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Property from the Collection of Margie and Robert E. Peterson to highlight Sotheby's American Art Auction
Philip R. Goodwin, In the Canoe. Signed Philip R. Goodwin (lower right). Oil on canvas, 24 x 36 inches (61 x 91.4 cm). Est. $60/80,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s New York auction of American Art on 17 May 2012 will feature a group of seven pieces from the personal collection of Margie and Robert E. Peterson. Mr. Peterson was the founder of Peterson Publishing, one of America’s leading publishers of special interest consumer magazines – including Hot Rod and Motor Trend – that reached a total circulation of 43 million by the time he sold the company in 1996. Mr. Peterson married Margie McNally in 1963, and over their 44-year marriage the couple avidly collected paintings, drawings and sculpture that highlighted their interests in automobiles, hunting and the outdoors. The group on offer this May comprises paintings and drawings by Charles Marion Russell, William Robinson Leigh, Philip R. Goodwin and Donna Schuster, and will be on exhibition alongside the full sale in Sotheby’s York Avenue galleries beginning 12 May.

Margie and Robert Peterson’s shared love of the American West inspired the opening of Petersen Galleries in Beverly Hills, and they were the founding benefactors of the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles – the nation’s premiere automotive museum. The couple were active philanthropists as well, supporting many charities in Southern California including the Music Center of Los Angeles, Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, the Boys & Girls Club of Hollywood, and the National History Museum of Los Angeles County.

Property from the Peterson Collection on offer in the May auction includes four works by Charles Marion Russell. Russell earned his reputation as “The Cowboy Artist” for his dynamic action pictures, based on his intimate knowledge and appreciation of frontier life, first working as a horse wrangler and then as a cowboy. In 1893, he left this lifestyle behind and turned to art full-time, devoted to documenting scenes of the quickly disappearing cowboy culture and life on the range. Russell was largely self-taught, drawing inspiration from other artists’ work, chiefly Frederic Remington.

In The Tenderfoot from 1900, Russell expertly plays on the tension between insiders and outsiders of the American West (est. $600/900,000*). The work exemplifies Russell’s ability to show movement convincingly, which was aided by his development as a sculptor, often using clay and wax models as studies to create light and shadow, figure arrangement and individual poses. The bucking horse was a favorite subject of Russell’s, and here he demonstrates his keen understanding of human and animal anatomy in motion. The ground is littered with playing cards, a boot, a liquor bottle and a tomato can, further enhancing Russell’s personal vision of the West.

By the time Russell painted Watching the Iron Horse in 1902, he was reaching the peak of his technical skill (est. $300/500,000). In this affectionate view of a time gone by, a group of five mounted native Indians are perched atop an outcropping that affords them a clear vantage point over the plains below. In the distance is a train, likely on the Northern Pacific Railway, which draws the gaze of the Indians who contemplate the perplexing signs of encroachment that would profoundly impact their traditional way of life. Russell, who was sympathetic to the fate of the native Indian, had developed a deep understanding of their way of life, which he sought to capture in his work.

Additional works on offer from the Peterson Collection include: Russell’s The Great Game for the Rulership of the World (est. $40/60,000) and Deer in the Dell (est. $15/25,000); William Robinson Leigh’s Pickin’ a Good One, which was acquired by the couple in 1981 (est. $70/100,000); In the Canoe by Philip R. Goodwin (est. $60/80,000); and Donna Schuster’s Water Lilies from 1925 (est. $30/50,000).

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium

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