NEW YORK—A 1921 painting by N. C. Wyeth (1882–1945) of a covered wagon heading into the sunset on a Western prairie led the bidding at Skinner’s Sept. 12 sale of American and European paintings and prints in Boston, earning $225,150 (estimate: $150,000/250,000). The work, which originally illustrated a serial that ran in Ladies Home Journal for six months from 1921 to 1922, was also featured on the cover of Skinner’s catalogue. Several bidders vied for the work by telephone, which had come from a private collection and sold to a New York dealer.
This was Skinner’s largest American and European art sale in years, with 904 lots, of which 683, or 76 percent, found buyers. The auction took in $2.1 million, the low end of the presale estimate of $2.1 million/3.2 million.
Colleene Fesko, Skinner’s director of American and European art, attributed the lower total and buy-in rate to broader economic concerns. “The middle market is really stretched,” she said, “and there is a lot of material on the market.”
Even among the sale’s top prices, bidding was uneven, with several works falling under estimate, while bidding on other lots took off. Woman Getting Out of the Bath, a bronze modeled by Edgar Degas (1834–1917) sometime between 1896 and 1911 and cast posthumously in an edition of 20, sold for $136,275 (estimate: $150,000/250,000).
The white marble Mediterranean Sculpture I: Orphic Dream, 1941, by Jean Arp (1887–1966), brought $97,763 (estimate: $75,000/125,000), and School for Dollies, an oil by Elizabeth Shippen Green (1871–1954), fetched $69,915 (estimate: $30,000/50,000). Les Palais des Doges, vu du canal della Grazia by Felix Ziem (1821–1911) brought $59,250, more than double its high estimate of $25,000, and an 1876 oil by Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait (1819–1905), Hunters with Spaniels and Quail, sold for $41,475 (estimate: $30,000/50,000).
Prints Open Sale On A Strong Note
The first part of the sale, which focused on prints, had the highest percentage of lots sold (84 percent, compared with 72 percent for paintings) and produced strong prices. Two etchings by Joan Miró (1893–1983)—L’Oiseau destructeur, 1969 (estimate: $12,000/18,000), and La Femme arborescent, 1974 (estimate: $18,000/22,000)—earned $14,220 and $21,330, respectively. Circus with Yellow Clown, a 1967 etching by Marc Chagall (1887–1985), brought $10,073 (estimate: $2,000/4,000). A glazed ceramic dish by Pablo Picasso, Goat Head in Profile, 1952 (estimate: $8,000/12,000), fetched $10,073, and three silkscreens by Andy Warhol (1928–1987), estimated at $10,000/15,000 each, sold above their high estimates, two for $16,590, and one for $18,960.
There were some clear disappointments in the sale, including a bronze by Henry Moore (1898–1986), Mother and Child: Paleo, 1979, which failed to sell against an estimate of $20,000/30,000, and Adams Creek Near Liberty Falls by Herman Herzog (1832–1932), which bore a $25,0000/35,000 estimate.