Neal Auction to feature Louisiana masterpieces March 24-25

Clementine Hunter (American/Louisiana, 1886-1988), ‘The Annunciation and the Adoration of the Wise Men,’ 1957, oil on board, monogrammed lower right, letter signed by Francois Mignon on his stationery identifying artist, title, date and printed artist biography en verso, 48 in. x 78 in., framed. Estimate: $20,000-$30,000. Neal Auction image

NEW ORLEANS – Neal Auction’s March 24 & 25 Important Spring Estates Auction features several rare and monumental works by important Louisiana artists. Absentee and Internet live bidding is available through LiveAuctioneers.

The auction is highlighted by three rare and important Clementine Hunter (American/Louisiana, 1886-1988) murals that were painted early in the artist’s career for the walls of Melrose Plantation in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Originally built by free people of color during the early 19th century, Melrose was purchased in 1884 by Joseph Henry, whose daughter-in-law Cammie Henry transformed the plantation into a creative haven for artists and writers. It was in this environment that Clementine Hunter, who began working at Melrose as a laborer at the age of 15, developed her distinctive painting style.

Clementine Hunter’s ‘Harvesting Gourds near the African House and Wash Day near the Ghana House, Melrose Plantation,’ 1959, oil on board, monogrammed lower right, 73 in. x 66 ½ in., framed. (two pieces). Estimate: $20,000-$30,000. Neal Auction image

Hunter’s monumental paintings, “The Annunciation and the Adoration of the Wise Men,” 1957, “Harvesting Gourds near the African House and Wash Day near the Ghana House, Melrose Plantation,” 1959, and “The Cotton Crucifixion,” 1959, include rich and complex iconography, which she continued to use on a much smaller scale throughout her lifetime. Originally sold as a part of the Melrose Plantation Auction in 1970, the location of the murals was unknown for almost half a century. The return of these historic paintings to New Orleans in its Tricentennial year affords a wonderful opportunity for new scholarship on one of America’s most well-known and beloved self-taught artists. The Hunter murals will be offered consecutively as lots 174, 175, and 176, with estimates at $20,000 to $30,000, $20,000 to $30,000, and $15,000 to $25,000, respectively.

Clementine Hunter’s ‘The Cotton Crucifixion,’ 1959, oil on plywood, monogrammed mid-right, 73 in. x 60 in., framed (two pieces). Estimate: $15,000-$25,000. Neal Auction image

Neal Auction’s March auction also features one of the largest and most important works to appear at auction by the revered and widely collected artist Alexander John Drysdale (American/New Orleans, 1870-1934). The oil painting, listed as lot 262 in the auction catalog, is unusual in size, measuring 47 by 71 inches. The only other known Drysdale paintings of such magnitude are those commissioned to decorate the Weiss family’s dining room for their famous St. Charles Avenue residence in New Orleans, which are now conserved at Tulane University; the murals painted for the iconic, and now defunct, D.H. Holmes Department Store on Canal Street; and those done for New Orleans’ luxurious private airfield, Shushan Airport. The Drysdale is estimated to achieve between $30,000 and $50,000.

Alexander John Drysdale (American/New Orleans, 1870-1934), ‘Monumental Louisiana Bayou with Live Oaks, Cypress and Cabin,’ 1929, oil on board, signed and dated lower left, 47 in. x 71 in., framed. Estimate: $30,000/$50,000. Neal Auction image

Lot 291, a massive painting by David Harouni (Iranian/New Orleans, b. 1962), is highlighted in the auction as an exceptional example of the artist’s haunting faces series, which he refers to as representations of the “self.”

David Harouni (Iranian/New Orleans, b. 1962), ‘Untitled,’ circa 1998, oil on canvas, signed lower left, 114 in. x 114 in. Estimate: $20,000-$30,000. Neal Auction image

Doug MacCash, New Orleans feature writer for the Times-Picayune, writes: “though his brushwork seems emotionally explosive … his iconic faces are meant to be still and Zen.” That concept of “Zen” is exemplified in Neal Auction’s upcoming Harouni, in which the face is depicted as expressionless and tranquil, allowing the viewer to immerse his or her “self” onto the canvas. Its monumental size, energetic brushwork and evocative color palette create an immersive and particularly poignant work.