African American art showcased at Case’s July 11-12 sale

African American art

Case’s July 11-12 auction features two sculptures by important African American artist William Edmondson: ‘Lady with a Book’ (est. $40,000-$44,000) and a ‘Critter’ (est. $18,000-$22,000). Case image

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Sculptures and paintings by William Edmondson, Beauford Delaney and Augusta Savage, along with two important African American quilts, headline the Summer Case Antiques Auction, set for July 11-12. The auction also offers a dazzling array of high-end estate jewelry and timepieces, American furniture and textiles deaccessioned by the Memphis-Brooks Museum of Art, and an outstanding collection of studio glass, along with Case’s traditional fare of Southern regional decorative arts and historical memorabilia. View the fully illustrated catalog and bid on LiveAuctioneers

Works by William Edmondson, the self-taught son of Tennessee slaves who in 1937 became the first African American artist to have a solo exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art, are currently attracting a surge of interest from institutions and advanced sculpture collectors, and limestone figures carved by Edmondson have dominated the top spots at past three Case auctions. This auction features two Edmondson sculptures (above) from the same New York estate collection, Lady with a Book – likely inspired by a woman in Edmondson’s Nashville community – and a Critter (the term the artist himself used to describe some of his slightly ambiguous animal forms).

They are joined by a vivid abstract expressionist watercolor by Beauford Delaney, another Tennessee-born black artist. Delaney established himself in New York during the Harlem Renaissance, working in a mainly representational style, but his works became increasingly abstract after he moved to Paris in 1953.

Like Delaney and Edmondson, Florida native Augusta Fells Savage had to battle prejudice and economic injustice early in her career before earning international recognition. The sculpture that proved to be her breakout work, a bust archetypical of Harlem street urchins titled Gamin, became so popular that she created several versions. The one offered by Case is 9 inches high and sculpted in plaster with a bronzed patina (below). Savage went on to become a major figure in the Harlem Renaissance movement and established the Savage Studio of Arts & Crafts in 1932.

African American art

Augusta Savage’s ‘Gamin’ sculptures were intended to represent children living on the streets of New York during the Great Depression. This 9-inch-high example is bronzed plaster and is estimated at $7,000-$8,000. Case image

The auction also features an early to mid 20th century quilt recently exhibited at Colonial Williamsburg’s “Century of African American Quilts” exhibit. The quilter, believed to be schoolteacher Margaret Carr (born Rogersville, Tennessee, 1909) or her mother, Lema Carr, combined a traditional schoolhouse pattern in vivid, alternating colors with a semiabstract “tree of life” motif to create a unique and striking design that calls to mind the prints of M.C. Escher.

African American art

This quilt, attributed to Margaret or Lema Carr of Tennessee, was recently featured in Colonial Williamsburg’s ‘Century of African American Quilts’ exhibit. (est. $2,000-$2,400). Case image

Also for sale is a Southern “TVA Quilt” designed by Black educator and civic leader Ruth Clement Bond, whom the New York Times credited with helping “transform the American quilt from a utilitarian bedcovering into a work of avante garde social commentary” in its Nov. 13, 2005 report of her death. Bond provided home economic instruction to wives at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s WPA dam construction sites at the juncture of Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi. She gave the women quilt patterns of her own design, reminiscent of murals by Aaron Douglas and foreshadowing the cutout designs that would be made popular years later by Henri Matisse. The quilt in Case’s auction is one of only six in this pattern known to exist (three are currently in institutional collections; the whereabouts of two others are unknown). Also included in this auction are a number of other Southern quilts, deaccessioned from the Memphis-Brooks Museum of Art, in a variety of vivid patterns including Lemoyne Star and Pineapple, and examples from other consignors including a signed crazy quilt and Southern Whig Rose pattern quilt.

African American art

There is an expansive selection of jewelry fresh from Southern estates, including this authenticated Piaget necklace set with a pear-shaped natural emerald and 55 carats worth of diamonds (matching earrings are sold separately). (Est. $26,000-$28,000). Case image

Estate jewelry and silver sparkle throughout the two-day event, representing more than 250 of the auction’s 1,065 total lots. Highlights include an authenticated ladies Piaget 18k necklace set with 414 diamonds totaling over 55 carats, centered by a pear-shaped 2.45 carat emerald (with matching earrings offered separately) and a JB Star platinum engagement ring set with a six-carat pear shaped diamond surrounded by brilliant and baguette-cut diamonds, both from the estate of Kathleen Preston of Chattanooga; and a platinum eternity necklace set with 102 graduated round diamonds weighing a total of 22 carats from the estate of Dr. Sara Parks Pendleton of Owensboro, Ky.

