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Wildlife images reign supreme at Copley’s sale, Feb. 19-20

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Bob F. Kuhn (1920-2007), ‘Young Buck with Does,’ acrylic on Masonite, 22 x 33in. Estimate: $80,000-$120,000. Copley Fine Art Auctions image

HINGHAM, Mass. – On Feb. 19 and 20, Copley Fine Art Auctions, a leading decoy and sporting art auction house, will host their Winter Sale 2021. To accommodate numerous estates, the company’s auction has expanded to a virtual two-day format. The auction will begin at 10 a.m. on both Friday and Saturday. Bid absentee or live online through LiveAuctioneers.

Copley principal Steve O’Brien reflects on the upcoming two-day sale: “Copley prides itself in handling the top estates in the field and the coming sale certainly reflects this. Our ethos is to handle quality over quantity. Clients rely on us, knowing we will give their collections the research, cataloging, and marketing they deserve.”

The auction will feature offerings from single-owner estates which include several of the nation’s top decoy and sporting art collections. Properties have been sourced directly from the collections of Dr. Peter J. Muller Jr., a New York City museum, Kroghie Andresen, Len Carnaghi, John Dillon, William K. du Pont, Dale W. Farrell, Ted and Judy Harmon, Dwight Miller, Dr. Leonard O. Oden and Herb Wetanson. Provenance listings will include important works from the collections of Walter L. Bush, Donal C. O’Brien Jr., William J. Mackey Jr., Dr. James McCleery, Adele Earnest, William H. Purnell Jr. and Joel Barber, among many others.

Painting and works on paper offerings in February are sure to excite collectors. Copley’s fine art specialist, Leah Tharpe, reports, “This is the finest assemblage of American sporting art to be offered at auction for years. The masters are well-represented, with major oil paintings by Frank W. Benson, Edmund Osthaus, A.F. Tait and Ogden Pleissner. Several of these set records the last time they were on the market, and we are excited to see where these high-quality works land in February.

“In addition, selections from the Dale Farrell Collection, consisting of major Rockport School paintings by Emile Gruppe, Anthony Thieme, J.J. Enneking, and other important American artists who found inspiration on the coast of New England, will be available.”

The paintings are led by Redheads in Flight, a significant oil on canvas by noted wildlife artist Frank W. Benson (below). The 1916 painting depicts a flock of redheads near Long Point, an important private hunting club where the artist traveled to hunt (estimate: $250,000-$450,000).

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Frank W. Benson (1862-1951), ‘Redheads in Flight,’ oil on canvas, 36¼ x 45in. Estimate: $250,000-$450,000. Copley Fine Art Auctions image

The artist’s Canada Goose Shooting will also be on offer (estimate: $40,000-$60,000). Young Buck with Does, a work by wildlife artist Bob F. Kuhn (estimate: $80,000-$120,000), joins a fine salmon fishing oil by Ogden M. Pleissner titled Jimmy’s Pool on the Restigouche (estimate: $60,000-$90,000).

Other important paintings slated for the sale include several quintessential hunting dog oils, such as Pointer with Quail, a commanding work by Edmund Osthaus featuring a pointer holding its quarry (below). This painting was commissioned by George M. Brady Esq., of Detroit in 1890 (estimate: $150,000-$250,000).

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Edmund H. Osthaus (1858-1928), ‘Pointer with Quail,’ oil on canvas, 27 x 36 in. Estimate:
$150,000-$250,000. Copley Fine Art Auctions image

An 1883 oil painting by A.F. Tait titled Setters on Quail (estimate: $50,000-$70,000) joins eight additional works by Tait. Seven of the Tait paintings in the Winter Sale are documented in Warder H. Cadbury and Henry F. Marsh’s monograph on the artist, Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait: Artist in the Adirondacks. Frederic Remington’s rare depiction of an English setter (estimate: $50,000-$70,000), which has been accepted by the Remington Examination Committee for the artist’s catalogue raisonné, will also be included in the sale.

Other exemplary works by fine art masters include Anthony Thieme’s 1932 depiction of fishing smacks, exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (Estimate: $25,000-$35,000). Smacks were sailing vessels used for fishing and transport up until the first quarter of the 20th century. Paintings and works on paper will cross the block by Antonio Jacobsen, Aiden Lassell Ripley, George Browne, Chet Reneson, Ewoud de Groot, Luke Frazier, and Maynard F. Reece, among others.

