LOS ANGELES — The Spring presentation of John Moran Auctioneers‘ semiannual California, American, and Western Fine Art sale was held on May 10. The selection was all fresh-to-the-market, having been consigned from private collections throughout California and the Southwest.
Offered were classic works from artists such as Edgar Alwin Payne, William Wendt, Millard Sheets and Thomas Hart Benton, as well as more contemporary pieces by Tom Darro, Gary Ernest Smith and Betty Anglin Smith.
The collection of early prints was key to setting the tone for the sale. Lots 2 though 6 were works by Thomas Hart Benton, one of the artists at the forefront of the Regionalist art movement. Benton’s paintings often represent rural farm life, many depicting political undertones highlighting the life and struggle of the rural working class. His vision was to provide an image of the American people that was often overlooked in history. The five Benton works presented in this sale were each estimated at $1,000-$2,000, and all practically doubled their appraisal value to sell for between $3,750 and $4,375.
One of the most noteworthy highlights was Landscape with Poppies and Lupine by Granville Redmond. Redmond was born in 1871 in Philadelphia but grew up in San Jose, California. Sadly, a childhood bout of scarlet fever caused him to lose his hearing by the age of three. He attended the California School for the Deaf from 1879 to 1890, where he learned to paint and draw. His exceptional artistic talents earned him an academic scholarship to Academie Julian in Paris. He then traveled to various cities throughout Northern and Southern California before settling in Los Angeles. Best known for his paintings of California poppies blossoming on rolling hills, Landscape with Poppies and Lupine performed exceptionally well, bringing in $87,500.
Like Redmond, the next featured artist was born in Philadelphia, studied painting in Paris at the Academie Julien and finally settled in Pasadena, California. Lot 69 presented John Frost’s 1920 work Misty View of the San Gabriel Foothills. With an estimate of $20,000-$30,000, this oil on linen demonstrates Frost’s mastery of painting en plein air. It realized $23,750. Also coming from a Southern California private collection was Gustave Baumann’s Pine and Aspen. This 1920 woodcut was estimated at $10,000-$15,000, but soared to $21,250.
Another Academie Julian-trained artist with esteem in the Pasadena art scene was Alson Clark. Born in 1876, Clark studied art in his home city of Chicago before continuing his education in New York, then Paris. His painting Eucalyptus landscape with fisherman bypassed its estimate of $5,000-$7,000 to land at $21,250.
One of the earliest works in the sale was an 1869 oil on canvas from Thomas Waterman Wood, titled Private Lunch. Estimated at $8,000-$12,000, the painting, which depicts a Black child engaging in a humble repast, sold for $21,250.
Finally, Moran presented the showpiece, Ojai Valley, from the early California Impressionist painter William Wendt. He was born in 1965 in Bentzen, Germany, then at age 15 immigrated to the United States and found employment as a staff artist in Chicago. In his early forties, Wendt and his wife decided to move to California. Known as “the dean of Southern California artists,” Wendt loved to travel to hard-to-reach areas of the California countryside, where he painted canvases of trees, rolling hills, blue skies and farmhouses. This work came from a private Southern California estate with an estimate of $10,000-$15,000 and brought $18,750.
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