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Selective Buying Marks Swann Prints and Drawings Sales

Swann Galleries held two sales of prints and drawings, a large sale of 19th- and 20th- century works on Sept. 21 and a smaller one of prints, drawings and watercolors created between 1900 and 2000 that feature scenes of New York City, on Sept. 16.

NEW YORK—Swann Galleries held two sales of prints and drawings, a large sale of 19th- and 20th- century works on Sept. 21 and a smaller one of prints, drawings and watercolors created between 1900 and 2000 that feature scenes of New York City, on Sept. 16.

The sales yielded uneven results. The top lots in the Sept. 21 sale were works by Pablo Picasso, led by the ca. 1930 pencil drawing Méléagre tue le Sanglier de Calydon (Meleager Slays the Boar of Calydon), which brought $55,200, within the $40,000/60,000 estimate. The artist’s ca.1900 pen and ink Portrait de femme (Portrait of a Woman) sold for $28,800, missing the low end of the $30,000/50,000 estimate, and his 1962 linoleum cut Femme endormie (Sleeping Woman) took $26,400 compared with an estimate of $20,000/30,000. A linoleum cut Femme nue debout (Standing Nude), 1963, sold for $22,800, compared with an estimate of $20,000/30,000.

Other strong results included a portfolio of one color etching and 12 color heliogravures, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 1969, by Salvador Dalí, which sold for $22,800, compared with an estimate of $6,000/9,000, as well as the artist’s etching St. George and the Dragon, 1947, which sold for $20,400, compared with an estimate of $12,000/18,000.

A 1943 lithograph by Benton Spruance, Riders of the Apocalypse, brought $22,800, within the estimate of $20,000/30,000, and a ca. 1920 color aquatint and etching, Cat, by Tsuguharu Foujita, sold for $16,800 (estimate: $5,000/8,000).

However, a 1942 pen and ink Seated Young Woman (Monique) by Henri Matisse, which carried an estimate of $200,000/300,000, failed to sell. Among other buy-ins was an 1897–98 color lithograph by Paul Signac, Port of Saint-Tropez, which was estimated at $20,000/30,000.

Overall, 398 (or 73 percent) of the 542 lots in the auction found buyers, producing an overall total of $1.4 million, below the $1.8 million/2.7 million estimate. Swann’s head of prints and drawings, Todd Weyman, told ARTnewsletter that the sale showed “there continues to be selective buying going on,” adding that “higher-end material carried the sale,” because much of the “lower- range material did not perform very well.”

The New York City–themed sale was strong for the drypoint prints of Martin Lewis (1881–1962), an Australian-born artist. There were 13 of his prints in all, and they sold well, led by Shadow Dance, 1930, which earned $50,400. This was not only well above the $20,000/30,000 estimate—as well as the highest price in the auction and an auction record for any work by the artist. Another Lewis drypoint, Stoops in Snow, 1930, brought $33,600 (estimate: $20,000/30,000), while his 1934 Winter on White Street earned $28,800 (estimate: $18,000/22,000) and Little Penthouse, 1931, fetched $26,400 (estimate $15,000/20,000).

Three Childe Hassam etchings all outperformed their estimates—the 1916 work Fifth Avenue, Noon sold for $18,000, clearing the estimate of $10,000/15,000), while Washington’s Birthday, Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street, 1916, sold for $14,400, against an estimate of $8,000/12,000, and The Billboards, New York, 1896, brought $10,200 (estimate: $4,000/6,000). Brownstone Houses, New York, ca. 1937, a watercolor by George Grosz, drew $13,200 (estimate: $8,000/12,000). Edward Hopper’s etching Night Shadows, 1921, earned $38,400 (estimate: $30,000/50,000).

Overall, the sale earned $637,461, within the $567,700/847,350 estimate. In all, 154 (or 67 percent) of the 231 lots were sold. Most of the higher-estimated lots found buyers, although there were some exceptions including Charles Sheeler’s lithograph The Delmonico Building, 1926, which had an estimate of $15,000/20,000, and Reginald Marsh’s 1938 watercolor Tugboats near the Brooklyn Bridge which was estimated at $12,000/18,000.

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