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Important American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture in Christie's New York sale
Oscar Floranius Bluemner (1867-1938), Illusion of a Prairie, New Jersey (Red Farm at Pochuck), 1915. Estimate: $2,000,000-3,000,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2011.

NEW YORK, N.Y.- The Important American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture auction at Christie’s New York on November 30, at 10 am, will lead off with two vibrant landscapes from Oscar Bluemner and Frederic Church, two superb Georgia O’Keeffe paintings and a heroic tableau of Columbus departing for the New World by Emanuel Leutze, the renowned painter of Washington Crossing the Delaware. A total of 136 lots will be offered, featuring outstanding works from diverse movements across the 19th and 20th centuries, including Hudson River School, American Impressionism, Modernism, and Western Art. The sale is expected to achieve in excess of $22 million. The auction and pre-sale exhibition will take place in Christie’s new 20th floor Special Exhibition Galleries, with 360-degree views of the Manhattan skyline.

The O’Keeffe paintings, My Autumn and Black Iris (estimates: $2,000,000-3,000,000 and $1,200,000-1,800,000, respectively) and two Milton Avery paintings, Nude on the Beach and Sitting Hen, are part of the Property from a Distinguished West Coast Collection, which Christie’s has been honored to present in several sales this fall. Remarkable for the extraordinary quality, rarity and iconic status of the works included, the group of paintings and sculptures offers serious collectors a chance to buy important works that haven’t been available in decades.

A lead highlight among paintings consigned by various owners is Oscar Bluemner’s Illusion of a Prairie, New Jersey (Red Farm at Pochuck), (estimate: $2,000,000-3,000,000), a powerful symphony of form and color and a seminal work that was exhibited in the artist’s first one-man show at Alfred Stieglitz’s celebrated avant-garde gallery, “291.” Painted in 1915, this masterwork is also one of the earliest, large-scale (30 x 40 in) paintings to manifest Bluemner’s fully developed and highly personal visual lexicon. He masterfully employs color as expression and reduces the landscape in order to capture his emotional response to the setting. He simplifies trees, river, hills and buildings, rendering them with broad, emotive brushwork. Illusion of a Prairie, is an early triumph and a powerful, dramatic composition that manifests Bluemner’s fully developed artistic vision, one that was both thoroughly unique and decisively modern.

The sale includes strong pieces by many other well-known artists from across the 19th and 20th centuries, including several works by Thomas Hart Benton, Charles Burchfield, George Inness, N.C. Wyeth, and Anna Mary ―Grandma‖ Robertson Moses. Further highlights include:

FREDERIC EDWIN CHURCH (1826-1900) Twilight - Estimate: $1,000,000 – 1,500,000
Possibly no other American so faithfully captured the higher, more elusive meanings of landscape as Frederic Edwin Church, whose unmatched ability to record natural details captivated the public, and earned him a reputation for technical brilliance even as a young man. Painted at the height of his career, in 1863, Twilight (estimate $1,000,000-1,500,000) is a masterwork in which Church captures the majesty and promise inherent in the national landscape, the subject for which he is most renowned. In this scene of a glowing red sunset reflected on Maine’s highest peak, Mount Katahdin, he simultaneously presents a powerful and grand scene of nature and a picture of quiet solitude, creating a deeply profound work that is a superb representation of the artistic, political and social influences of his day. The importance of Twilight in Church’s oeuvre is underscored by its provenance, having belonged to William Henry Osborn, who was one of Church’s great patrons and also a close friend. Osborn was the son-in-law of famed collector and patron, Jonathan Sturges, who commissioned some of the most celebrated works of Thomas Cole, Asher B. Durand and others.

