MILFORD, CONN.- A large and important oil painting by the renowned American Impressionist Childe Hassam (1859-1935), titled The East Hamptom Elms in May, sold for $288,000 at an auction held Apr. 25 by Shannons Fine Art Auctioneers, in the firms gallery located at 354 Woodmont Road in Milford. The painting was the top lot of 156 works offered. Hassam executed The East Hampton Elms in May in 1920, the first spring that he owned a house and studio in East Hampton, N.Y., on Long Island. The house called Willow Bend dated from 1722. Hassam purchased it from the widow of Gains Ruger Donoho (1852-1916), an artist and friend of Hassam. He paid for Willow Bend with money from his Flag Paintings series.
Hassam painted The East Hampton Elms in May on a major scale 57 ¼ inches by 72 ¼ inches. Only two other paintings were executed by Hassam on such a grand scale: Twilight, Le Crepuscule (50 inches by 77 inches, 1888); and April, The Green Gown, (56 inches by 82 ½ inches, 1920). All three major paintings remained with Childe Hassam until his death in 1935.
Many other paintings fetched high dollars in an auction that grossed $2.1 million. What this sale showed was that not only is there interest at the high end of the art market, but strong interest, too, in the middle market artworks in the $5,000-$20,000 arena, said Gene Shannon of Shannons Fine Art Auctioneers. That segment had taken a hit following the financial crisis, and it's a good sign to see it revived.
Close to 100 people packed Shannons Milford gallery, while many others registered to bid online via Artfact.com. A bank of 18 phones was kept busy throughout the evening. If we had twice the merchandise, we still could have sold it, Shannon remarked. The moneys out there, and the demand is strong.
Following are additional highlights from the auction. All prices quoted include a 20 percent buyers premium.
An oil on board painting by the noted Philadelphia Impressionist Martha Walter (Am., 1875-1976), titled Tea Party, artist signed and measuring 14 inches by 18 inches, sailed past its high pre-sale estimate to hammer for $90,000. Walter was one of only a handful of female artists to attract international respect and attention. She was mentored by William Merritt Chase.
Paintings from the Hudson River School proved to be quite popular with bidders. An oil on canvas by Jasper Francis Cropsey (Am., 1823-1900), titled Greenwood Lake in the Autumn (1890), soared to $72,000. Greenwood Lake, located in the hills of northern New Jersey, was Cropseys favorite subject, one he returned to throughout his career.
A 10 inch by 16 inch oil on canvas landscape by David Johnson (Am., 1827-1908), titled Spring A Study on the Bronx at Mt. Vernon, dated, 1873, brought $50,400. The work was encased in its original gold leaf frame and was remarkably well preserved in a shadow box.
An oil on board by William Trost Richards (Am., 1833-1905), titled White Face Mountain From Lake Placid, signed and measuring 9 ¼ inches by 15 ½ inches, changed hands for $25,200. Richards, also from the Hudson River School, was known for marine seascapes, landscapes and botanical paintings.
Pop Art prints were led by two giants in the industry. A color offset lithograph signed by Andy Warhol (Am., 1928-1987), titled Liz (1964) and depicting the late screen siren Elizabeth Taylor, hammered for $43,200; and a signed color offset lithograph by Roy Lichtenstein (Am., 1923-1977), titled Crying Girl (1963), realized $50,400.
A haunting untitled egg tempera of a woman with eyes closed, head in hand and seeming despondent but juxtaposed against a glass vase with bright pink flowers, went for $66,000. The signed work, by George Tooker (Am., 1920-2004), was 18 inches by 24 inches. Tookers images often depicted clerical workers and government offices. They evoked a sense of spiritualism and poetry.
Two exceptional paintings each brought identical selling prices of $45,600. The first was an oil on canvas board by Guy C. Wiggins (Am., 1883-1962), titled Winter Storm at the Library, New York, 16 inches by 12 inches.
The second was an oil on canvas by Dale Nichols (Am., 1904-1995, an artist often named as the fourth Regionalist painter, along with Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton and John Stuart Curry). The painting, titled The Sentinel and showing a house, barn and figures in a snow-covered landscape, was signed lower left by the artist and measured 30 inches by 40 inches.