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O'Keeffe's 'White Calla Lily' to lead Sotheby's American Art Auction on 20 May
Georgia O'Keeffe, White Calla Lily. Estimate: $8–12 Million. Photo: Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s annual spring auction of American Art will be held in New York on 20 May 2015. The sale is highlighted by White Calla Lily, an iconic flower painting by Georgia O’Keeffe that the artist kept in her own collection until her death in 1986, and which has remained in the same private collection for more than two decades. The auction will be on public exhibition beginning 16 May in Sotheby’s York Avenue headquarters.

Following the sale of Georgia O’Keeffe’s Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 for $44.4 million at Sotheby’s New York in November 2014 – more than three times the previous auction record for any work by a female artist – the May sale is led by another iconic flower painting by the artist: White Calla Lily from 1927 (estimate $8–12 million). Between 1918 and 1932 O’Keeffe executed over 200 flower paintings, but it was arguably in the calla lily that the artist found her ideal motif, one that provided the perfect synthesis of subject and form that now defines her most celebrated work. The artist clearly held the present painting in high regard, as she kept it in her personal collection until her death in 1986. In fact, the back of the painting features her star device, which she often used to mark her favored pieces. White Calla Lily was subsequently acquired by the present owner in 1994 from Gerald Peters Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and has not been shown in public since.

In a market that puts a premium on freshness and quality, Sotheby’s is honored to present a significant selection of late-19th and early-20th century works emerging from the same distinguished private collection. Collected from the 1960s – ‘80s and rarely exhibited since, the 21 works on offer include important pieces by such names as Martin Johnson Heade, Maxfield Parrish, Childe Hassam, and more. The group is led by Heade’s Two Fishermen in the Marsh, at Sunset, which depicts the scenic salt marshes along the Northeastern coast (estimate $700,000–1 million). These marshes were among the artist’s favorite and most highly-acclaimed subjects, accounting for a significant portion of his oeuvre.

Following the sale of Milton Avery’s March and Sally Outdoors at Sotheby’s New York in May 2014 for a record-setting $5.7 million, the upcoming auction will offer a strong group of four works by the artist. The group is led by two spectacular landscapes inspired by the artist’s travels: Spring in Vermont from 1945, influenced by his family’s regular travels to the town of Jamaica (estimate $1.5–2.5 million), and Beach House (Porch and Chairs) from 1944, which has remained in the same private collection for nearly three decades (estimate $1–1.5 million).

The sale also offers two works by Avery from The Goldwyn Family Collection, which Sotheby’s will offer across a series of sales in 2015. While the Goldwyn family is synonymous with the film industry, many will discover in these sales that their creative vision also extended to collecting fine art. The American Art sale includes Avery’s Reclining Female (estimate $600/800,000) and Mexican Washerwoman (estimate $400/600,000), both of which were acquired by Samuel Goldwyn Jr. – influential producer and champion of the independent film movement in the United States.

While trompe-l’oeil has clear art historical precedents in antiquity as well as 17th and 18th century Europe, Peto skillfully adapts the technique to 19th century America in Old Time Letter Rack from 1894 (estimate $800,000–1.2 million). He fills the composition with autobiographical references: his inclusion of envelopes postmarked Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio, as well as another addressed to Peto himself in Island Heights, New Jersey and the copy of Dayton’s Evening Herald newspaper, refer to the period in the late 1880s and early 1890s during which he traveled regularly between Ohio and New Jersey. Old Time Letter Rack was discovered in California in 2006; its previous history is unknown, as is typical of many of his works.

The May auction features a selection of four beautiful works on paper by John Singer Sargent that document the extensive travels for which he is well-known. The group is led by The Giudecca (A Summer Day on the Giudecca, Venice) (estimate $600/800,000), which has not been exhibited publicly for more than a century, having last been on view in 1908 at the New English Art Club in London. Mrs. Ralph Curtis with her Daughter, Sylvia depicts the mother and daughter on the terrace of the Villa Amicilia in Villa Amicitia in Beaulieu-sur-Mer in the South of France (estimate $300/500,000). Mrs. Curtis’s father-in-law, Daniel Curtis, was Sargent’s cousin, and Sylvia was the artist’s goddaughter. The work’s inscription indicates that Sargent gifted the watercolor to Daniel’s wife.

A significant offering of Modern sculpture features works by Elie Nadelman, Paul Manship and Gaston Lachaise, led by Nadelman’s 12 ½ inch bronze Horse, modeled in 1915 (estimate $500/700,000). Three works by Manship feature one of three 44-inch casts of Briseis, one of which he displayed in the dining room of his townhouse on East 72nd Street in New York (estimate $400/600,000). Lachaise registered the copyright for the composition of The Peacocks in June 1922, and a total of 14 bronze casts of the work were made according to his specifications between then and 1929. Six of the casts are now included in significant public collections such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The present bronze (estimate $200/300,000) has remained in the same private collection since 1959.

Sotheby’s will present The Warshawsky Collection – a landmark offering of Tiffany, Pre-War Design and fine art – this May in New York, assembled from the 1960s through the ‘90s by noted Chicago businessman Roy Warshawsky and his wife Sarita. The collection is led by Norman Rockwell’s The Bookworm from 1926, which is considered a tribute to German artist Carl Spitzweg’s painting Der Bücherwurm from 1852 (estimate $1.5–2.5 million). Rockwell’s homage reverses the stance of the original painting both literally and figuratively: whereas Spitzweg depicts a respectably-dressed German burgher in a large library, Rockwell paints an eccentric and absentminded reader lost amongst his findings at an outdoor bookstand.

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May 5, 2015

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