CLEVELAND – Gray’s Auctioneers will offer an extensive number of fine works on paper, rare books and illuminated manuscripts at an auction planned for Wednesday, Nov. 14. Featured will be an impressive collection of fine editions from the Print Club of Cleveland, among other rare items. Internet live bidding is available through LiveAuctioneers.
Starting off the auction in Lot 1 is a print of St. George and the Dragon (above) by Salvador Dalí (Spanish, 1904-1989). Dalí had an extensive history with the city of Cleveland through his patrons Reynolds and Eleanor Morse. Reynolds Morse was a highly successful local businessman who first encountered Dalí via a retrospective that was held March 21, 1943, at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Morse attended with his soon-to-be wife Eleanor and the couple became diligent collectors of Dalí’s work. They even formed a friendship with the artist and his wife, Gala. St. George and the Dragon (1947) is one of Dali’s most recognizable lithographs, depicting the famous Christian legend, which Dali revisited many times, first as a painting completed in 1942, then as a sculpture completed in 1947.
Lot 2 is a lithograph Summer Benediction (1953), by Charles Ephraim Burchfield (American, 1893-1867). A visionary artist known for his moody and hallucinatory watercolors, Burchfield graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Art under watercolor artist Henry George Keller. In 1928, Burchfield approached artist Frank Rehn to ask if he could sell his paintings through his gallery in New York City.
The two men struck a deal and, fortunately for Burchfield, his paintings continued to sell through the Great Depression. By 1954 he was an esteemed veteran painter and was elected as a full member into the National Academy of Design. Like many of Burchfield’s pieces, Summer Benediction depicts a hazy and mystical nature scene, almost dreamlike in tone, with a wavy contour and deft use of shading.
Lot 3 is a print entitled Approaching Storm (1938) by Thomas Hart Benton (American, 1889-1975). Benton cultivated a vivid naturalistic style known as Regionalism, depicting scenes of everyday life in a swirling and almost musical style influenced by his friend Stanton Macdonald-Wright’s synchronism. Benton found his first big break as a muralist, for the 1933 Century of Progress Exhibition in Chicago.
Benton went on to prestigious career as a painter, muralist, an educator, writing an autobiography titled An Artist in America in 1937. He often courted controversy for his outspoken political beliefs, advocating for working people and including allusions to America’s race problem in his murals. He eventually alienated himself from the New York arts scene, pushing him to find his true muse in the vast expanses of rural America, as can be seen in the ominous and melancholy Approaching Storm.
Also up for bid will be three pieces by the revolutionary French painter Henri Matisse (1869-1954). Considered one of the true luminaries and innovators of modern art in the early 20th century, Matisse developed a style of flat expressionistic shapes and vibrant color that came to be known as Fauvism. He famously expanded the limits of what was possible with color and form in modern art.
Gray’s will also offer three lithographs by the equally legendary French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919): Louis Veltat in Lot 9, La Pierre au Trois Croquis in Lot 10, and Claude Renoir, La Tête Baisée in Lot 11. Renoir befriended Claude Monet, and the two developed an artistic partnership, making similar inquiries into light and color as they became the leaders of the Impressionist movement.
Gray’s has an extensive collection of etchings this month by American artist James Abbott McNeil Whistler (1834-1903), known for his striking sense of realism and masterful technique. He developed a moody realistic style, later incorporating influences from the burgeoning Impressionist movement and Japanese painters. At age 21, Whistler left for Europe to pursue an artistic career and never returned. While he developed a great reputation as a painter and wit, Whistler’s temper and combative nature fractured many of his close relationships and turned many critics against him. He was deeply defensive of his work and, while his stylistic contributions are not in doubt, his contributions to attitude and ethos have been just as influential on later artists. Gray’s is offering seventeen of Whistler’s works in the sale.
This month’s auction also features a section of rare books, including a first edition printing of Charles Dickens’ beloved masterpiece A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas (1843), including original illustrations by John Leech and printing mistakes included in only the first release; a first edition copy of L. Frank Baum’s classic allegorical fairytale The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), with original illustrations by W.W. Denslow in Lot 145; and a 1935 limited edition printing of Edgar Alan Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination with intricate illustrations by Arthur Rackham in Lot 125.
The highlight of this section is Lot 91, John James Audubon’s seven-volume Royal Octavo edition of The Birds of America, From Drawings Made in the United States and their Territories. Consisting of 435 hand-colored, life-size prints, made from engraved plates and measuring around 39 by 26 inches, the set includes images of six now-extinct birds, including the passenger pigeon and Carolina parakeet.
The book was originally released by pay-as-you-go subscription, as a series of copperplate etchings released over time, one print at a time, every two-to-five months. Only 120 full copies of this original set are known to survive. In December 2010, The Economist magazine estimated, adjusted for inflation, that five of the 10 highest prices ever paid for printed books were paid for copies of Birds of America.
For details contact Gray’s Auctioneers & Appraisers at 216-226-3300.