PASADENA, Calif. – Breaking a number of auction records and amassing over $1.7 million in sales, John Moran Auctioneers’ Fine Art Auction on Oct. 22 signaled the strength of the market for well-chosen California and American art dating from the late 19th century up to the end of the 20th century. The 254-lot sale, featuring paintings from estates and private collections in California and beyond, with over one-third hailing from the estate of Ernest A. Bryant III of Montecito, Calif., was notable for the success of post-1950 works, as well as for the high prices for works from the era in which Moran’s traditionally specializes, the late 19th to early 20th century.
LiveAuctioneers.com provided Internet live bidding.
New record-high prices were set for six artists, including three who were represented in the Bryant Collection: Henry Chapman Ford (1828–1894), Gordon Coutts (1868–1937) and Meredith Brooks Abbott (b. 1938). Henry Chapman Ford’s panoramic landscape view Santa Barbara Mission, an oil dating from 1881 and estimated at $20,000–$30,000, realized $51,000. A classic Western nocturne depicting an adobe cottage by moonlight was the work that propelled Gordon Coutts to record highs, selling to a telephone bidder for $33,000 (estimate: $10,000–$15,000). Contemporary Santa Barbara artist Meredith Brooks Abbott reached new auction heights with her The Dairy–Nye Property, Santa Ana Road, Ojai, which sold for $8,400.
The other three records were for Filastro Mottola (1915–2008), whose quirky scene of everyday street life titled Crystal Bar at Taylor and C Streets, Virginia City, Nevada brought $3,900 (estimate: $2,000–$3,000); Jack Laycox (1921–1984), whose California School watercolor Expressway, a dramatic depiction of color and light in nighttime traffic sped to $15,600 (estimate $3,000–$5,000); and John Christopher Smith (1891–1943), for an idyllic small town scene, Cambria, that realized an impressive $15,600 (estimate: $8,000–$10,000).
Other artists also scaled dramatic heights, surpassing already high expectations. Millard Sheets (1907–1989) was represented by Pinto Herd, a 30-inch by 70-inch masterwork in oil dating from 1950. The painting’s mosaic-like pattern of galloping horses sustains energy and dynamism across the large canvas in a manner that only a supremely skilled wall muralist could achieve, and several bidders found their pulse racing when it went on the block. Bidding did not top out until it hit the $72,000 mark (estimate: $15,000–$20,000), after a prolonged and suspenseful battle. The sale sets a new second-place record for the artist.
Early 20th century California Impressionist works also posted big numbers. A large oil by William Wendt (1865–1946) of a sweeping Santa Barbara coastal landscape with the Channel Islands visible in the distance was much sought-after work, ultimately selling to a floor bidder for $72,000 (estimate: $50,000–$70,000). A smaller work by Wendt, an oil landscape depicting Morro Bay, earned $22,800 (estimate: $12,000–$18,000). Alson Clark’s (1876–1949) dazzling Summer Afternoon, a scene of figures with parasols seated beneath tall trees and dappled with fragmented light, originally estimated at $12,000–$18,000, charmed the crowd and realized $30,000. An oil by Edgar Alwin Payne (1883–1947) from the Bryant Estate, Mt. Ritter and Lake Ediza, High Sierras, found a new home for $20,400, well over the estimate of $8,000–$12,000.
Among the works by contemporary artists that performed well was an expansive oil by Santa Barbara artist Richard Schloss (b.1953), a breakout highlight originally estimated at $800–$1,200. Early Morning Clouds, Butterfly Beach, a dreamy, tranquil scene of a coastline bathed in rosy light, caused quite a stir during preview, and ultimately earned $6,000.
Additional highlights are as follows:
– The poignant Beyond These Infinities Lies Gold by Alexander Harmer (1856–1925) also from the Bryant Estate, depicting a group of weary travelers huddled behind a wagon at dusk as a desolate landscape rolls out on all sides, achieved $48,000 (estimate: $10,000–$15,000).
– Plucked from a private San Bernadino, Calif., collection, a sunny depiction in gouache of figures and umbrellas on a beach by New York artist Jane Peterson (1876–1965) found a buyer at $12,000 (estimate: $7,000–$10,000).
– A floral still life by Joseph Henry Sharp (1859–1953), featuring luxuriant sprays of delphiniums in a green vase, realized $39,000 (estimate: $25,000–$35,000)
John Moran Auctioneers conducts their California and American Art Auctions twice a year. Their next California and American Fine Art Auction is scheduled for March 25, and consignment inquiries are invited. Please call or email the offices of John Moran directly for more information: 626-793-1833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE