PASADENA, Calif. — John Moran Auctioneers set seven new world auction records for American artists at their June 15 Fine Art Auction, the second of three such sales scheduled for 2010. They also established themselves yet again as the top house for sales of works by Joe Duncan Gleason (1881-1959), achieving a new second-place record for the marine specialist with the sale of “Ships that Pass” for $115,000 (all prices include the 15 percent buyer’s premium).
The Gleason arrived fresh to the market, consigned by the descendants of the original owner, who had commissioned it directly from the artist in the 1930s. Principal Auctioneer John Moran and Art Sales Director Katie Halligan were delighted to discover the painting at one of Moran’s monthly walk-in Valuation Days, a free appraisal clinic conducted at the company offices in Southern California. A dynamically composed example of Gleason’s fascination with historical sailing vessels and his obsession with nautically accurate detail, the depiction of two brigantines exchanging salutes went on the block with a presale estimate of $30,000 to $50,000. Moran brought down the gavel only after a protracted bidding war between a floor bidder and the ultimate winner, an international client who bid via telephone.
John Moran Auctioneers now holds 10 out of the top 12 auction records for Gleason, including the world record of $161,000, established in February 2007 with the sale of “Avalon (Catalina Harbor).” Moran’s also bested their own seventh-place record for the artist on June 15 with another of his depictions of historical vessels, “Their Last Port,” showing three schooners as they lay retired in a Seattle dock, circa 1937. This work realized $34,500 (estimate $20,000-$30,000).
The new world records set June 15 are led by the $18,400 realized for a scene of placer miners by William F. Chadwick (1828-*). Chadwick painted the work detailing mining operations during the height of the California gold rush, producing a rare contemporary document of this pivotal moment in history. Though little is known about Chadwick, the painting’s high quality, along with collectors’ always-strong appetite for gold rush scenes, inspired the spirited bidding that propelled the final bid past four times the presale estimate of $3,000 to $4,000.
“Redwood Grove at Big Trees, Santa Cruz, CA” set a new record for Lorenzo Latimer (1857-1941) when it achieved a final price of $12,650, and has an interesting history of its own. The dramatically lit oil, retaining its original carved frame and offered for $5,000 to $7,000, was reputedly given to the consignor’s family by Latimer himself in exchange for a set of clothes as he ran through the streets of San Francisco, taking refuge from the destruction of the 1906 earthquake and fire.
John Moran established a new top price for Carl Sammons (1883-1968) as well. His 24-inch by 30-inch oil landscape of sun-bleached California hills, offered for $6,000 to $8,000, fetched $11,500. This was one of two exceptional works by Sammons in the sale, the other being a desert landscape with a broad sky, “Desert Clouds,” which also performed well, realizing $8,050 (estimate $6,000-$8,000).
Depictions of antique transportation continue to capture collectors’ imaginations. Two such works in the auction established new top records for Wilfrid T. Mills (1912-1988) and Raymon A. Price (1901-1957). Price, a graduate of Los Angeles’s Chouinard Art Institute, was a commercial artist whose work appeared in magazines such as Sunset and Touring Topics. His watercolor of a New York trolley car in a windy, snow-blanketed street, “Horse-drawn Harlem,” found a buyer at $3,450, setting a high bar for the first recorded sale of a work by the artist at auction. Mills had previous auction records, but the work offered at Moran’s June 15 far exceeded those. His oil of a yellow Los Angeles trolley car brought $7,475, several times the estimate of $1,000 to $1,500.
John Moran’s third and final California and American Painting Auction of 2010 is scheduled for Oct. 19 and will also feature Western works, Regionalist and California Style watercolors and California and American Impressionists. Paintings already consigned include a Southern California ranch landscape by Charles Reiffel (estimate $20,000-$30,000) and a panoramic Bay of Naples view by Herman Herzog (estimate $30,000-$50,000).
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