EMANUEL LEUTZE (1816-1868) Departure of Columbus from Palos in 1492 Estimate: $1,200,000 – 1,800,000
Painted in 1855, four years after his celebrated Washington Crossing the Delaware (1851, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), the present work depicts another pivotal moment in American history in a similarly heroic fashion. In this large-scale (48 x 72¼ in.) canvas, Emanuel Leutze combines his artistic prowess and mastery of narrative to create a richly symbolic scene of great historical importance. Here the artist aggrandizes and romanticizes Columbus’ departure on his fateful voyage of 1492, elevating the scene through his extensive use of symbolism. The rising sun casts a divine light on the clear horizon, alluding to the promise and prosperity of the New World. The inherent message of divinely ordained exploration and conquest would have appealed to Americans in the age of “Manifest Destiny.” This is supported by the provenance of the painting, which was in the collection of New York railroad investor, Charles W. Gould, who also commissioned Asher B. Durand’s masterwork, Progress.

FREDERICK CARL FRIESEKE (1874-1939) Lady Trying on a Hat - Estimate: $1,000,000 – 1,500,000
Frederick Frieseke’s images of women are celebrated among the finest achievements of American Impressionism. Painted in 1909, Lady Trying on a Hat shows his mastery of the type of Impressionist paintings created in the artists’ colony in Giverny in the early 20th century. In the life-size painting (64¼ x 52 in.), a woman sits in her boudoir looking in a hand mirror, while fixing on her head an ornate hat topped with a pink flower, verdant leaves and blue feathers, newly removed from its richly hued box placed on the floor. His ability to play with light and technique imbues his models with an air of psychological independence, positioning the artist as one of the most accomplished American Impressionist painters. This painting is being sold by order of the Board of Trustees of the Art Institute of Chicago.

MARSDEN HARTLEY (1877-1943) Movement, Sails Estimate: $1,000,000 – $1,500,000
Painted in 1916, Movement, Sails is one of the earliest and most advanced Cubist paintings produced in America. Marsden Hartley created this seminal work and a series of related paintings during a three-month stay at the lively summer colony in Provincetown, Mass. In the simplified composition of Movement, Sails, flat planes and muted colors have replaced the crowded spaces and brilliant palettes of Hartley’s earlier works. This acute reduction of abstracted elements was revolutionary for an American painting in the late 1910s. The Movement series marked Hartley’s final experimentation with pure abstraction. His shift from symbolist Expressionism to the subdued Cubism of Movement, Sails was followed by the return of figurative elements in his art. The rapidity of these changes in style demonstrates his continual experimentation and innovation, and distinguishes Hartley as one of the most important American artists of the twentieth century.

FAIRFIELD PORTER (1907-1975) Aline by the Screen Door - Estimate: $700,000 – 1,000,000
Fairfield Porter is renowned for his bold paintings of quiet domestic life, enhanced by his progressive interpretations of light and color. Painted in 1971, Aline by the Screen Door encapsulates the artist’s mature style, which incorporates more abstract forms, a brighter color scheme, and freer, more immediate impressions of his subjects. He strove for a freshness and vitality similar to the abstract painters of his generation, but grounded in a more realistic approach, and a strong sense of place and presence. With an emphasis on natural light and atmosphere, the scene depicts his sister-in-law Aline relaxing at the Porter homestead on Penobscot Bay, in Maine, but for Porter the literal transcription of what he saw was beside the point. Rather, it was in the paint itself that he found the life, the vitality, and the wholeness of the painting.

JOHN SINGER SARGENT (1856-1925) - The Piazzetta with Gondolas Estimate: $600,000 – 800,000
John Singer Sargent formed an abiding love for and fascination with Venice’s engaging contradictions, which informed his depictions of the mysterious floating city for over thirty years. The Piazzetta with Gondolas, executed circa 1902-04, is a vibrant and dynamic example of his Venice paintings from his nearly annual visits from 1898 to 1913. Sargent was less interested in transcribing Venice’s fabled vistas and panoramic views, preferring instead more intimate examinations of the canals. In order to view Venice from this new vantage point, Sargent set out in gondolas to approach the city from the water, capturing the vivid imagery in dazzling watercolor tones. These watercolors, such as The Piazzetta with Gondolas, have the effect of a snapshot, echoing contemporary photography with their cropped, close-up views, tilted perspective and fluctuating angles. The watercolor is in pristine condition, having been kept in the Sargent family through a gift to the artist’s sister and by descent to the present owner.

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