Saturday, November 28, 2015

Freeman's December 6 Auction: American Art & Pennsylvania Impressionists: Wyeth, Parrish, Rockwell, Eakins, Stuart

Represented in this sale are three generations of the iconic Wyeth family, with works from N.C., Andrew, and Jamie on offer. The distinctive genre of  American illustrative art  as  characterized by Norman  Rockwell and  Maxfield Parrish is also featured in this sale, as are early American  painters like Gilbert Stuart  Artists and subjects of special significance to Philadelphia society (like the subject of Stuart's "Portrait of Anne (Nancy) Lee" ) and its rich artistic  community (including Thomas Eakins) are peppered  throughout the sale.  

 Barely known and rarely seen, the undisputed star of the sale is  

Andrew Wyeth's "Winter Corn Fields" (Lot 81, Estimate $600,000 - 800,000) The work  comes to auction from The Estate of  Nancy duPont Reynolds Cooch, who had been a childhood friend of Wyeth's .

"Every so often a painting comes along that resonates deeply, and for me, this is one," said Vice Chairman  Alasdair  Nichol of the work. He went on to remark that "I consider this to be the most exciting period of Wyeth's career - he's just coming into his own and  escaping his father's influence. This is six years before his masterpiece ' Christina's World,' and  already we're seeing the  symbolism he would become known for - that ominous, brooding sense of  uncertainty.

 Once dismissed as merely commercial work unworthy of serious consideration , Illustration  A rt is now  enjoys a reputation  as a vital and  highly  influential genre, with collectors clamoring for works by icons of  the American "Golden Age of Illustration." Two pillars of  the style , Norman Rockwell and Maxfield Parrish, are represented in this auction.   

Arguably one of the most beloved of American artists, Norman Rockwell worked in opposition to the avant garde style of his contemporaries. Lots 36 - 39 in Freeman's December auction is a series of four pencil drawings, (Estimated at $60,000-$100,000 each) studies for oil paintings which appeared in Brown & Bigelow's Four Seasons calendar in 1950. The illustrations depict the seasonal adventures of "Two Old Men and Dog ."  

Philadelphia native Maxfield Parrish is another celebrated illustration artist featured in the sale. His oil on board work,   

"Blue Fountain" (Study for  Reveries) , is an excellent example of the artist's  fantastical landscapes. (Estimate $150,000 - 250,000)

Also highlighted in the auction are  Gilbert Stuart and  Thomas Eakins  two early American artists with ties to Philadelphia . 

Stuart's "Portrait of Anne  (Nancy) Lee" (Lot 6, Estimate $30,000 - 60,000) is  sure draw attention from collectors of fine early  American art and historical portraiture.  A favorite of  Philadelphia society and a great beauty of her time , Anne Lee is depicted by Gilbert wearing a bonnet  in the height of fashion.  The portrait is unfinished ; it's  bare, unfinished edges add to the  overall  charm  of the work.  

In a letter to the editor of  Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly in 1896 , an admirer of  the painting remarked that rather than finishing the work, Stuart "flung away his brush, exclaiming 'It breaks my heart  to paint loveliness that must fade so soon!'"  Whether or not this incident actually happened cannot be  determined, but the story adds romance to an already enchanting painting. 

Lot 7 is  "Study of a Spectator"  for

"Taking the  Count " by Thomas Eakins , 

The great detail and effort Eakins places in this  small  subject are representative of the artist's meticulous nature.  

 Other  notable works in this auction include  p a i n t i n g s by  preeminent Pennsylvania Impressionists  Daniel Garber and  Edward Willis Redfield:


Daniel Garber "The Mary Maxwell House" (The Milk Wagon) Estimate $150,000 - 250,000 · 

Edward Willis Redfield "The South Window" Estimate $100,000 - 150,000 ·