New York – Following the category’s great success in 2012, Christie’s will present the first sale of American Art for 2013 on February 27. The sale includes a strong selection of works from the 19th through mid-20th centuries and features a wonderful array of works by American masters, including Frederic Church, Mary Cassatt, Milton Avery, Norman Rockwell, and many others.
Highlighting the sale is Milton Avery’s (1885-1965) Evening Beach, painted in 1941, which showcases the artist’s signature style of transforming a composition by altering the palette and suggesting forms with rough outlines (estimate: $70,000-100,000). The painting depicts a peaceful scene of bathers lounging by the shore, which was likely inspired by Avery’s sojourn with his family to Laguna Beach, California that year. With only hints of simple lines and a flattened picture plane, the palette of blues and greens envelops the scene and allows a sense of calm to settle over the figures as they lazily bask on the sand.
Gracing the back cover of the auction catalogue is Dunbar Dyson Beck’s (1903-1986) Fists, which is the third in a series of eight paintings thematically focused on prize-fighting (estimate: $15,000-25,000). The paintings were inspired by an unpublished play, "The National Ring." The present work with its emanating circles of light, and repetition of the raised fist and muscular arm, is an impressive example of the drama and underlying psychological effects which the series conveyed.
Portrait of the Artist's Father by John Koch (1909-1978) is a work rendered with astute technical proficiency and a keen attention to light and detail (estimate: $60,000-80,000). The acuity extends beyond Koch’s depiction of the objects that surrounded him to the inner character of his human subjects. A quintessential example of Koch’s works, Portrait of the Artist's Father is set in his New York City apartment, creating the sense of sophisticated intimacy with which he is so closely associated.
Norman Rockwell’s (1894-1978) Study for ‘Portrait of Nehru’ portrays India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and was a study for the cover of the January 19, 1963 issue of The Saturday Evening Post (estimate: $20,000 – 30,000). Rockwell traveled around the world completing various assignments in the 1960s and it was during this time that the artist was given greater freedom in his subject matter. He strayed from his nostalgia-driven works and took the opportunity to paint more controversial political and social themes. Nehru was likely chosen for the cover of The Saturday Evening Post due to his attempts to unify India’s citizens, to promote scientific innovation, and to bring social awareness to the marginalized and poor.
A work which is influenced by Surrealism and served to draw attention to the social injustices during the Great Depression, is Scrimshaw by James Guy (1909-1983) (estimate: $15,000-25,000). In Scrimshaw, Guy portrays the dichotomy of the social classes by depicting workers--a clam digger and a farmer – juxtaposed with a reclining androgynous figure. The figure rests with ease, surrounded by luxury goods such as framed paintings and scrimshaw, while the men labor away to support themselves during a challenging economic time.
Shell on the Sand by Rebecca Strand Salsbury James (1891-1968) was painted circa 1937 and is executed in the artist’s preferred medium of reverse oil-on-glass painting (estimate: $10,000-15,000). Though she had no formal training, James’ introduction to Alfred Stieglitz's circle of avant-garde artists piqued her interest and allowed her to develop her signature style, seen here. Shell on the Sand reflects the inspiration of her friend, Georgia O’Keeffe, with whom she often painted side-by-side in New Mexico.
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