Skip to content
still lifes

Still lifes stand out in Gray’s Auctioneers sale May 7

still lifes
Joseph Raffael (b. 1933) ‘Soyez Mysterieuses III,’ 1989, watercolor on paper. Estimate: $10,000-$15,000. Gray’s Auctioneers image

CLEVELAND – Any lover of fine art will be intimately familiar with the still life. An invaluable tool for honing technique and developing a sense of composition, nearly every painter has produced a wealth of them and their styles and subjects are as varied as the artists who created them. On Monday, May 7, Gray’s will auction a variety of wondrous still life works as well as a number of other gorgeous fine art pieces. Absentee and Internet live bidding is available through LiveAuctioneers.

Featured first is Lot 41, Soyez Mysterieuses III (above) by American watercolor painter Joseph Raffael (b. 1933).  An alumnus of the Yale School of Art and a longtime veteran of the New York arts scene, Raffael’s paintings are known for their vivid color work and incredible realism, and have earned him a reputation as a contemporary master of watercolor.  As described by Robert Hughes in a 1973 article in Time magazine: “These sumptuous works both dazzle and pull the viewer into the whirling vortex of the painting with a quiet force. Despite their iconic serenity when seen from a distance, Raffael’s paintings disclose a bejeweled profusion of incident close up.”

Lot 13 (below) is a large Triptych titled Tavern Mural Triptych by Cleveland native and American Modernist William Sommer (1867-1949). Trained as a lithographer for many years before studying Fine Art in Munich and New York, Sommer moved to Cleveland in 1907 and quickly became one of the city’s artistic luminaries. Sommer is considered a leader of the Cleveland School of artists who were highly active from the teens through the mid-1940s, a time of massive growth and activity in the city. Sommer was also the co-founder of the Kokoon Arts Club, a social club and promotion vehicle for modernists living in Cleveland. Sommer is perhaps best recognized for a number of large murals he painted in Ohio government buildings on behalf of the Federal Arts Project, including one in the Brett Hall Reading Room in the Cleveland Public Library. Tavern Mural Triptych is a large three-part mural that once occupied the wall of the 82&8 Tavern near Macedonia, Ohio. Depicting two large plants and a cellist at play in lovely pastel hues, the work is a vibrant demonstration of Sommer’s unique and colorful style.

still lifes
William Sommer (1867-1949) ‘Tavern Mural Triptych,’ oil on drywall. Estimate: $40,000-$60,000. Gray’s Auctioneers image

This month’s auction opens with nine paintings by American artist Dines Carlsen (1901-1966). His father, Soren Emil Carlsen (1853-1932), was considered one of the great impressionists of the 20th century, known to some as “The American Chardin” and found great success as a skilled painter of landscapes and still life works during a period when other artists were increasingly under pressure to experiment with more modernistic styles and subjects. Tutored by his father from a young age, Dines grew up to be a prolific and technically gifted painter in his own right, as can be clearly seen in each of these pieces (lots 1-9). Dines paid his father’s tutelage forward as a private instructor and frequently exhibited his work with the artist’s cooperative Grand Central Art Galleries.

still lifes
Dines Carlsen (1901-1966) ‘Peonies,’ oil on canvas. Estimate: $3,000-$5,000. Gray’s Auctioneers image

Lot 94 is an untitled painting by Polish-American artist Julian Stanczak (1928-2017), a key figure in the development of Optical art. As a child during World War II, Stanczak was forced into a Siberian labor camp where he permanently lost the use of his right arm. While a teenager in a Polish refugee camp in Uganda, Stanczak taught himself how to write and draw using only his left arm, spending a few years studying in London before settling in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1950 and becoming a permanent citizen in 1957, and teaching first at the Cincinnati Academy of Art for seven years, and then at the Cleveland Institute of Art for 31. Stanczak found success after his first major show, “Julian Stanczak: Optical Paintings,” held at the Martha Jackson Gallery in New York in 1964, and the source of the name. Hoping to anonymize himself within his work to escape the traumatic circumstances of his youth, Stanczak cultivated an abstract style based around the use of stark contrast and visual trickery to create a sense of motion and transparency within his works. The painting in Gray’s auction stands out among his oeuvre as a more conventional example of abstract expressionism than the mind-bending images he is best known for, but it has a poignancy and drama all its own with its faded colors evoking a sort of melancholy.

still lifes
Julian Stanczak, (1928-2017), untitled, mixed media on Masonite. Estimate: $8,000-$10,000. Gray’s Auctioneers image

Gray’s is excited this month to debut a previously undiscovered work by William Merritt Chase. Dubbed Jester Resting on a Chair, 1875, the work is one of several “trial poses” Chase painted as preparation for his famous Keying Up – The Court Jester. However, since the work is signed and dated, it can be appropriately considered a finished work in its own right rather than a study. As a newly discovered early work by an undisputed master, Jester Resting on a Chair is a highlight of the auction at Gray’s on May 7 in Lot 24.

Lot 24a contains a piece by another 19th century American master, Asher Brown Durand (1796-1886). A member of the Hudson River School of landscape artists, Durand first came to national prominence as a talented engraver after creating a famous engraving of the signing of the Declaration of Independence for John Turnbull in 1823. Durand’s engravings of scenes from American history put him in high demand, and his engravings on banknotes went on to be used as portraits for America’s very first series of postage stamps in 1847. Around 1830, Durand began to shift away from engraving and toward oil painting, the medium with which he would produce some of his finest and best-known works. Though he spent his life going back and forth between his hometown of Maplewood, New Jersey, and New York City, Durand’s summer home was in the untamed wilderness of America’s northeastern mountains. It was there in the Adirondacks, White Mountains and Catskills that he would make hundreds of drawings and oil sketches that would later be debuted as the finished academy pieces that helped to define the Hudson River School. Like other members of the Hudson River School, Durand treated nature with a divine reverence, and considered its faithful depiction a sacred responsibility, once writing “the true province of Landscape Art is the representation of the work of God in the visible creation … ” This sensibility is clearly visible in Durand’s meticulous attention to detail and his masterful depiction of natural light. The incredible poignancy and realism of Durand’s landscapes has made them highly sought-after for generations. In 2005, his painting Kindred Spirits reportedly sold at Sotheby’s for $35 million, and as recently as 2007 he was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. His Butternut Tree, Study from Nature, Lake George, New York is a beautiful example by this master of landscape painting.

still lifes
Asher Brown Durand (1796-1886), ‘Butternut Tree, Study from Nature, Lake George, New York,’ oil on canvas. Estimate: $40,000-$60,000. Gray’s Auctioneers image

In addition to the extensive collection of paintings available to bidders, Gray’s will also be auctioning a number of sculptural pieces this month, as well as fine jewelry, exceptional antiques and decorative pieces.

[av_button label=’View the fully illustrated catalog and bid on LiveAuctioneers.’ link=’manually,′ link_target=’_blank’ size=’medium’ position=’center’ icon_select=’no’ icon=’ue800′ font=’entypo-fontello’ color=’theme-color’ custom_bg=’#444444′ custom_font=’#ffffff’ admin_preview_bg=” av_uid=’av-slverk’]