Regarding the decoy and decorative carvings on offer, Colin McNair, Copley’s decoy specialist, explains, “Complementary estates have converged to create a decoy and decorative bird carving lineup that is truly exceptional. A New York City museum [The Walter Bush Collection], The Dr. Muller Collection, and The William K. du Pont Collection, among others, have been this cataloger’s dream. I can’t wait to share some of the history and revelations these works have brought to light, especially considering that numerous premier carvings have been off the market for 40 to 70-plus years. From seminal decoys made before the Civil War to world championship-winning decoratives from the last few years, the development of the American bird carving art form will be on full display.”

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Mackey Cobb Feeding Brant, Nathan F. Cobb Jr. (1825-1905). Estimate: $100,000-$150,000. Copley Fine Art Auctions image

Day one of this year’s Winter Sale will feature Session II of the Dr. Peter J. Muller Jr. Collection of American Bird Decoys, widely regarded as “the finest collection ever assembled in the South.” Two of the masterworks from that collection are exceptional carvings in feeding postures by Nathan F. Cobb Jr. of the fabled island in Virginia: The Mackey Cobb Feeding Brant (above; estimate: $100,000-$150,000) and The Cobb Feeding Curlew (below; estimate: $80,000-$120,000). The Cobb family is best known as the originators of the Cobb-Island style of decoy carving, the subject of a book currently on press, which will feature all of Dr. Muller’s Cobbs.

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The Cobb Feeding Curlew, Nathan F. Cobb Jr. (1825-1905). Estimate: $80,000-$120,000. Copley Fine Art Auctions image

Hailing from the renowned collection of William Kemble du Pont, the Decorative Preening Curlew (below) by A. Elmer Crowell, the “Father of American Bird Carving,” is sure to turn heads (Estimate: $60,000-$90,000). This, along with an early woodcock that is a mantel mate to The Dr. John Henry Cunningham Woodcock (Estimate: $50,000-$70,000), an early running yellowlegs with a faux clamshell carved base (Estimate: $35,000-$45,000), a rare and important complete set of waterfowl miniatures (Estimate: $35,000-$45,000), and an exceptional bobwhite quail pair (Estimate: $30,000-$50,000), will also cross the block.

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The Decorative Preening Curlew from the William Kemble du Pont Collection, by A. Elmer Crowell (1862-1952). Estimate: $60,000-$90,000. Copley Fine Art Auctions image

This year’s auction will feature a number of important pairs by the Ward Brothers: The Purnell-Muller Ward Canvasback Pair (estimate: $50,000-$80,000) and The Bishops Head Black Duck Pair (estimate: $50,000-$70,000). Many consider these pairs to be among the finest duos to emerge from the famed Crisfield workshop. Decorative pairs commissioned by Mr. Du Pont will lead other exceptional works by the Ward Brothers on offer.

Several one-of-a-kind works are expected to garnish considerable interest: a circa-1890 bluebill hen by Lee Dudley, which remains one of the finest renderings of the species (estimate: $40,000-$60,000), and a contemporary high-head Canada goose from the Herb Wetanson

For over a decade, Copley’s auctions have led the fields of sporting art and decoys with first-rate offerings and strong results. Since 2009 the firm has placed 27 lots on Decoy Magazine’s “100 All-Time High Prices” list, more than all of the other auction firms combined during this time span. In addition, Copley has set over 29 world records for American and sporting artists, including Ogden Pleissner, Aiden Lassell Ripley, Edmund Osthaus, A. B. Frost, Lynn Bogue Hunt, Louis Agassiz Fuertes, Francis Lee Jaques, William J. Koelpin Sr., Chet Reneson, Thomas Aquinas Daly and William Goadby Lawrence, among others.

Copley’s free past results database, with over 12,500 lots, is the largest and most accurate resource of its kind available to the public. The ability to use this powerful tool gives buyers and sellers alike the confidence to participate in the market at the highest level.

For more information, contact Copley Fine Art Auctions at 617-536-0030 or email

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