Moran’s first Women in Art Auction finds firm foothold

Women in Art

Susan Hertel (1930-1993 Cerrillos, New Mexico), interior with woman and dogs, oil, graphite and charcoal on canvas, 43¾ x 52¼ inches. Price realized: $21,250. John Moran Auctioneers image

MONROVIA, Calif. – John Moran Auctioneers’ inaugural Women in Art Auction on Oct. 23 featured works by 93 women artists, many of whom were Californians. Dating from the 19th century to the contemporary. The works, media and styles represented were diverse and appealed to a wide swath of collectors. By the end of the auction, records had been set for three artists: Susan Hertel, Ethel V. Ashton and Dora Gamble. Absentee and Internet live bidding was available through LiveAuctioneers.

The top lot for the evening was a dark horse entry by French/Mexican poet and artist Alice Rahon (1904-1987). She became involved in Surrealism when she lived in Paris, and her 1945 composition Boîte à Musique III (below) is an excellent example of her surrealist work. Offered for a conservative $6,000 to $9,000, the work brought $23,750 (all prices realized include Moran’s 25 percent buyer’s premium).

Women in Art

Alice Rahon (1904-1987 French/Mexican), ‘Boîte à Musique III,’ 1945, oil on canvas, 10 x 12 inches. Price realized: $23,750. John Moran Auctioneers image

Directly following the Rahon, a surrealist composition depicting an elephantesque tightrope walker titled I Looked into a Dream by Illinois artist Julia Tecla (1896-1973) also inspired a healthy amount of bidding, selling for $7,500 (estimate: $1,000-$2,000).

A texturally dense composition by California and New Mexico artist Susan Hertel (1930-1992), achieved an exceptional $21,250 selling price, a new record for the artist. The work hailed from the estate of well-known California watercolorist Millard Sheets, and is one of the best examples by the artist to have come up at auction.

The cover lot for the auction catalog, Kathryn Leighton’s (1875-1952) The Young Chief is a stunning example of the artist’s Native American portraiture. She began painting Native American portraits after her 1910 move to Los Angeles, and generally brought her subjects in to her studio to paint them. Arguably one of the strongest works by the artist ever to come up at auction and estimated to earn $18,000 to $22,000, The Young Chief did not disappoint, realizing $22,500.

Women in Art

Kathryn W. Leighton (1875-1952, California), ‘The Young Chief,’ oil on canvas, 44¼ x 36 inches. Price realized: $22,500. John Moran Auctioneers image

A handful of selections by well-known Southern California plein air painter Nell Walker Warner (1891-1970 Carmel, California) were featured in Moran’s Women in Art catalog, including the artist’s large-scale view of freshly plowed fields and a distant home in a mountain landscape. The sweeping canvas achieved a $5,312 price realized (estimate: $3,000 to $5,000).

Women in Art

Nell Walker Warner (1891-1970, California), house in a mountain landscape, oil on canvas, 36 x 40 inches. Estimate: $3,000-$5,000, price realized: $5,312. John Moran Auctioneers image

A number of Modernist works were also included in Moran’s Women in Art catalog, including Virginia Berresford’s (1902-1995, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts) Fort at Antibes, dating to 1929 (price realized: $5,625; estimate: $1,000-$2,000). Mabel Alvarez’s citrus-hued still life with fruit, houseplants and a bottle of wine went to the block with a $3,000-$5,000 estimate. Featuring heavy impasto, the work caught the eye of several collectors, ultimately bringing $5,000 at the bock.

Additional still life works by American painters include a charming watercolor Fall Leaves and Acorns by Massachusetts artist Ellen Bowditch Thayer Fisher. Dating to 1885, the work earned $2,000 (estimate: $800-$1,200). Local Whittier artist Dora Gamble’s (1851-1933) oil painting of oranges and blossoms on the branch achieved $2,812, well over the conservative $600-$900 estimate, setting a new auction record for the artist’s work.

Three jewel-toned, heavily shadowed figural compositions by New York-based artist Indiana Gyberson were offered at the Women in Art auction. The first of the three, depicting a Polynesian beauty framed against a seascape, proved most popular, selling for $2,250 (estimate: $1,000 to $1,500).

Women in Art

Indiana Gyberson (1875-1994, New York), Polynesian beauty, oil on canvas laid to canvas, 16 x 12 inches. Price realized: $2,250. John Moran Auctioneers image

A trio of modern site-specific works was offered later in the sale and excited collectors both with the quality of their execution and locales. Santa Barbara artist Hellen Rosseau’s (1896-1992) View of Laguna Beach and Hotel, dating to 1930, brought $5,000, squarely within the $4,000-$6,000 estimate. Los Angeles local Dorothy Sklar (1906-1996) was represented with a charming depiction of Barry Alley, Chavez Ravine, dating to 1949. Filled with figures of women and children on a sunny day in Los Angeles, the street scene brought $1,750 (estimate: $1,000-$1,500). Achieving an exceptional $8,125, Ethel V. Ashton’s (1896-1974) view of sailors, women, and a family in a lush Philadelphia park was initially expected to bring between $2,000 and $4,000 (below). The price paid for the park scene set the third auction record of the evening.

Women in Art

Ethel V. Ashton, park scene with figures, oil on canvas, 25¼ x 30 inches. Price realized: $8,125. John Moran Auctioneers image

Moran’s is presently consigning for their next Women in Art catalog; contact Moran’s directly for more information on consignment, either via email: or telephone: 626-793-1833.