Los Angeles, CA – The Spring presentation of the John Moran Auctioneers bi-annual California, American, and Western Fine Art sale took place on Tuesday, May 10, 2022. The selection was all fresh-to-the-market, having been curated from private collections throughout California and the Southwest.
“I love seeing the diversity that makes up the California, American, and Western sale. You have period pieces mixed with contemporary works. It’s a category that allows for a lot of diversity and inclusion when building a collection.” –Morgana Blackwelder, Senior Vice President and Director of Fine Art at John Moran Auctioneers.
On the block there were classic works from artists such as Edgar Alwin Payne, William Wendt, Millard Sheets, and Thomas Hart Benton; as well as more contemporary pieces by Tom Darro, Gary Ernest, Smith, and Betty Anglin Smith. Offering a mixed representation of subjects and time periods, this sale garnered attention from art collectors worldwide.
The sale started off with fierce and lively bidding from multiple online platforms and absentee bids. The collection of early prints was key to setting the tone for the sale. Lots 2 though 6 were works by Thomas Hart Benton, one of the artists at the forefront of the Regionalist art movement. Benton was born and raised in Neosho, a rural farm town in southwest Missouri and a major influence in his work. Benton’s paintings often represent rural farm life, many depicting political undertones highlighting the life and struggle of the rural working class. His vision was to provide an image of the American people that was often overlooked in history. The five Benton works presented in this sale were each estimated at $1,000-2,000… After major interest and multiple offers, they all practically doubled their appraisal value and went for $3,750-4,375 (including buyer’s premium)!
One of the most noteworthy highlights was lot 61, Landscape with Poppies and Lupine, from Granville Redmond. Redmond was born in 1871 in Philadelphia, but grew up in San Jose, California. Sadly, a childhood bout of Scarlet Fever caused him to lose his hearing by the age of three. Soon thereafter, he attended the California School for the Deaf, from 1879 to 1890, where he learned to paint and draw. His exceptional artistic talents earned him an academic scholarship to Academie Julian in Paris. He then traveled to various cities throughout Northern and Southern California before settling in Los Angeles. Best known for his paintings of California poppies blossoming on rolling hills, this oil on canvas performed exceptionally well, bringing in $87,500 (including buyer’s premium). The estimate of $70,000-90,000 was right on target for this west coast masterpiece.
Like Redmond, the next featured artist was born in Philadelphia, studied painting in Paris at the Academie Julien, then finally settled in Pasadena, California. Lot 69 presented the 1920 work of John Frost, Misty View of the San Gabriel Foothills. With an estimate of $20,000-30,000, this oil on linen demonstrates Frost’s mastery of painting en plein air. This piece, with a provenance coming from a private collection in Pasadena, California, was hammered to the final value of $23,750 (including buyer’s premium).
“One of the most noteworthy highlights was lot 61, Landscape with Poppies and Lupine, from Granville Redmond. Redmond was born in 1871 in Philadelphia, but grew up in San Jose, California.”
Also coming from a Southern California private collection, lot 7, was Gustave Baumann’s, Pine and Aspen. Baumann was a German American artist who grew up in Chicago. During his late teens, he became an apprentice at a commercial engraving and printing company, which lead to his career as a fine artist. This was one of many works within the sale hailing from longtime collector and client of Moran’s in Southern California. This 1920 woodcut was estimated at $10,000-15,000, but with an impressive price realized of $21,250 (including buyer’s premium).
Another Academie Julian trained artist with esteem in the Pasadena art scene was Alson Clark. Born 1876, Clark studied art in his home city of Chicago before continuing his education in New York, then Paris. His work, Eucalyptus landscape with fisherman is an oil on canvas. Lot 67 had the attention of bidders as the offers kept coming, bypassing the original estimate of $5,000-7,000 and landing at a whopping $21,250 (including buyer’s premium).
One of the earliest works in the sale included in this lot is the 1869 work from Thomas Waterman Wood, Private Lunch. With an estimate of $8,000-12,000, this oil on canvas has an impressive provenance. Most recently, the work was in the collection of the late Blake Byrne. A philanthropist and major patron of the arts supporting foundations such as the Los Angeles Art Association, the oldest non-profit in Los Angeles County. Byrne collected many works that pushed the boundaries of what was considered socially acceptable. When it was for sale at Christie’s in November 2018, they noted, “According to the artist’s record books, Wood most likely painted the present work in 1868 but did not date it until 1869 at the time of its sale. In 1868, the New York Evening Post noted of the present work, “Mr. Wood has painted to order a little figure picture called ‘Private Lunch.’ It shows a little…bootblack eating a watermelon at one of the cheap stands and looking out anxiously over his shoulders for intruders. It gives one of the aspects of the city life in summer.” (“The Artist at Home,” New York Evening Post, June 8, 1868, p.2). This antique treasure was all in at $21,250 (including buyer’s premium).
Finally, Moran’s presents the showpiece, Ojai Valley, from the early California Impressionist painter, William Wendt. Wendt was born in 1965 in Bentzen, Germany, then at fifteen immigrated to the United States and found employment as a staff artist in Chicago. It was during this time when young Wendt expressed a love for easel painting and began to develop his personal style. In his early forties, Wendt and his wife decided to reside in California. Known as “the dean of Southern California artists,” Wendt loved to travel to the hard-to-reach area of the California countryside for inspiration where he painted canvases revealing trees, rolling hills, blue skies, and farmhouses. This work came from a private Southern California estate with an estimate of $10,000-15,000 and brought in a strong final sale of $18,750 (including buyer’s premium).
—Brenda Smith, John Moran Auctioneers
As we head into the second half of 2022, John Moran Auctioneers continues their summer lineup with the Studio Fine Art auction on Tuesday, June 7th followed by the Post-War and Contemporary Art + Design sale taking place Tuesday, June 21st. Be sure to mark your calendars for these upcoming auctions so you don’t miss out on the action, and the treasures!
Studio Fine Art: ONLINE Tuesday, June 7th | 10:00am PST
Post-War and Contemporary Art + Design: Tues, June 21st | 12:00pm PST
ReDesigned: Tuesday, July 19th | 12:00 pm PST
Art of the American West: ONLINE Tuesday, July 26th | 10:00 am PST
John Moran’s takes the health and safety of our staff and customers seriously; as such, sales will continue to be held online and without a live audience. However, each item is available for public preview. Moran’s auction showroom is over 10,000 square feet and allows clients to preview objects within established social distancing guidelines so that buyers can feel confident when making an appointment to preview the property. For upcoming highlights, online catalogues, and more information on these sales, visit Moran’s website: www.johnmoran.com. Bidding is now available online via Moran’s new mobile app, Moran Mobile, available on both iOS and Android operating systems. Live bidding on a desktop is available through our website; bidding is also supported by telephone or absentee.
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