KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – 20th century Art – particularly works by artists of color – dominated Case Antiques Inc. Auctions & Appraisals‘ Summer Auction July 24-25 at the company’s headquarters in Knoxville, Tennessee.
The top lot was a vivid abstract oil on canvas by Knoxville-born expressionist painter Beauford Delaney that sat largely forgotten for more than a decade in a Delaney family storage unit after the death of the artist’s niece, Lois Imogene Delaney. With its swirling bands of color and paint splatters, auction house co-owner Stephanie Case made the visual connection between this unsigned work and a late period Beauford Delaney painting recently acquired by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Intense research began between Case and Jane Jacob, a Chicago-based Delaney scholar and appraiser, Stephen Wicks, chief curator at the Knoxville Museum of Art, and Beauford Delaney estate administrator Derek Spratley to ultimately confirm it as Delaney’s work, likely painted in Paris about 1972.
“Delaney was born in Knoxville and we’ve sold his work before, so we’re fairly familiar with a lot of it. But his late period was marked by an experimentalism I think all of us in the field are only now beginning to really understand and appreciate,” said company president John Case. “This painting provides a fresh perspective.”
Estimated at $60,000-$72,000, the painting sparked a battle between multiple bidders on the phone and internet, racing to a price of $348,000, paid by an anonymous phone buyer.
Another Tennessee-born artist whose work has become particularly sought after in recent years is William Edmondson, who in 1937 became the first African American artist to have a solo exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. A small limestone sculpture of a so-called “critter” by Edmondson, from a private out-of-state collection, climbed to $120,000. The winning buyer was a Nashville collector, who defeated six other phone bidders and paid three times the estimate to bring it back to the city where it was created.
A bronze sculpture of embracing man, woman and child titled The Family by Elizabeth Catlett, from an unknown edition, sold for $33,600 against an estimate of $18,000-$22,000, and a set of three religious themed woodcuts by Jamaican-born artist Albert Huie realized $7,200 against an estimate of $600-$700.
A Southern collector pounced on an original “Blue Dog” painting by Louisiana artist George Rodrigue for $90,000 against an estimate of $68,000-$72,000, while a large abstract work by John Ferren, appropriately titled Summer, achieved the sizzling sum of $31,200 against an estimate of $7,000-$7,500 – the highest price for this artist’s work at auction in seven years.
A circa-1842 likeness by one of Tennessee’s most important portrait artists, Samuel Shaver, depicting Judge John McKinney of Rogersville hammered at $31,200 against an estimate of $4,000-$4,400. The buyer was a private collector, underbid by an out-of-state museum. A bucolic landscape with cattle by Tennessee-born artist Matilda Lotz realized $10,200, while an oil landscape by Tennessee artist Avery Handly, titled Miss Aletha’s Last Ride, sped to $6,600.
A watercolor on cardstock scene depicting harvesters in a field, painted by Elizabeth George, a student at the Jonesborough, Tennessee Female Academy in 1838, earned a top bid of $4,560. Other art highlights included an Alfred de Breanski oil landscape, Moonrise on a Perthshire Loch, and an 8 by 10-inch beach scene by Mabel Woodward, both of which reached $9,000; a Hayley Lever view of the New York skyline from Central Park, $8,960; a Charles Hawthorne impressionist “Mud Head” portrait, $7,680; a Sterling Strauser oil still life, $5,520; a large Jesse Hobby winter landscape, $4,800; and a small Leon Dabo still life, $4,800.
Demand for Outsider Art was strong. A Helen LaFrance farm scene harvested $7,800, while a smaller LaFrance “church picnic” scene hit $5,280 and a carved limestone “Noah’s Ark” by fellow Kentucky artist Tim Lewis sailed to $4,320. Figurative paintings on boards by Mary T. Smith and Eddy Mumma earned $6,000 and $1,560 respectively.
There was a small but significant selection of Arts and Crafts era decorative arts. A Tiffany Studios table lamp with an Arrowroot pattern shade lit up the sale at $40,960, surpassing its $18,000-22,000 estimate, while a Tiffany lamp with a Crocus shade sold for $21,760 against an estimate of $12,000-$14,000. A Grueby Faience Company matte green vase with stylized leaf decoration, designed by the pottery’s first director of design, George Prentiss Kendrick, brought $17,920 against an estimate of $10,000-$12,000. A curdled brown over green glaze 14in vase by Ruth Erickson earned $10,200, and a 12 1/2in matte green vase with a bulbous lower body by Marie Seaman doubled its estimate at $9,000. A Stickley Brothers round oak dining table served up $3,840, while a Stickley Bros. sideboard brought $3,360 and a matching oak china cabinet, $3,000.
Mid-century modern furniture was red-hot. Three burgundy-colored sofas designed by Pierre Paulin for Artifort sold for $17,920, $15,360, and $10,880, while a lot of two matching Artifort chairs raked in $14,080 and a pair of Artifort loveseats in a cream color sold for $12,160. All were from the headquarters of the Guardsmark company in Memphis, known for its collection of original 1960s-1970s furniture.
Case is currently accepting consignments for its Fall auction, scheduled for October 23, and its two-day Winter auction, set for January of 2022. For more information, or to consign objects for a future auction, call the gallery in Knoxville at 865-558-3033 or the company’s Nashville office at 615-812-6096 or email email@example.com.
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