Swann’s WPA art sale evoked essence of ‘New Deal’ America

Daniel Celentano, ‘Pelham Bay,’ $55,000

Daniel Celentano, ‘Pelham Bay,’ $55,000

NEW YORK — Swann Galleries opened 2022 with The Artists of the WPA auction on January 27. This follow-up to an inaugural 2021 sale proved the staying power of this special offering, which brought $647,891, compared to last year’s total of $478,990.

Harold Porcher, specialist for the sale, noted, “Six of our departments contributed to make this an informative, diverse and curatorial assessment of an important part of American art history. The New Deal was groundbreaking in its scale and vision, giving employment to many who in turn gave us lasting riches in art, architecture and engineering that has endured.”

With themes showcasing both urban and rural Americans, paintings of the era saw rapid-fire bidding drive prices past their high estimates. Leading the sale was Daniel Celentano’s Pelham Bay, an oil-on-canvas scene of a crowded subway car. It realized $55,000 and a record for the artist.

Additional highlights included commissions from the American Tobacco Company: Aaron Bohrod’s 1942 oil on Masonite, Getting Ready for Auction, rose to $21,250, and Arnold Blanch’s 1942 oil-on-canvas A Stick of Tobacco After Curing sold for $12,500. Also of note was Isaac Soyer’s The Refugee, which realized $7,250.

Blanche Lazzell, ‘The Coffee Pot,’ one side of a double-sided woodblock painted in color inks, $23,750

Blanche Lazzell, ‘The Coffee Pot,’ one side of a double-sided woodblock painted in color inks, $23,750

Blanche Lazzell’s 1936 double-sided carved woodblock Cape Cod Cottage and The Coffee Pot brought $23,750. Lazzell only created two impressions of Cape Cod Cottage and three of Coffee Pot, which have not been seen at auction in the past 30 years.

Blanche Lazzell, ‘Cape Cod Cottage,’ one side of a double-sided woodblock painted in color inks, $23,750

Blanche Lazzell, ‘Cape Cod Cottage,’ one side of a double-sided woodblock painted in color inks, $23,750

American stalwarts shined among the print offerings. Stacking Hay, a circa-1935 Jackson Pollock lithograph, sold for $16,250; a run of works by Martin Lewis found buyers, most notably R.F.D., a 1933 drypoint of a view in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, at $12,500; and Louis Lozowick’s 57th Street, a 1929 lithograph of New York City at night, earned $11,250. Also of note were prints by Peggy Bacon, Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood.

Documentary photography from FSA favorites was on offer with a portfolio of 10 iconic images printed under the supervision of Arthur Rothstein, including those by Rothstein, Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans and Ben Shahn, which earned $8,125; Carl Mydans’ 1937 silver print Manhattan From Brooklyn Heights brought $9,375, a record for the artist; and Marion Post Wolcott’s 1939 silver prints Barn and Silos, York County, Pennsylvania and City Jail, Mississippi Delta sold together for $6,000. Works by Peter Sekaer, Jack Delano, Berenice Abbott and Russell Lee rounded out the offerings.

 

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