Bidding battle ends with American laborer painting exceeding $1M

CHICAGO — Property from the Collection of Carol H. and Richard M. Levin of Kansas City, Missouri

1967 Discussion

1967 “Discussion” by Thomas Hart Benton soared to $1,052,500 during a May 22 auction at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers. (All photos courtesy Leslie Hindman Auctioneers)

brought an important collection of 33 American paintings to Leslie Hindman Auctioneers for an evening sale held May 20 in Chicago. Five works by Thomas Hart Benton were sold, including his 1967 Discussion, which brought $1,052,500 against a pre-sale estimate of $200,000-$400,000.

With significant interest, phone bidders battled it out for the work, attempting to secure the quintessentially American scene of a laborer and union recruiter of the mid-20th century. Also available was Study for “Discussion,” which was reproduced in a 1937 issue of Life. It sold for $11,250 against a presale estimate of $6,000 – $8,000.

Two additional Benton studies sold well above high estimates: the 1951 Study for “Flood Disaster (Homecoming – Kaw Valley)” drew $362,500 against a presale estimate of $120,000 – $180,000 and the 1956 Study for “Portrait of Carl Sandburg” brought $68,500 against a presale estimate of $30,000 – $50,000.

Highlights from other American artists included John Steuart Curry’s 1946 Self Portrait, which drew $62,500 and Charles Burchfield¹s 1948 Basswood Tree in Winter, which sold at $98,500.

Important American paintings also sold well in the May 20 day sale at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers. The hallmark of the sale was Ralston Crawford’s 1937 Pennsylvania Barn, which sold well above its high estimate, realizing $572,500. The modern painting has been in the Collection of Brown Shoe Company, Inc., St. Louis, Missouri, since 1971 and drew aggressive telephone bidding. Another lot from the day sale that experienced enthusiastic bidding was Charles Courtney Curran’s 1891 Peach Blossoms. The painting quickly surpassed its high estimate and sold for $104,500.

For more information, visit www.lesliehindmanauctioneers.com.

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