As California’s oldest and largest auctioneers, Bonhams & Butterfields has established a reputation as a preeminent source for California and American works of art at auction. Following the success of the Fall 2008 sale, which established several auction records, the firm is pleased to announce its April 7, 2009, auction of California & American Paintings and Sculpture featuring Riders in the Foothills by Ernest M. Hennings.
The fresh-to-market Western picture, expected to bring $400,000-$600,000, comes to auction in untouched condition from the family of the silent film stars Rex Bell Sr. and Clara Bow. Typical of Hennings’ style, the work depicts a powerful sense of design and strong drawing abilities, which help to create a striking canvas filled with intense color and light. The 30-inch-by-30-inch work depicts a group of five Native Americans on horseback with a rough sagebrush terrain in the foreground.
“Works by Hennings, including Riders in the Foothills, continue to be in demand. Bonhams & Butterfields is pleased to offer such a rare and fresh-to-market work in April,” said Scot Levitt, Director of California & American Painting and Sculpture at Bonhams & Butterfields.
Ernest M. Hennings was born on Feb. 5, 1886, in Penns Grove, N.J. After finishing high school, he enrolled in classes at the Art Institute of Chicago and graduated with honors in 1904. He continued his studies at the Institute for two more years and after completing his formal education, worked in the Chicago area as an illustrator.
Finding commercial art unsatisfying, he sought to further his studies abroad. During his travels, Hennings attend the Munich Academy in 1912 and remained in Germany until the onset of World War I.
Back in Chicago, Hennings returned to commercial illustration before pursuing a career in fine art painting. Carter H. Harrison, former Mayor of Chicago and a patron of the artist, convinced Hennings to visit Taos, N.M., for a season of painting. The trip was funded by Harrison and Oscar Mayer (founder of the meat packing dynasty). After several visits to the region, Hennings moved to Taos permanently and in 1924 joined the Taos Society of Artists. Two years later, Hennings married and traveled throughout Europe with his wife, returning to Taos in the midst of the Depression. Hennings joined the ranks of many famed artists working for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during this time. Hennings died in Taos in 1956.
Over the course of his career, Hennings won many awards and accolades. His work resides in the permanent collections of numerous public museums and private collections around the world.
Additional works of note from the spring auction include a stunning 1885 nocturnal scene of Baker Beach, San Francisco by William A. Coulter. Titled for its location, A View from Baker Beach looking towards Fort Point, San Francisco Bay, was purchased soon after completion by a Stockton, Calif., collector R.E. Wilhoit. Shortly following Wilhoit’s passing in 1922 the painting was placed between false walls in the attic of his family’s home and not discovered until 1964. The painting has remained in the family since the rediscovery and is now being offered by one of Wilhoit’s descendents. A View from Baker Beach measures 32 inches by 48 inches and is estimated to fetch $20,000-$30,000 on April 7.
Other highlights within the Spring auction include: Granville Redmond’s Poppies (estimate $350,000-$500,000); a striking depiction of Native Americans in a Southwestern landscape titled Blue Canyon by Edgar Payne (estimate $200,000-$300,000); Guy Rose’s Foggy Days (estimate $100,000-$150,000) and a Los Angeles mountainscape of Mt. San Antonio, known affectionately as Mt. Baldy, by William Wendt (estimate $20,000-$30,000).
For more information on the Bonhams & Butterfields auction of California & American Paintings and Sculpture, visit www.bonhams.com/uscalampictures.