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Brisk Sales and Record Highs At Mid-Season Auctions

Mid-season sales of Impressionist, modern and American art hit high marks at Sotheby’s and Christie’s, yielding strong prices for middle-market works and record totals. Sotheby’s sale of Impressionist and modern art on Feb. 23 realized $3.4 million. Among the top lots were Reuven Rubin’s Near Safed, which brought $84,000, comfortably above the $40,000/60,000 estimate. This sale

NEW YORK—Mid-season sales of Impressionist, modern and American art hit high marks at Sotheby’s and Christie’s, yielding strong prices for middle- market works and record totals.

Sotheby’s sale of Impressionist and modern art on Feb. 23 realized $3.4 million. Among the top lots were Reuven Rubin’s Near Safed, which brought $84,000, comfortably above the $40,000/60,000 estimate. This sale was followed by two works that flew above their estimates to fetch $72,000 each: Le modèle roux, by André Derain (1880-1954), estimated at $30,000/40,000; and Portrait de Terrus, by Maximilien Luce (1858-1941), estimated at $25,000/35,000.

Sotheby’s American paintings sale on March 2 grossed $3.9 million. A work by Milton Avery (1885-1965), Portrait of the Artist’s Wife, 1955, took the top price of $132,000 (estimate: $30,000/40,000). Originally donated by Avery to the Little Red Schoolhouse, Manhattan, it had been acquired by the consignor at a 1955 charity auction.

Another six-figure price at the sale was given for Rocks and Pines, Garden of the Gods, Manitou, Colorado, 1919, a work by Birger Sandzen that brought $120,000 (estimate: $50,000/70,000).

Property from the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, sold to benefit its acquisitions fund, included two works by Theodore Roszak (1907-81)—a sculpture, Invocation, variation #3, and a related drawing. The entire lot sold for $84,000 (estimate: $15,000/25,000). The same price was realized for a drawing by James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) when Nelly, in pencil on blue paper, made more than its $15,000/25,000 estimate.

Christie’s $2.3 million total on March 1 for Impressionist and modern art set a record for the house’s mid-season sale. The auction was 92 percent sold by value. Of 156 lots offered, 133, or 85 percent, found buyers.The top lot was Louis Valtat’s Maternité, a 1908 oil on paper that fetched $150,000 from an American collector, far surpassing the $18,000/25,000 estimate.

Bernard Buffet’s Pigeon gris et pigeon paon, a 1987 oil on canvas, won $66,000 (estimate: $30,000/40,000), while Maurice de Vlaminck’s Paysage enneigé made $57,600 (estimate: $40,000/60,000). Both were taken by European dealers.

On March 2 the Christie’s auction of American paintings, drawings and sculpture took $3 million and was 94 percent sold by dollar. Of 185 lots on offer, 151, or 82 percent, found buyers.

The top price was given for Andrew Wyeth’s Berry Picking, a circa 1940 watercolor that realized $204,000, soaring past the $30,000/50,000 estimate. This was followed by Mares of Diomedes, a 1904 bronze by Gutzon Borglum (1867-1941) that sold for $144,000 (estimate: $40,000/60,000).

“This excellent sale result is testament to the fact that the market warmly receives and will aggressively battle for works by a wide range of American masters,” says Christie’s specialist and head of the sale Aviva Itzkowitz. Interest “ranged from the Hudson River School to 20th-century modernism, with special emphasis on rare works sourced from private collections and offered fresh to the market,” she adds.

The ten highest lots all brought prices well above estimates. They were purchased by American buyers, comprised evenly of dealers and private collectors.

Other lots that saw strong prices: The Scout, 1910, by Cyrus Edwin Dallin (1861-1944), which brought $126,000 (estimate: $70,000/90,000);

The Stage Coach, an oil by David Gilmore Blyth (1815-65), which sold for $122,400 (estimate: $7,000/10,000); and Man at Sea, by Jack Lorimer Gray (1927-81), which realized $91,200 (estimate: $20,000/30,000). Works by such artists as Avery, Arthur Dove and Childe Hassam also figured among the top lots.

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