John Moran’s February Fine Art Sale Earns $3.4+ Million - Largest In Firm’s 39-Year History
Feb. 27, 2008
PASADENA, Calif.—On Tuesday evening, Feb. 19, 2008, John Moran Auctioneers hosted the first of their tri-annual California and American Paintings Sales for 2008. Great anticipation surrounded the sale, as it was headlined by an important work by Nicolai Fechin. In all, 13 new world auction records were set, and $3.4+ million was earned on some 229 lots resulting in the highest grossing sale in John Moran Auctioneer’s 39-year history. Their previous highest grossing fine art sale was held in October of 2006 when the firm earned $3 million on a like number of offerings. (Unless indicated, all prices listed in this release include the 15% buyers premium. Hammer prices do not include premium). Internet bidding for this and all John Moran Auctioneers sales is facilitated by LiveAuctioneers.com.
The caliber of the artists and the quality of the works on offer were consistently high throughout the four-hour sale, their value recognized by a large audience of buyers and collectors who also appreciated the excellent provenance. Over 1,100 international buyers were registered for the sale.
The evening started off strongly with the first world record price of the evening realized just 20 minutes into the sale. “Yerba Buena,” a nocturne depicting San Francisco Bay by Charles Rollo Peters (1862-1928) that was sold together with an original note from the artist, quickly surpassed its high estimate of $25,000, selling for $40,250. The previous high record for this artist was $36,000 achieved in October 2006 at Christie’s Los Angeles.
Just 10 lots later, a new world record was set for Nell Walker Warner (1891-1970). The signed oil on canvas, depicting cherry blossoms in a still life set against an unusual gauze-effect background created by cross-hatching into the wet paint sold for $12,650, more than double the high estimate. The previous world record for this artist was set by John Moran with last year’s sale of “House in a Eucalyptus Foothill Landscape” for $11,500.
The leading lot of the evening, Lot 39, was a masterwork by renowned portraitist and painter Nicolai Fechin (1881-1955) entitled “The Wood Engraver.” Fechin painted “The Wood Engraver” shortly after his arrival in America from Russia and it earned him the 1924 Thomas R. Proctor Award for Portraiture at the National Academy of Design. The portrait possesses all the hallmarks of Fechin’s best work and, until coming on the block on February 19, had been privately held for over 60 years. John Moran Auctioneers had assigned a presale estimate of $400,000 to $600,000 and the bidding opened at $200,000. Quickly escalating to $700,000, bidding paused momentarily before being taken up by two phone bidders who raised the final price to $950,000, a new world record hammer price for Fechin. (NOTE: The world-record hammer price of $950,000 ($1,092,500 with 15% buyers premium) set by John Moran Auctioneers surpassed Fechin’s previous at-auction record of $900,000 ($1,104,500 with 22% buyers premium) achieved with “Tonita” at Christie’s Los Angeles in October 2007.)
The evening’s next high point was the record-breaking price brought for a work by William Joseph McCloskey (1859-1941). “Florida Oranges,” a well-documented, signed and dated oil on canvas of his best-known subject of oranges with paper wrappers, was expected to earn $100-$150,000. Competitive floor and phone bidding brought the final price to $546,250, a new world record by more than $100,000. The previous record had been achieved by Bonhams San Francisco in December 1994 when they sold “Oranges and Wrappers” for $464,500.
Moran also offered a magnificent, large work by Maurice Logan (1886-1977). The signed oil of the San Francisco ferry dock and skyline, estimated to earn $25-$35,000, realized $80,500. (Previous record achieved at Bonham’s in June 2006 of $57,500.)
Other new world records were set for Helen Hamilton (1899-1970), and California artists Pedro Lemos (1882-1954) and George Spangenberg (1907-1964). Hamilton’s turbulent seascape sold for $9,775 and Lemos’s oil of the Monterey coast brought $16,100. Spangenberg’s oil of a farm in a San Diego landscape more than doubled the previous record, selling for $9,200.
John Moran’s next important auction of California and American Paintings will be held on June 24, 2008. Moran’s art sales feature California and American Impressionist oil paintings and watercolors painted before 1950. Bidding for these sales is available in person, by phone, absentee and via the Internet through LiveAuctioneers.com.