CHICAGO – Hindman will present Casting Spells: The Gertrude Abercrombie Collection of Laura and Gary Maurer, the most comprehensive selection of Gertrude Abercrombie paintings to ever come to market, on Wednesday, September 28. As the most distinguished collectors of Abercrombie works, Laura and Gary Maurer’s collection of 21 magical and mysterious career-spanning works by the enchanting artist will provide bidders a unique opportunity to compete on the widest offering and some of the physically largest paintings by the Queen of the Bohemians. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
“The opportunity to sell the Gertrude Abercrombie Collection of Laura and Gary Maurer is a true honor,” said Hindman’s Vice President and Senior Specialist of Fine Art Joseph Stanfield. “Ever since my first introduction to Abercrombie, I have been convinced of her importance. In my mind, Abercrombie is a deserving member of the American pantheon of 20th-century artists. Her paintings currently share the same gallery space at the Art Institute of Chicago as two of the most iconic images in American history — Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks and Grant Wood’s American Gothic.”
This sale is a beautiful display of the late Chicago Surrealist’s career, including works ranging from the late 1930s all the way to the 1970s. A majority of this collection was exhibited at significant solo exhibitions at Karma Gallery in New York, the Illinois State Museum in Springfield, and the Elmhurst Art Museum in Wilder Park.
The top work of the sale is a self-portrait from 1953 titled Self and Cat (Possims), estimated at $300,000-$500,000. This quintessential Abercrombie masterpiece depicts a mystical Abercrombie alongside her favorite witch’s familiar, Possim.
Solitude is another compelling work and the first Abercrombie painting the Maurers purchased for their collection. Leading Abercrombie scholar Susan Weininger notes that it is a strong example of one of the artist’s desolate landscapes, touching on the themes of isolation and loneliness that occur throughout Abercrombie’s oeuvre. Solitude carries an estimate of $120,000-$180,000.
Additional highlights include Dinah Enters the Landscape, an incredibly personal painting that addresses the birth of Abercrombie’s only child, Dinah. That painting is estimated at $120,000-$180,000.
Blue Screen, a 1945 work estimated at $50,000-$70,000, is another painting that perfectly encapsulates Abercrombie’s artistic abilities and presents a clever juxtaposition of loneliness against humor. Set in a barren room, Weininger notes that the work is “a metaphor for the artist’s insecurity, her inability to escape the prison of her own sense of inadequacy and feeling like an outsider.”
“As soon as I entered the gallery, I lost any sense of time and place and self,” Laura Maurer commented about her first time seeing Abercrombie’s works at the State of Illinois Art Gallery. “The color, tone, eccentric execution, brush strokes, realistic fantasy and fantastic reality of Abercrombie’s paintings entwined themselves into my soul.”
While this offering highlights some of the largest works by the artist, it would not be complete without a selection of the artist’s magical miniature pieces. Compote and Grapes from 1941, estimated at $10,000-$15,000 and qualifying as the smallest work in the sale at 1 ½ by 1 ½in, will be the first lot in the auction lineup. Despite its postage stamp-like size, it still manages to showcase one of Abercrombie’s favorite techniques of depicting a painting within a painting. The selection of works includes many of the original frames, and the example that surrounds Compote and Grapes is a particular standout.
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