Whistler print sets new record for artist, auction house

Whistler portion of the sale set nearly 20 new world auction records for individual prints

Other Old Master highlights included works by Albrecht Dürer, Hans Baldung Grien, Il Canaletto, and Giovanni B. Piranesi.

James A.M. Whistler's "Nocturne" is likely one of the first etchings Whistler made for the Fine Art Society on his arrival in Venice in September 1879, and is also one of his most celebrated views of the city. Estimated at $80,000 to $120,000, when the final gavel came down, $282,000 changed hands.

NEW YORK — A new record has been set for a J.A. Whistler print at auction.

Swann Galleries sold the print titled “Whistler and His Influence” Oct. 27 at an auction which was followed the next day by rare and important Old Master prints and Old Master through Modern prints.

The Whistler portion of the sale set nearly 20 new world auction records for individual prints — and the top lot, a very early impression of “Nocturne,” etching and drypoint on Japan paper, 1879-80, sold for $282,000, making it the most expensive Whistler print ever sold at auction. It was also the highest price for a print ever sold at Swann. All prices quoted include a 20 percent buyer’s premium.

Among the many other Whistlers that set records were “Little Smithfield,” etching on Japan paper, which had not appeared at auction in the last 20 years, $18,000; “Exeter Street,” etching, circa 1886-88, $22,800; and “Rue des Bon Enfants, Tours,” etching and drypoint, 1888, created while Whistler was honeymooning in the Loire Valley, $21,600.

On Oct. 28, the auction continued with approximately 115 rare and important Old Master prints. These included many notable etchings by Rembrandt van Rijn, such as “The Descent from the Cross: Second Plate,” 1633, $64,800; “Self Portrait with Plumed Cap and Lowered Sabre,” 1634, $50,400; and “Jan Six,” etching, 1647, $38,400.

A record was set for a 15th-century German School woodcut with hand watercoloring, “The Hand as the Mirror of Salvation,” circa 1450-70, that brought $24,000; and for William Pether (after Joseph Wright of Derby’s) “Three Persons Viewing the Gladiator by Candlelight,” mezzotint, 1769, $21,600.
Other Old Master highlights included works by Albrecht Dürer, Hans Baldung Grien, Il Canaletto, and Giovanni B. Piranesi.

Highlights among the 19th-century prints were James Ensor’s “Les Vieux Polissons,” etching on simili Japon paper, 1895, $4,080; Henri Toulouse-Lautrec’s “Mademoiselle Marcel Lender, en buste,” color lithograph, 1895, $9,600; Henri Privat-Livemont’s Art Nouveau poster for Absinthe Robette, 1896, $14,400; and Paul Helleu’s portrait of Ethel Barrymore, drypoint, circa 1900, $5,040.

Featured American works included George Bellows’  “Preliminaries,” 1916, the artist’s only prize-fight lithograph in which women are depicted, $33,600; Martin Lewis’ “Madison Square, Rainy Night,” etching and drypoint, circa 1915-16, $15,600 and “Down to the Sea at Night,” drypoint, 1929, $10,200; and Childe Hassam’s “The Old Mulford House, Easthampton,” etching, 1926, $9,000.

Among the notable modern European prints were Erich Heckel’s “Der Mann (Selbstbildnis),” woodcut, 1913, $18,000; Kees Van Dongen’s “Femmes,” portfolio with 7 (of 12) color lithographs, 1927, $24,000; Joan Miró, “Le Géante,” drypoint, 1938, a record $21,600; a color aquatint after Marcel Duchamp’s “Mariée,” on Arches, 1934, $12,000; and Pablo Picasso’s “Tétes,” color linoleum cut, 1963, $26,400.

For complete results, an illustrated catalog, with prices realized on request, is available for $40 in the U.S., or $50 elsewhere from Swann Galleries, Inc., 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010. ?

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More Images:

Dated 1859, Whistler's "Seymour, Seated," a diminutive 5 3/8-inch by
3 3/4-inch etching portrait of Whistler's half-sister's nephew, Seymour Haden, on cream laid Japan paper with full margins realized $2,400 against a $1,500 to $2,500 presale estimate. Swann Galleries has found only eight other impressions at auction in the past 20 years.
James Whistler's "Rotherhithe," an etching and drypoint on paper, shows the balcony of the Angel, a Rotherhithe inn, overlooking the Thames, with foreground figures surrounded by an intricate mass of ropes and masts, 1860, 10 3/4 by 7 7/8 inches, sold for $14,400 in October, at the top end of its $9,000 to $12,000 estimate.
Thomas R. Way (1861-1913), "Whistler with the White Lock" signed lithograph, circa 1895 (8 inches by 5 1/2 inches). Way printed most of Whistler's drawings and was an accomplished artist himself. Sold for $2,640, above the presale estimate of $1,000 to $1,500.
Whistler's "The Unsafe Tenement" went unsold in the Oct. 27 auction. It carried a pre-auction estimate of $2,000 to $3,000.
James Whistler's "Black Lion Wharf," an etching on tissue-thin Japan paper, 1859, 5 7/8 inches by 8 7/8 inches, that shows a location below London Bridge where larger, ocean-going ships loaded and unloaded, sold for $4,080 in October, well within its $3,000 to $5,000 presale estimate.

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