, show collectors that we’re the go-to venue when it comes to the paintings they love.”

One of the auction’s principal highlight is John Bond Francisco’s The Foothills of California, Tejon Ranch, circa 1929, estimated at $60,000+. Francisco, one of the earliest and most important L.A. artists at the turn-of-the-twentieth century, originally trained as an academic painter, but his style changed as he was lured by the light and lushness of California. By the late 1890s his brushwork loosened, his palette brightened and his paintings became some of the most important produced by any California painter during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

“This work, like so many of Francisco’s, is a celebration of the untamed beauty of the mountain landscapes that covered the region,” said Solon. “One contemporary critic declared that Francisco’s admirers – and they are many who swear by him – declare that he alone paints Southern California as it should be painted.”

Edgar Alwin Payne, one of California’s premier plein air painters, is represented in the auction by the sublime Navajos Waiting, which carries a pre-auction estimate of $50,000+. The paintingis likely to catch the attention of collectors already buzzing with Payne’s name, as it comes to the block just as Payne is experiencing a surge in popularity, as evidence by the current exhibition of his work at The Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento (Edgar Payne: The Scenic Journey, running through May 6, then continuing at The Pasadena Museum of California Art in June).

Northern California artists are well represented in the auction, highlighted by William Keith’s Mount Shasta(estimate: $30,000+). This romantic view, painted in the Barbizon style, memorializes the grandiose American landscape as well as Keith’s deep love of the amazing California landscape.

Modernism is explored in three works by the artist Helena Dunlap, one of the most important woman Modernist painters working in California in the early twentieth-century: Self-Portrait (estimate: $15,000+), Hunting Buffalo, circa 1916 (estimate: $15,000+) and Men of Agra, circa 1920-1922 (estimate: $10,000+).

“Until recently, Dunlap’s work has been marginalized,” said Solon. “With the sale of these three paintings, accompanied by an essay that sheds new light on how central she was to the development of Modernism in California, we hope Dunlap will regain the stature she was accorded during her lifetime.”

Other paintings prominently featured include works by Charles Reiffel (Eucalyptus Grove, estimate: $15,000+), Maurice Braun (Valley in Summer, estimate: $18,000+), Birger Sandzen (Kansas Creek, 1946, estimate: $40,000+), Maynard Dixon (October Morning, 1940, estimate: $60,000+), Benjamin Brown (Wild Verbenas, Colorado Desert near Palm Springs, estimate: $30,000+) and many others.

“There’s been a great deal of excitement expressed about this inaugural auction,” said Ford, “which we certainly share. This is a diverse selection of important works from the great masters of California and we think collectors are going to be thrilled with what they see.”

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