Museum-quality paintings, sculpture, works on paper at Swann, Feb. 17

Swann Galleries’ annual winter auction of African-American Fine Art on Feb. 17 offers museum-quality works of art from private collections, including paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints and photographs representing all of the major 20th-century artistic movements.

The selection of works by Charles White, the renowned Chicago figurative artist, spans his career. The sale’s top lot is White’s Move on Up a Little Higher, a charcoal and Wolff crayon drawing on illustration board, 1961 (estimate $200,000-$250,000). Another monumental drawing by White set an artist record in October 2007 when it sold at Swann for $360,000.    

The Feb. 17 sale also features the first significant painting by White to come to auction, Hope Imprisoned, a large tempera on paper, 1946, from a New York collection ($150,000-$200,000). Prints by White range from one of his earliest known etchings, the WPA-era Untitled (Head of a Man), 1940 ($10,000 to $15,000), to Profile, 1974, an etching from his last signed edition ($4,000-$6,000).

The earliest works in the auction are a pair of oils on canvas by Henry Ossawa Tanner, the father of modern African-American art. The Annunciation to the Shepherds ($60,000-$90,000), and Adoration of the Golden Calf ($40,000-$60,000), both circa 1895, reflect the artist’s early exploration of Biblical subjects.

Mid 20th-century highlights include African Women, circa 1942, a striking pen and ink drawing by the great figurative artist Eldzier Cortor which epitomizes his glorification of the beauty of African-American women. It is only the second drawing by Cortor ever to come to auction ($35,000-$50,000).

Greenwich Village was the inspiration for two vivid oils on canvas by Beauford Delaney, Untitled (Washington Square Park), 1951, and Distant Horizons (New Dimensions), 1952, strong examples of his New York period ($50,000-$75,000 each). Hughie Lee-Smith’s masterful Untitled (Rooftop View), oil on masonite, 1957, made during the defining period of his career, depicts a solitary figure on an urban rooftop ($50,000-$75,000).

The sale includes many important and scarce works from the 1970s. Of special note is Alvin D. Loving’s Cube 27, acrylic on shaped canvas, 1970 ($60,000-$90,000). Loving gained commercial and critical success with the vibrant hard-edge abstract paintings he created in the brief period from 1967 to 1971. Only a few have come to auction. His Untitled (Hexagon) set an artist record when it sold for $156,000 at Swann’s October 2008 auction of African-American Fine Art.

Other upcoming highlights from the 1970s are Hale Woodruff’s Cinque Exhorts his Captives, a large oil on canvas, 1973, that reprises the subject of his Amistad murals from 1939 ($75,000-$100,000); Elizabeth Catlett’s impressive mid-career sculpture, Black Head, polished black marble, circa 1973-74 ($75,000-$100,000), and her color linoleum cut Malcolm X Habla para Nosotros, from the very scarce first edition, 1969 ($10,000-$15,000). Also featured are a pair of Untitled abstract gouache studies by Alma Thomas, circa 1975 ($20,000-$30,000); and the first major work by Howardena Pindell to appear at auction, Untitled, 1977, a large-scale assemblage of acrylic, punched paper, glitter, sequins and powder on unstretched sewn canvas ($75,000-$100,000).

Among notable prints are Sargent Johnson’s Singing Saints, lithograph, 1940 ($25,000-$35,000); Romare Bearden’s The Dove, photostat mounted on masonite, 1964, from an edition of only six ($20,000-$30,000), and The Train, color aquatint, etching and photo engraving with extensive hand coloring, 1974 ($8,000-$12,000).

The auction concludes with a selection of works by contemporary artists who currently included in leading gallery and museum exhibitions, sold to benefit The Senator Chuck Allen, III Scholarship Fund, a non-profit that aids minority students in the New York tri-state area.

The auction will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 17 at 1:30 p.m.

The works of art will be on public exhibition at Swann Galleries on Wednesday, Feb. 11, through Friday, Feb. 13, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 14, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Monday, Feb. 16, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; and Tuesday, Feb. 17, from 10 a.m.-noon.

For more information or to view the full-color catalog online, visit www.swanngalleries.com.

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