NEW ORLEANS – Neal Auction Co.’s March 24-25 Important Spring Estates Auction achieved a world record auction price of $304,500 for a monumental painting by Alexander John Drysdale, while a rare and important Clementine Hunter mural hit $70,150, setting a new record price for the artist at auction. Absentee and Internet live bidding was available through LiveAuctioneers.
The Neal Auction Co. sale, which totaled $1.6 million, also recorded excellent results for furniture and decorative arts.
Neal Auction’s March auction featured one of the largest and most important works to appear at auction by the revered and widely collected New Orleans artist Alexander John Drysdale (1870-1934). Offered as lot 262 in the auction catalog, the oil painting(above), which depicted a Louisiana bayou scene with live oaks, cypress trees and a small cabin, was monumental in scale, measuring 47 by 71 inches. The only other known Drysdale paintings of such magnitude are those commissioned to decorate the Weiss family’s dining room in their famous St. Charles Avenue residence in New Orleans, which are now conserved at Tulane University; the murals painted for the iconic D.H. Holmes Department Store on Canal Street; and those done for the luxurious Shushan Airport on the New Orleans lakefront. Estimated at $30,000-$50,000, the Drysdale painting soared to a record-breaking $304,500, selling to a local collector bidding on the telephone against five other phone bidders. The previous auction record for a work by the artist was set by Neal Auction in June 2011 with an 18-by-30 inch oil titled Dawn along the Bayou, which sold for $44,220.
The Important Spring Estates Auction was also highlighted by three rare Clementine Hunter (American/Louisiana, 1886-1988) murals that were painted early in the artist’s career for the walls of Melrose Plantation in Natchitoches, La. Built by free people of color during the early 19th century, Melrose was purchased in 1884 by Joseph Henry, whose daughter-in-law Cammie transformed the plantation into a creative haven for artists and writers. It was in this environment that Clementine Hunter, who began working at Melrose as a laborer at the age of 15, developed her distinctive painting style. Hunter’s monumental paintings, “The Annunciation and the Adoration of the Wise Men, lot 174, Harvesting Gourds near the African House and Wash Day near the Ghana House, Melrose Plantation, lot 175, and The Cotton Crucifixion, lot 176, include a rich and complex iconography, which she continued to use on a much smaller scale throughout her lifetime.
Originally sold as a part of the Melrose Plantation Auction in 1970, the location of the murals was unknown for almost half a century until their recent re-appearance at Neal Auction Co. Against considerable telephone, absentee and floor interest, the Hunter murals sold for $70,150, $25,620 and $47,580, creating new record prices for works by the artist at auction. The former record price for a Hunter painting was achieved by Neal Auction in November 2007 with Cane River Baptism, which sold for $19,980. All three of Hunter’s Melrose murals will go to public institutions within the United States.
Against staunch competition from four telephone bidders and the salesroom floor, lot 168, a Hermann Herzog (German/American, 1832-1932) painting of a home in St. Augustine, Fla., sold to an absentee bidder for $50,000. Along with many other Florida works, including those by Louis Charles Vogt, George Washington Seavey, William Krondorf, Nunzio Vayana, Irene Stry, and Harold Sleichter Etter that set world record auction prices in the March auction, the Herzog painting came to Neal Auction Co. from the Estate of Faith K. Tiberio, in St. Augustine, Fla. Tiberio and her husband were longtime collectors of Florida paintings.
A George Rodrigue (American/Louisiana, 1944-2013) oil on canvas titled Three Flames a Charm, which features the iconic Blue Dog, sold for $32,940 to a telephone bidder amid much competition from the Internet, the saleroom floor, and other telephone bids. Neal Auction continues to maintain the world record auction price of a work by the artist with Chairman of the Board, which sold in April 2015 for $173,280.
Old Gate in Hypolita Street, St. Augustine, Fla., an 1889 oil by Frank Henry Shapleigh (American/New Hampshire, 1842-1906) from the Tiberio Estate sold well above its $10,000-$15,000 estimate, realizing $26,840.
An oil painting titled The Shadow by New Orleans artist Clarence Millet (1897-1959), which depicts a long, sharp shadow within the courtyard of the Governor Claiborne House at 268 Toulouse St. in New Orleans, where the artist had his studio, sold well at $26,840.
Two monumental paintings, sold consecutively as lots 99 and 100, by New York/Louisiana artist Hunt Slonem (b. 1951) titled Primary Butterflys [sic] and Casino, broke and then re-broke the auction record for the artist. Measuring 85 by 90 inches, Primary Butterflys generated a flurry of interest when eight telephone bidders, bidders on the saleroom floor, and two substantial absentee bids vied for the lot, which sold for $21,960, breaking the former record of $18,560 set by Neal Auction in November with The Point of No Return. Casino, which measured 78 by 96 inches, followed Primary Butterflys and broke that record by achieving $23,125.
Neal Auction Co. witnessed considerable success with a short run of Art Deco and mid-century modern furniture, including lot 638, a circa 1928 Paul Frankl “Skyscraper” bookcase, which sold for $22,500, more than double its $10,000 low auction estimate.
Estimated at $12,000 to $18,000, lot 381A, an 1817 map titled “Plan of the City and Suburbs of New Orleans from an Actual Survey made in 1815 by J. Tanesse, City Surveyor,” sold well at $18,300.