American artists starring in Cowan’s auction March 10

American artists

Watercolor portrait by Henry Farny (American, 1847-1916). Estimate: $30,000-$40,000. Cowan’s Auctions image

CINCINNATI – Exceptional pieces from some of the most recognizable American artists of the late 19th and early 20th century highlight Cowan’s Spring Fine and Decorative Arts Auction. The March 10 sale includes works by David Gilmour Blythe (1815-1936), Henry Farny (1847-1916) and Dixie Selden (1871-1936) as well as two collections of early American furniture from Colorado and Michigan, and an assortment of folk art and Americana. Absentee and Internet live bidding is available through LiveAuctioneers.

The top lot of the day is expected to be a cellar scene by David Gilmour Blythe (below), which is estimated at $30,000-$50,000. Oil on canvas, the work is of considerable size, measuring 31 1/2 by 35 inches (sight).

“It’s a quintessential Blythe piece,” said Pauline Archambault, Cowan’s fine art specialist. “It has that bleak yet comically sensibility that he was so well known for. While most of his contemporaries were portraying the glamorous lives of the rich, Blythe focused more on the realities of the everyday life of the average person in 19th century America.”

American artists

David Gilmour Blythe (1815-1936) focused more on the realities of the everyday life in 19th-century America. Cowan’s Auctions image

Born in 1815 to poor Scottish and Irish immigrants in a small town on the Ohio-West Virginia border, Blythe was a self-taught artist who struggled to make ends meet for the majority of his life. Toward the end of his life, he moved to Pittsburgh and achieved a small amount of local notoriety as a satirist before his death in 1936. It wasn’t until the 1940s when steel baron G. David Thompson began collecting his works that Blythe’s gritty social commentary finally began to attract the attention of collectors around the country. Today, his paintings hang in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Smithsonian Art Museum, Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh.

Vying for the top hammer price of the day will be a watercolor portrait of a Native American by Henry Farny (American, 1847-1916), which is expected to bring $30,000-$40,000.

Cowan’s has a lengthy history of success selling Farny’s works including a $1.2 million oil on canvas and a $917,500 portrait belonging to former Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott.

Farny first rose to prominence in his native Cincinnati where owning one of his works was considered a necessary status symbol in the early 20th century. Over time he has established a national reputation as one of the most collectible painters of the American West and Native American culture.

The auction features several important portraits, highlighted by an early 19th-century unattributed oil on canvas after the famed Gilbert Stuart (American, 1755-1828) Lansdowne version portrait of George Washington. This particular portrait is especially noteworthy because of unique, unexplained variations from the original. The carpet that Washington is standing on in this version is a blue field of stars, replacing the Oushak rug of the original. Similarly, the presidential chair and drapery over the desk were changed from the red used in the original to blue and gray respectively. Why these variations were made remains a mystery. The portrait should fetch $8,000-$10,000.

American artists

Lansdowne version portrait of George Washington. Estimate: $8,000-$10,000. Cowan’s Auctions image

Other fine painting highlights include a family portrait of Mrs. Dorothy Prideaux Sawle and her two children by Thomas Barber (English, 1768-1843) that should hammer for $10,000- $20,000; a Dixie Selden (American, 1871-1936) harbor scene for $10,000-$15,000; a portrait of Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia attributed to Gerrit van Honthorst (Dutch, 1592-1656) for $6,000-$8,000; a hunting scene attributed to Samuel Alken (English, 1756-1815) for $4,000-$6,000; and a landscape by Charles Partridge Adams (American, 1858-1942) for $3,000-$5,000.

American artists

Dixie Selden (American, 1871-1936) harbor scene. Estimate: $10,000-$15,000. Cowan’s Auctions image

Two sizeable collections of early American furniture from Colorado and Michigan lead the furniture portion of the sale. Several lots are expected to contend for the highest hammer price in the category. An 18th-century walnut Massachusetts Queen Anne highboy, an 18th-century Philadelphia Chippendale highboy, and a 19th-century Kentucky cherry sugar chest are all expected sell for $4,000-$6,000.

Perhaps the most interesting piece in the auction, a rare 1831 English patchwork pictorial table cover is estimated to hammer for $8,000-$10,000. Made using the technique of cloth intarsia, popular in English textile production from the 1830s-1880s, the cover is made in broadcloth. The central round medallion is decorated with 12 birds and surrounded by 14 pictorial panels, most notably a scene of a giraffe accompanied by three men in Middle Eastern dress, having a scalloped, curtain-swag border decorated with 26 examples of plants and flowers.

American artists

Rare 1831 English intarsia patchwork pictorial table cover. Estimate: $8,000-$10,000. Cowan’s Auctions image

Other auction highlights include a fine Buccellati sterling tureen, which is estimated to sell for $5,000-$7,000; a fine and rare Timothy Tansel engraved horn beaker for $3,000- $5,000; a China Trade carved patriotic eagle plaque for $3,000-$5,000; and an Arcadia model Ansonia swing clock for $3,000-$4,000.

For more information, call Cowan’s Auctions at 513-871-1670.