CINCINNATI – Major pieces of American and European artwork, an unprecedented 18th-century Kentucky secretary, a rare Lotus table, and several vintage automobiles will be among the select offerings during Cowan’s Fine & Decorative Art two-day auction on Oct. 20-21. The first day of the sale features traditional fine and decorative arts, while the second day specializes in Americana. Absentee and Internet bidding is available through LiveAuctioneers.
“From start to finish, this is going to be one of the strongest fine and decorative art auctions we’ve had in a long time,” said Wes Cowan, principal auctioneer and executive chairman of Cowan’s.
Highlighting the event is Beach Scene (above) by Edward Henry Potthast (American, 1857-1927), which is expected to sell for $300,000 to $500,000. Oil on canvas laid on Masonite, the work is of considerable size, measuring 29 ¼ by 39 ¼ inches (sight).
“This beach scene is quintessential for Potthast,” said Pauline Archambault, a fine art specialist at Cowan’s. “And, it’s a great, massive example.”
Having a sense of movement and punctuated with vibrant color, the work depicts people of all ages on a busy New York beach, a subject popular with Potthast from the turn of the 20th century until his death. The painting represents a crucial phase in Potthast’s career. Freed from the more academic influence of the artist’s Munich training, the beach scene denotes a loosening of his brushstrokes and a brightening of his palette, echoing the cheerful demeanor of the beachgoers.
“It’s a great staple of his overall work, and it has all the features you want in a beach scene by Potthast – numerous lively figures, bright colors and a great size,” said Archambault. “This is a particularly good example. While it’s fairly common to see smaller works and landscapes by Potthast to come to market, it’s pretty rare for a really great, vibrant piece like this to become available.”
Furniture is highlighted by two exceptional pieces of a totally different nature.
A Kentucky desk-and-bookcase owned by Capt. John Cowan (1748-1823), a noted pioneer in the state, is estimated at $50,000 to $75,000. “It’s the single-most important piece of Kentucky furniture to ever come to public auction,” said Wes Cowan (no relation to John Cowan).
Commissioned by John Cowan, the desk (below) was made only four years after Kentucky became a state.
Constructed solely of walnut, the secretary is more than 8 feet tall and features a broken-arch pediment with carved sunflower rosettes and three flame finials. The upper section has two doors paneled in crotch walnut, while the slant-lid desk conceals a fitted interior having a fan-carved prospect door pricked “MJ 1796.” The piece rests on ogee bracket feet.
John Cowan was born in Chester County, Pa., but little is known of his early life. In 1773 he traveled with Thomas Bullitt to the Falls of the Ohio to survey property in what is now Louisville and later became one of the settlers of Kentucky’s first permanent European settlement.
Also estimated at $50,000 to $75,000 is a rare and important jin-di-sugi Lotus table by John Scott Bradstreet (American, 1845-1914). Fewer than 10 examples are known. Circa 1905, the ornately carved pedestal table is made of cypress and measures 27 inches high by 29 ¾ inches in diameter.
A leading interior designer and decorator in Minneapolis in the late 19th century, Bradstreet was heavily influenced by the English Arts & Crafts movement. In 1904 he opened Craftshouse, which showcased his artistic furniture designs alongside an array of antique and contemporary objects purchased on frequent buying trips to Europe and Japan.
Bradstreet’s interest in Japan culminated in the development of an exquisite line of furniture based on ancient jindai-sugi, a traditional method of carving Japanese cypress by taking advantage of wood weakened by extended exposure to water and mud. Bradstreet developed jin-di-sugi, creating a similar effect in a shorter period of time by searing the surface of a piece of wood and scrubbing it with a wire brush. The raised grain of the soft surface was then carved by hand. Jin-di-sugi is considered to be one of Bradstreet’s most important contributions to the American Arts & Crafts style.
Featuring intertwining blossoms, the Lotus table is one of Bradstreet’s finest examples of the sugi style, merging Western and Eastern aesthetics in one piece.
Paintings by American artists are expected to be in high demand throughout the auction including The Warrior by Carl Ferdinand Wimar (German-American, 1828-1862). Depicting an Indian sitting on a rock next to a dog, three other Native Americans in the background, the unsigned oil on canvas, 47 by 34 ½ inches (sight), is expected to sell for $70,000 to $100,000.
Due to Wimar’s short career, and due to the loss of many paintings created in Germany, the surviving oeuvre is rather small, including approximately 60 oils on canvas and a small number of sketchbooks and murals.
“It’s a true rarity when one of Wimar’s paintings surfaces on the market,” said Archambault. “Most of the paintings known to exist are in institutions. Very few are in private hands.”
The Americana session includes a unique and important Map of the Western Reserve Including the Fire Lands in Ohio, circa 1826, estimated at $8,000 to $12,000. Measuring 34 3/4 inches by 27 inches, it features folk art embellishments in watercolor.
In addition to the Cowan desk-and-bookcase and the Bradstreet table, the auction features one of the finest collections of furniture to be offered in one auction at Cowan’s in quite some time.
The sale will be held at 10 a.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 20-21.
For more information, phone Cowan’s Auctions at 513-871-1670.