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Three generations of Wyeth: The Collection of Eric and Cynthia Sambol to be offered at Christie's
Jamie Wyeth, Lighthouse Dandelions, oil on panel, 30 x 48 in. Est: $250,000-350,000© Jamie Wyeth.

NEW YORK, NY.- Christie’s announced the sale of Three Generations of Wyeth: The Collection of Eric and Cynthia Sambol at the New York sale of American Art on 23 May. Comprised of thirteen works by N.C., Andrew, and Jamie Wyeth, the collection includes important and notable works from three generations of perhaps the most remarkable American art family dynasty of our time.

Elizabeth Sterling, Head of American Art at Christie’s in New York said: “It is a privilege to have been entrusted with the sale of works from the collection of Eric and Cynthia Sambol. The artworks they have acquired over the years are a testament to the Sambols’ deep seeded commitment to forming a spectacular collection that captures the Wyeths’ vision of the American landscape.”

A businessman, photographer, and philanthropist, Eric Sambol’s captivation with art began at a young age, as the child of a painter. A school trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 1976 exhibition of Two Worlds of Andrew Wyeth: Kuerners and Olsons solidified Eric’s fascination with the Wyeth family’s work, an enthrallment that would stay with him for decades. While Eric’s profound emotional response to the work of Andrew Wyeth guided them to their initial acquisition, it was Cynthia, who was instrumental in the aesthetic choices and subsequent acquisitions, based on her practice of sustainable landscape farming and design. While they originally collected works from the Hudson River School and Maritime paintings, the Sambols eventually acquired works by Andrew Wyeth, beginning with Flat Boat. They later expanded their collection to include works by Andrew’s father, N.C. Wyeth, such as Norry Seavey Hauling Traps Off Blubber Island, as well as those by Andrew’s son, Jamie, such as Lighthouse Dandelions. Eric Sambol noted that ever since his early experience at the Wyeth exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum, “no one could compare. The moods and feelings that I felt conveyed in his work began an important journey, which prompted my own creative work as a photographer. Collecting isn't just about purchasing objects for me- I knew behind every realistic image an ambiguity, a disquiet, and a generational family story was hiding.”

Eric Sambol’s penchant for and understanding of works by Andrew Wyeth were exponentiated when he had the opportunity to meet and correspond with the artist. Mr. Sambol states "Wyeth has produced a wealth of technically stunning paintings and drawings - yet they capture spontaneous and vulnerable moments in life. Andrew Wyeth and I corresponded in July 2002 about a tempera. In a letter to me, Andrew wrote, ‘As for any thoughts I may have..... you will have to listen very carefully, for it to speak, my brush does the speaking for me not my pen.’" Six works by Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009) will be offered in the Sambols’ collection and Rocky Hill (estimate: $1,800,000-2,400,000) embodies the hallmarks that have made him one of the most enduring figures in American Art. Andrew often worked in series, becoming devoted to particular locations and the subjects, thereby allowing him to lend sincerity to his style without sentimentality. The subject of Rocky Hill is his faithful dog Nell, who Wyeth often revisited as a subject. As he so often did with his other subjects, such as the Kuerners, Olsons, and Ericksons, he aimed to more deeply explore her psyche as well as his relationship with her. The work not only embodies a sense of loneliness, but also pays tribute to the passage of time and the people and places that inhabit the artist’s daily life in Maine and Pennsylvania. The permanence of the forest and terrain juxtaposed with the living creature, standing at attention, make Rocky Hill among Andrew Wyeth’s most profound representations of the theme of the passage of time.

Heat Lightning (estimate: $2,000,000-3,000,000), another highlight by Andrew Wyeth, was painted in tempera, a medium the artist reserved for his most important works. The work was painted in 1977, the same year that Andrew painted On Her Knees from his famous “Helga” series, which, to Wyeth’s dismay, was often overlooked in terms of its emotional content. Wyeth considered On Her Knees to be the pinnacle of his ability to capture both the physical and emotional aspects of Helga’s passion in her natural state. Despite their similarities in subject matter and pose, the two works contain important differences in their execution. In On Her Knees, Helga turns her head away from the viewer, conveying a determined contemplative demeanor. The unnamed model in Heat Lightning, however, is less resolute in her appearance. Wyeth has partially shrouded the woman’s face, enhancing the contrast between sexuality and modesty. This juxtaposition is visually echoed by the dark tones of the model’s skin against the crisp white sheets, as well as the flash of lightning that illuminates the dark interior. Heat Lightning is thus a symbol of the delicate balance between privacy and openness in the intimate relationship between artist and model.

Jamie Wyeth’s (b. 1946) Lighthouse Dandelions (estimate: $250,000-350,000) is a result of the Wyeths’ strong connection to Maine. Having spent time at the home his grandfather purchased in the 1920s in Port Clyde, Maine, Jamie became familiar with the area and, in this work, chose to depict the Tenants Harbor Lighthouse, a defining feature of the Port Clyde Coast and welcoming beacon into the harbor. The structure adopts an imposing quality when set against the dramatic night sky, elevating the seemingly mundane to a highly regarded and thought-provoking subject. The only sign of life that Wyeth has chosen to include is the illuminated lantern room, indicating that the keeper is minding the tower. The result is a stunning painting that combines the narrative qualities of his grandfather, N.C. Wyeth, with the haunting realism of his father, Andrew.

Painted in 1938, N.C. Wyeth’s (1882-1945) Norry Seavey Hauling Traps Off Blubber Island (estimate: $300,000-500,000) was painted as a gift to Roger Scaife, a friend of the artist and editor at Houghton Mifflin. The work depicts Blubber Island, a small body of land located off the coast of Port Clyde, Maine. Following his move to Maine, N.C. Wyeth became particularly taken with the area’s beautiful sweeping coasts and made a decisive shift in his career. He accepted fewer illustration commissions, citing its compositional constraints, and instead concentrated primarily on landscape paintings, which provided him with more artistic freedom. The work is subsequently a wonderful example of his highly personal style, which combines his training and background as an illustrator and his fascination with the natural New England landscape. It is also of note that N.C. Wyeth chose to name the fisherman in the painting in the title, straying from his tendency to keep his subjects anonymous and emphasizing his personal connection to the location.

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April 27, 2013

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