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American art records shattered at Heritage Auctions
Rockwell Kent, Polar Expedition, 1944. Oil on canvas, 34 x 44 inches.

DALLAS, TX.- Joseph Christian Leyendecker’s Thanksgiving, 1628-1928: 300 Years Pilgrim and Football Player — arguably the finest of his Saturday Evening Post covers — set a record for the artist when it sold for $365,000 to lead Heritage Auctions’ $7.8+ million American art auction event in Dallas. The May 2 sales set 15 auction records for artists spanning a diverse and rich selection of paintings and sculpture across several genres and periods.

The records capped a weekend of art auctions that included the record sale of Rockwell Kent’s Polar Expedition, 1944, for $605,000 (double the previous auction record); The White Gate, 1919, by Victor Higgins for $461,000; and Taos Indian Chief by Ernest Leonard Blumenschein for $389,000. The masterpieces of Western Art were presented as part of the Judson C. & Nancy Sue Ball Collection of Fine Art.

“Heritage set records for 15 artists and produced outstanding results for several others – a truly remarkable achievement,” said Aviva Lehmann, Director of American Art at Heritage Auctions. “This is the second auction in a row that we’ve seen these results and we fully intend to keep the momentum moving forward.”

Leyendecker’s The Saturday Evening Post covers are coveted by collectors but none more so than his holiday works. Thanksgiving, 1628-1928 pays homage to the holiday’s evolution over three centuries through the artist’s trademark playful and fantastical style. The painting led the auction’s first-class grouping of Illustration Art which included When He Was Fourteen, Michael Strogoff Had Killed His First Bear, Quite Alone, 1927, a masterpiece by Newell Convers Wyeth, which sold for $269,000. Leyendecker’s The Voice in the Rice, an illustration for a Saturday Evening Post story for June-July 1909 sold for $143,000, while his Going South, The Saturday Evening Post cover for October 19, 1935, sold for $137,000. And Waiting at the Doctor’s Office, by Norman Rockwell, originally commissioned in 1952 as an advertisement, sold for $87,500. Frederick Stanley’s Halloween Scare, The Saturday Evening Post cover, Nov. 2, 1935, sold for $56,250, a record for the artist.

A bidding war broke out over Nicolai Fechin’s Taos masterpiece Peasant Girl, as 14 bidders pushed the sale price to $317,000, more than three times the artwork’s pre-auction estimate. The painting made its auction debut at Heritage after remaining in the same family for decades. Texan Johnie (Mrs. H.S.) Griffin, who summered in Ranchos de Taos, befriended Fechin's wife, Alexandra (Tinka), and purchased from Fechin this painting, as well as other works.

Two masterworks devoted to Maine’s untamable spirit saw interest from multiple bidders as Lighthouse, Stonington, Maine, John Marin’s 1921 love letter to Maine’s rugged outcrops sold for $209,000 and Storm Sea, 1913, a magnum opus by George Wesley Bellow, sold for $161,000.

A choice collection of Modernist works include Golden Fall, circa 1955, Rockwell Kent’s deeply personal view of the Adirondack Mountains from “Asgaard,” his own farm near Au Sable Forks, which sold for $137,000. Two works by Leroy Neiman, Manhattan Panorama, 1980-1984, and Aspen Mountain Rendezvous, 2001, sold for $137,000 and $81,250, respectively.

Bidders set artist records for stunning works from the Williford Trust, with Alexander Harrison, breathtaking oil Le Grand Miroir sold for $75,000, and May, 1980, by Kenyon Cox selling for $55,000.

Additional highlights include, but are not limited by:

• Water Liliesby Abbott Handerson Thayer: Realized: $75,000.

• Country School House in Winter, 1918, by Charles Ephraim Burchfield: Realized: $55,000.

• Battery of the U.S. Field Artillery Going into Action by William Herbert Dunton: Realized: $52,500, against a $15,000 estimate.

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