Walt Kuhn, Milton Avery, and John Singer Sargent highlight Bonhams American Art sale

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Walt Kuhn, Milton Avery, and John Singer Sargent highlight Bonhams American Art sale
Milton Avery (1885-1965), Dunes and Blue Sea, oil on canvasboard. Painted in 1961. Estimate: $150,000-250,000. Photo: Bonhams.

NEW YORK, NY.- Bonhams American Art sale on July 29 will feature an exciting selection of fresh to the market works spanning the 19th and 20th Century genres of the category, including Modern works by Walt Kuhn, Milton Avery, and an exceedingly rare and impressive bronze by Bessie Potter Vonnoh. The sale is led by a grand portrait by John Singer Sargent, Mrs. John C. Tomlinson, from the Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans Foundation, which is also offering two significant works by John Koch.

Appearing at auction for the first time, Walt Kuhn’s Lady in Vest (estimate: $100,000-150,000) is a fantastically bold and modern portrait of a performer, which was the most noteworthy subject in the artist’s oeuvre. Kuhn was an aficionado of theatrical, vaudeville, and circus performances, and he would often study his subjects backstage. He often composed the sitters with a direct and engaging gaze with the viewer that imbues his works with a psychological intensity. Exhibiting its vibrant color palette, a lively costume design, and the arresting gaze of the woman’s piercing blue eyes, the present work is a thoroughly modern, striking work and a significant example by the artist.

The sale includes paintings by three artists in the Avery family—Milton Avery, Sally Michel, and March Avery. A highlight of the sale, Dunes and Blue Sea by Milton Avery (estimate: $150,000-250,000) is a bold landscape from the artist’s late period. Avery has deconstructed land, sea and sky so they serve as both simplified abstract forms and as recognizable natural elements. The use of color and technique, including washes of paint and varied textural brushwork, seen in Avery’s late works like Dunes and Blue Sea foreshadow later artists working in Abstract Expressionism and Color Field painting. Dunes and Blue Sea is appearing at auction for the first time and has been in the late owner’s collection since it was purchased from a gallery in 1971.

There is an attractive selection of American sculpture, including an important, rare cast of a beautifully carved model by Bessie Potter Vonnoh entitled Day Dreams (estimate: $40,000-60,000). This is one of five known versions of this model, three of which are in museum collections, and it is the first example to come to auction. The subject echoes what other American Impressionist painters of the period were focused on depicting—modern women at leisure in their everyday lives. Day Dreams relies heavily on its controlled handling and its complexities in design to present a refined cultural construct that was popularly explored in late 19th century American and European art. In examining her work today, many art historians cite Day Dreams as a milestone for the artist.

The sale will be a live 'behind-closed-doors' auction. An auctioneer will be present on the rostrum, and bids will be accepted in the following formats: online, on the phone, or by leaving an absentee bid. All bidding will be done remotely in accordance with the latest government guidelines.

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