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Works by Nell Blaine Climb Steadily in Price

Demand continues to rise for the art of Nell Blaine (1922-96), with works from various phases of her career attracting a diverse group of buyers. An exhibit on view at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery (through March 10) includes examples from the mid-1940s through 1959 that are priced at $45,000/95,000 for paintings, and $10,000/20,000 for

NEW YORK—Demand continues to rise for the art of Nell Blaine (1922-96), with works from various phases of her career attracting a diverse group of buyers. An exhibit on view at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery (through March 10) includes examples from the mid-1940s through 1959 that are priced at $45,000/95,000 for paintings, and $10,000/20,000 for small-scale gouaches on paper made in the 1940s.

Gallery director Eric Brown reports that paintings from 1960 on range from $25,000/$60,000, though most are priced in the $30,000/40,000 realm.

The de Nagy Gallery has represented the artist’s estate since her death, selling pieces new to the market as well as those on the secondary market. “When Nell died in 1996, she was a productive artist, and her late shows sold out,” Brown told ARTnewsletter. Consequently, a limited number of later works were left in the estate. Blaine’s association with the Tibor de Nagy Gallery dates back to 1950, although the artist was represented by other dealers from 1953 on.

The gallery’s first Blaine exhibit, in 2001, featured her early abstract work. “It did extremely well—three-quarters of that show sold,” says Brown, adding that among the buyers were the Jersey City Museum, N.J., and the Judith Rothschild Foundation, New York. The artist’s works also were featured in several retrospectives, one in 1973 at Colgate University, Hamilton, N.Y., and others in 2001 in Virginia at the College of William and Mary and the University of Richmond.

Blaine was born in Richmond and moved to New York City in 1942, at age 20. As the youngest member of the American Abstract Artists group, her work was singled out at a late 1940s exhibition as “the best in the show” by critic Clement Greenberg.

By the early 1950s, Blaine’s pieces had become more painterly and representational, the style for which she is best-known. She became part of a group of up-and-coming artists, including Alex Katz, and was influenced by the artistic development of Jane Freilicher and Larry Rivers, says Brown.

In 1960 Blaine contracted polio; the aftereffects confined her to a wheelchair for the rest of her life and limited the size of her paintings from then on.

Blaine’s art has appeared at auction about 20 times. The highest price to date is $7,768, for an oil on canvas, Summer Time, Saratoga, 1961, which Christie’s estimated at $2,000/3,000 in 2004.

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