African American art

This J.B. Star designed engagement ring set from a Chattanooga estate features a six-carat pear shaped diamond (with GIA report) in a platinum setting. (Est. $20,000-$24,000). Case image

There is also a 3.08 carat diamond cathedral style ring in 18k setting from the estate of Jean Payton of Kingsport, TN, a Van Cleef & Arpels 18K and diamond bracelet, and a trove of all-gold jewelry including a Federico Buccellati 18K bracelet, Italian gold necklaces, and gold coin pendants.

Several luxury watches are offered, including a men’s 18K Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, a 1963 Rolex Explorer, a ladies Baume & Mercier 18k and diamond watch, and a ladies 18k Rolex Datejust with diamond and ruby bezel.

Several of the sale’s top silver lots come from the estate of Marion “Bit” Hutcheson, owner of a well-known Southern equestrian training and breeding site, Happy Valley Farms of Rossville, Georgia, including an outstanding pair of Art Nouveau Jugendstil candelabra and an elaborate George III Neoclassical sterling epergne, fully hallmarked for Thomas Pitts I of London, 1774.

Putting air in the sails of the fine art offerings is a painting of the 1870 America’s Cup, depicting the English yacht Cambria, competing off the coast of New York against one of seventeen American schooners in the first Cup race to be hosted by the U.S. The British artist, Charles Gregory, was considered the premier yacht portraitist of his day.

African American art

This painting by yacht portraitist Charles Gregory depicts the Cambria competing in the 1870 America’s Cup race, the first to be hosted by the United States (est. $4,000-$5,000). Case image

Father and son artists Charles and Emile Gruppe are both represented in this sale, Charles by a landscape titled “Unloading Hay on the Connecticut River,” and Emile by a painting of boats in the harbor at Smith Cove, Gloucester, Mass. Seascapes by American artists William Bradford  and Thomas Alexander Harrison are also for sale, along with impressionist European scenes by American painters George Loftis Noyes, Francis Hopkinson Smith, and Hayley Lever, a sunset view of the Manhattan skyline by Henry Van Notti, and an oil portrait and prints by Arthur Spear.

The growing Historical category at Case includes a 19th century painting of President Andrew Jackson along with a number of Jackson related documents, several of them bearing his signature, including one guaranteeing repayment of an $8,000 loan, also signed by his adopted son and nephew, Andrew Jackson, Jr., Andrew Jackson Donelson, and the artist Ralph E.W. Earl and Major William Noland as witnesses.

A circa 1810 Tennessee militia coat worn by Lt. William Graham provides a colorful dash of red, white and blue to the auction, and is accompanied by his powder horn and a commission document signed by the state’s first governor, John Sevier.

This sale features one of the largest collections of contemporary studio glass to come to auction in some time. There are more than half a dozen works by acclaimed Tennessee glass artist Richard Jolley, including a lilac dichroic sculpture of a male torso, dog sculpture, and several of his well-known figural “totems.” Also featured are glass works by Harvey Littleton, Mark Peiser, Duncan McClellan, Leon Applebaum and Tommie Rush, along with a large assortment of Lalique glass.

The furniture category is highlighted by American furniture deaccessioned from the Brooks Museum of Art in Memphis, along with a range of Southern and European pieces. The Museum furniture includes a Federal “Cumberland Action” telescoping dining table attributed to Constantine & Co. of New York or Thomas Seymour of Boston, along with a pair of Philadelphia ribbon-back side chairs attributed to Jonathan Gostelowe, and a Federal secretary-bookcase, likely of New York origin. Southern standouts include a Chippendale walnut press with arched glazed doors over four drawers, a Tennessee or Kentucky Hepplewhite sugar chest, and an exuberantly inlaid corner cupboard with hearts and fylfots, attributed to Piedmont, North Carolina. An important Greene County, Tennessee corner cupboard with arched doors containing twenty panes is featured, along with a two-piece Tennessee press attributed to the Jacob Fisher cabinetmaking shop, illustrated in the book The Art & Mystery of Tennessee Furniture.

Southern Pottery is a staple at Case. This sale’s headliners include three North Carolina pieces: a face jug with ceramic teeth by Harvey Reinhardt of Lincoln County; a slip-decorated earthenware plate attributed to Alamance or Randolph County, and a small Moravian green glazed figural chicken pepper shaker accompanied by an 1891 letter detailing its history in the Witt/Horner family.

The auction begins Saturday, July 11, at 9 a.m. Eastern time and Sunday, July 12, at 1 p.m. Eastern.

Reservations are being accepted for a limited number of live floor bidding seats on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information or to consign objects for a future auction, call the gallery in Knoxville at 865-558-3033 or the company’s Nashville office at 615-812-6096 or email