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The collection of Ernest A. Bryant III reflects his native California roots. A descendant through his father of the Bixby-Bryant family of landowners, he inherited from his mother’s family a history of generations of art collecting. His maternal grandfather was Joseph E. Tilt, who, with his wife Stella, opened the Tilt Galleries in Pasadena in 1928. In a happy coincidence, Tilt Galleries was located in the 300 block of E. Green St.– the exact spot where the Pasadena Convention Center now stands, and the current site of all John Moran California and American Fine Art Auctions. In fact, Guy Rose’s record-setting Early Morning, Summer Time, sold by Moran’s for $1.2 million in 2001, passed through the Tilt Galleries inventory in the 1920s, and was indeed sold at the same East Green Street location.
The Tilt family’s enthusiastic support and love for the arts and Southern California artists no doubt informed Bryant’s tastes, which took full bloom in the 1970s, when he began acquiring early California works at a rapid pace. Like his Grandfather Tilt, Bryant was also a supporter of local artists, including many members of Santa Barbara’s Oak Group, as well as Clyde Aspevig, Edward Fraughton and Ian White, who were fellow members of his beloved Bohemian Club, and many others.
The Bryant collection represents the best of late 19th and early 20th century California art, with an emphasis on the state’s unique brand of Impressionism. Western themes and horses in particular are a strong theme throughout the collection, unsurprising given that Ernest Bryant was a fourth-generation rancher and a prominent member of the Western riding groups El Viaje de Portola in Orange County and Rancheros Visitadores in Santa Barbara County.
A breathtaking oil by Thomas Hill, depicting Indians at a campfire near the base of Bridal Veil falls in Yosemite is a fine example of one of his larger studio works. It is estimated to realize between $30,000 and $50,000. A view of a humbler landscape, by California Impressionist Jack Wilkinson Smith, depicting gently rolling, golden hills sheltering horses tied near a homesteader’s cabin beneath a rising daytime moon, is yet endowed with grandeur through Smith’s deft mastery of atmosphere, light and shadow. It is expected to bring in the $30,000 to $50,000 range.
A scene by Granville Redmond depicts the landmark Flintridge Biltmore Hotel (currently the site of the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy) from an unexpected, upward-looking vantage point at the bottom of a steep hill, with only a thin slice of sky visible along the top edge of the foliage-filled canvas (estimate: $50,000-$70,000). Edgar Alwyn Payne’s French Tuna Boats, Concarneau, France, a becalming scene of sailboats with brick-red sails floating on glassy waters, is expected to earn between $30,000 and $50,000 at the block. A small plein air oil sketch of Morro Bay by William Wendt, in the artist’s characteristically rich, summery palette of browns and greens, carries an estimate of $12,000-$18,000. Point Loma by San Diego artist Maurice Braun is an effervescent composition in idealized color, with a brush-dappled, pink-infused hillside and skyline punctuated by contrasting eucalyptus trees. Painted in 1914, just one year prior to Braun’s capture of a gold medal at the San Francisco Panama Pacific International Exposition, Point Loma is expected to realize between $30,000 and $40,000.
Selections from the Estate of Ernest A. Bryant III will be denoted in the Oct. 22 California and American Fine Art catalog by a watermark of Bryant’s brand, for easy identification. (Highlights from the Bryant collection are similarly watermarked here, where illustrated.)
Selected works from other private collections and estates include:
– An oil by Arthur Grover Rider, titled La Entrada, depicting a fisherman and two oxen landing a boat on the Valencia shoreline. The canvas comes from a private Atlanta, Georgia collection (estimate: $80,000-$100,000).
– A still life of delphiniums in a green pottery vase by Joseph Henry Sharp illustrating the artist’s detailed and carefully rendered style, so well used in his depictions of Native American life and culture. The vividly hued composition carries an estimate of $25,000-$35,000.
– John Marshall Gamble’s September Evening (Wild Buckwheat), a large oil composition with distant mountains and a golden landscape bursting forth with wild orange blooms, spliced by a dry stream bed (estimate: $50,000-$70,000.)
A small oil on board by San Diego artist Alfred Mitchell, depicting the Cabrillo Bridge at Balboa Park, is offered from a private Ventura, Calif., collection. A wonderful example of the artist’s intense interest in the effects of light on color, the piece is executed with the stippled, dabbing technique to the foreground, which characterize his earlier works. The early morning depiction of Cabrillo Bridge under hazy conditions, most assuredly executed en plein air to quickly record the atmospheric effects, will speak to any collector familiar with Mitchell’s stylistic repertoire. The painting is estimated to bring $7,000-$9,000.
A striking contrast to the Mitchell is the 1950 oil on canvas by Millard Sheets, titled Pinto Herd. The dynamic composition, channeling Sheets’ interest in mural paintings with regard to size, energy, and emotional bounty, measures 30 inches by 70 inches. The horses in this work, while not an uncommon theme in themselves with regard to Sheets’ repertoire, are imbued with an uncommonly stunning intensity. Such emotional depth is indicative of the artist’s postwar works, especially those executed in the years shortly following his return from the China-Burma-India theater while on assignment with Life magazine. Pinto Herd, originally acquired directly from the artist by a friend of Sheets who had worked with him as a WPA muralist, carries an estimate of $15,000 to $20,000.
For details contact John Moran Auctioneers, 626-793-1833.
ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE