MONROVIA, Calif. – John Moran Auctioneers’ March California and American Fine Art catalog featured works from a number of important collections and estates, including the private collection of California watercolorist Gerald Brommer and his wife Georgia. Absentee and Internet bidding was available through LiveAuctioneers.
The first 69 lots were dedicated to works from the Brommer collection, which was heavy with watercolor paintings and California subjects. Later in the sale, works were brought to the block from the Los Angeles Goldfield Collection (owners of the Goldfield Galleries) as well as from the Estate of James and Ruth Barrack, a historically important duo whose investments helped to grow the Alaskan town of Fairbanks during its nascent years. Consignments from the University Club of Pasadena, the Pasadena estate of Margaret Eaton Brown Fleming and private collections from across the country rounded out the offerings.
The first session offerings, many with approachable estimates at $2,000 and below, saw a strong sell-through rate of 86 percent. Overall results were more mixed, as Moran’s saw a 70 percent blanket sell-through rate. Bidders were seemingly hesitant to invest in larger-ticket purchases after the day’s downward fluctuations in stock prices.
In the end, a number of works exceeded expectations, with five paintings setting auction records for their artists. Generally speaking, buyers seemed to eschew lighter, summery aesthetics and traditional figural compositions in favor of familiar city vistas and land/seascapes; additionally, a number of wintery snow scenes, as well as many works from the Alaskan Barrack collection performed well.
The first 69 lots of the California and American Fine Art Auction, all consigned from the personal collection of Gerald and Georgia Brommer, were offered as part of a special session titled “An Artist Collects.” As a working artist, jurist and educator, Brommer has had ample contact with other California artists throughout the years, providing him with the opportunity to trade works with colleagues and to make connections with new and emerging artists.
One of three records set during this first session was for a vibrant watercolor composition by artist Electra Stamelos (1927-2007, Hartland, Mich.) Titled Flower Series #99 – 3 Tondos, the watercolor was assigned a conservative $400/$600 estimate, which was quickly exceeded after competition erupted from multiple floor bidders. The work (below) brought $3,300 (including Moran’s 20 percent house buyer’s premium).
A world auction record was likewise set with Military Prison (No. 2) a watercolor of a Spanish prison by highly regarded La Jolla, Calif., watercolorist Frederic Whitaker (1891-1980), which was offered with a $1,200/$1,800 estimate. The work inspired fierce competition between floor and online buyers, earning a $5700 price realized.
Additional highlights from An Artist Collects include a charming Bunker Hill, Los Angeles scene by local artist Emil J. Kosa Jr. (1903-1968), which the Brommers found at an antique store mere blocks from their home. The piece earned $18,000 thanks to participation from Internet, absentee, telephone and floor bidders (estimate: $6,000/$8,000).
One of the most highly anticipated pieces from the Brommer collection was a moody watercolor by Claremont, Calif., artist Phil Latimer Dike (1906-1990). Afternoon at Corona del Mar was one of those examples from the collection which was acquired as a trade between two artists; the Brommers traded two of Gerald’s paintings for two works by Dike during a friendly lunch at Dike’s home. The dynamic Afternoon at Corona del Mar shows sailboats off the Corona del Mar coast as a brooding sky drops rain showers on scattered areas of the background; pools of light break through the cloud cover to illuminate small swaths of the scene. The watercolor realized $15,600 (estimate: $4,000/$6,000).
Another crowd favorite was an untitled charcoal and graphite portrait of a woman by artist Nicolai Fechin (1881-1955 Taos, N.M./Los Angeles, Calif.). Telephone lines were fully reserved for the lot, which realized: $10,800, just over the estimated $7000/$10,000.
Works depicting Southern California locales continued to achieve strong prices throughout the evening. R. Kenton Nelson’s “Conjugation”, a stylized view of the iconic Colorado Street Bridge in Pasadena, Calif., was offered with a $30,000/$40,000 estimate, bringing $36,000.
Shortly thereafter, William Wendt’s (1865-1946 Laguna Beach, Calif.) emerald-infused oil painting of the Malibu foothills was brought to the block with a $50,000/$70,000 estimate. Consigned from a Los Angeles collection, “Converging Fields” inspired multiple left bids; however, the absentee buyers were outbid by a telephone participant, who took ownership of the work for $72,000.
Alaskan scenes from the Fairbanks, Alaska collection of Ruth and James Barrack were offered later in the evening and brought generally solid prices. Two works by Anchorage-based painter Sydney Laurence (1865-1940) started out the section, and brought prices squarely within their estimates. Each work was purchased by a telephone bidder who had to compete against multiple buyers casting bids in absentia: the nocturnal “Mystery of Light” realized $18,000, while “Mt. McKinley” earned $19,200.
One of a small selection of works by Eustace Paul Ziegler (1881-1969 Seattle, Wash.), “Back to Talkeetna”, made a big impression on Moran’s bidders. Depicting a rider and packhorses making their way through a rocky Alaskan landscape while a strong wind drives powdery snow into a haze at their feet, the work achieved a price just above the high estimate: $20,400.
The top-earning work from the Barrack collection was a gorgeously rendered oil painting depicting a dog sled team moving through a snowy tundra bathed in pastel light from the night sun, “Arctic Night Dog Team”, by Theodore Roosevelt Lambert (1905-1960, Levelock, Alaska). (PHOTO 6). Estimated to bring $25,000/$35,000, the work brought $39,000, the second-highest auction price ever achieved for a work by the artist (the record, in fact, was set by John Moran Auctioneers for a dog sled painting back in 1999).
For consignment inquiries or more information regarding this or any upcoming auction, contact John Moran Auctioneers via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone: 626-793-1833.