LARCHMONT, N.Y. — The pioneering landscapes of Romanian-Israeli painter Reuven Rubin, especially those painted in the 1920s, are highly sought after. Considered Israel’s most famous artist, Rubin (1893-1974) was Israel’s first ambassador to Romania and visited New York City often. From an old New York family that befriended Rubin when he was part of New York City’s art scene in the late 1920s comes four artworks by the artist that will headline Clarke Auction Gallery’s Sunday, January 22 auction, starting at 10 am Eastern time. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
The story of how Rubin met Hope Weil in 1928 and became a constant in her family’s life for decades is one that begins serendipitously. Rubin was an up-and-coming artist, having befriended photographer Alfred Stieglitz in 1921, who helped organize a first American show at the Anderson Gallery for the two of them. Hope’s granddaughter, Faith Levene, said her grandparents, Hope and Walter, attended an auction in 1928 in New York City where they bought their first Rubin painting. She is not positive how her grandmother first knew of Rubin’s work or if she met him before or after the auction; she believes her grandmother may have lived in the same building on the upper West Side as Stieglitz.
Hope was a great art lover who filled a New York City apartment and an upstate country home in Bedford Village with an eclectic mix of fine paintings and sculpture as well as a steady stream of bon vivants, friends and family. Walter was a self-made businessman who worked his way up the ranks in the investments business. The four paintings that will cross the block at Clarke’s auction includes the one that the Weils probably bought at that 1928 auction. Painted in 1927, Road to Safed is a 32-by-39½in oil on canvas that is documented in the 1974 book Reuven Rubin and estimated at $250,000-$350,000. This region was a subject matter the artist returned to throughout his career, and it appears in many of his important paintings.
Also on offer is a landscape depicting three groupings of homes set among trees and mountains, estimated at $100,000-$150,000. While the painting is untitled and dated, its subject matter is very similar to other Galilean landscapes Rubin painted in the early 1920s, while he was living in Tel Aviv. Here, he embraces a soft Mediterranean color palette to masterfully depict the olive trees, the undulating landscape and the short, boxy houses that are typically found in this region.
The artist is celebrated for his landscapes as well as his portraits, and this auction introduces a figural painting and a portrait that have been kept in the Weil family for decades. A pen and ink drawing with wash in paper, titled The Plowman and estimated at $3,000-$5,000, retains a label from the Grace Borgenicht Gallery of New York. A Rubin self portrait in ink wash on paper is signed and dedicated to “Hope and Faith.” Dated 1940, it is estimated at $2,000-$3,000.
View top auction results on LiveAuctioneers here: https://www.liveauctioneers.com/pages/recent-auction-sales/