NEW YORK—Christie’s sale of California, Western and American paintings, drawings and sculpture, in Los Angeles on April 25, was well-received, taking a total of $3.9 million for 95 lots offered. Of these, 71, or 75 percent, were sold. By value the auction was 81 percent sold.
The top lot was an 1892 Western-themed painting by William Robinson Leigh (1866-1955), The Gambler, depicting the aftermath of a barroom brawl and shootout. Estimated at $200,000/300,000, the painting earned $408,000 from an American collector. The work was included in the World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, in 1893, and later at the National Academy of Design (1894), New York, as well as the Carnegie Institute (1982).
After attending the Maryland Institute in Baltimore, Robinson Leigh enrolled at the Royal Academy in Munich, Germany, where he spent the next 12 years. According to Christie’s catalogue, the painting “demonstrates the artist’s European training fully realized through the depiction of distinctly American subject and imagery.”
At the Christie’s auction, Charles Russell’s Cowboys on the Plains, 1920, fell for $384,000 (estimate: $100,000/150,000)) to a U.S. dealer. Records were set for Adolph Alexander Weinman (1870-1952) when his bronze sculpture Chief Black Bird, Ogalalla Sioux sold for $216,000 (estimate: $50,000/70,000); and for William Ritschel (1864-1949), when the 1924 oil Windswept Cypress, Point Lobos brought $204,000 (estimate: $100,000/150,000).
Christie’s head of American paintings in Los Angeles, Peter Kloman, noted a large number of new and existing clients “aggressively competing for works that were fresh to the market, and producing notable prices for this category.”
Among other top sellers: Grant Wood’s The Cornfield, 1927, went for $114,000 (estimate: $30,000/50,000); and Oscar Berninghaus’ Aspen Forest, Early Autumn fetched $180,000 (estimate: $150,000/250,000).