Fortune painting sells for $480,000 at Bonhams & Butterfields

SAN FRANCISCO – New buyers and seasoned collectors filled Bonhams & Butterfields’ galleries in San Francisco and Los Angeles on Aug. 7 for the opportunity to bid on works by legendary California and American masters.

Simulcast between northern and southern California, the sale garnered 15 new auction records for artists such as E. Charlton Fortune, Alson Skinner Clark, Benjamin C. Brown, Mary DeNeale Morgan, Paul de Longpre, Frank Cuprien, Ross Dickinson, Emil Kosa Jr., Annie Lyle Harmon, Paul Grimm, Charles Chapel Judson, John Ottis Adams, Rachel Hartley, Robert Clunie and Standish Backus Jr.

The marquee lot of the sale was an oil on canvas board painting titled Mending Nets by artist E. Charlton Fortune. The work depicted a French harbor scene. “The sale of this painting for $480,000, not only establishes a new auction world record for the artist, but solidifies the place of California and American artists in the global art market,” said Scot Levitt, Bonhams & Butterfields’ vice president and fine arts department director. Prices include a buyer’s premium of 20 percent.

fortune.jpgWorking in obscurity for most of her career, Fortune utilized the ‘E.’ to disguise her sex. “Fortune’s works, although rare to public auction, are becoming highly sought after. Collectors are looking for her early works, such as Mending Nets, as well as later examples,” added Levitt. “The color palette and the brush strokes of this impressionist work are exquisite, greatly differing from Fortune’s later body of work, which is composed mainly of portraiture and religious compositions. The painting has been a part of several museum exhibits, the earliest in 1989 at the Monterey Peninsula Museum of Art."

Bridge Builders by Alson Skinner Clark also depicts a European scene. Achieving a new auction world record at $204,000, the impressionistic painting debuted in 1906 as part of a large show at the Art Institute of Chicago. “The work infuses the canvas with graceful color and a sense of movement,” said Levitt. “One author wrote that the artist received the highest compliment when his former teacher, William Merritt Chase, purchased this work for his own collection.”

“The market for American master Maynard Dixon continues to be strong. Bonhams & Butterfields sold each Dixon oil painting offered during the August sale above its high estimate,” said Levitt. A pair of gouache mural studies by the artist attracted collector interest. Utilizing Dixon’s desert pallet, the two works depict human forms within Egyptian and classical scenes. The sketches are likely the preliminary images for a Dixon mural done in 1929 for the U.S. Savings and Loan Association in San Francisco. A rarity at public auction, the four-foot wide pair of mural studies sold for $45,000.

Bringing nearly six times the pre-sale estimate, Bouquet of Pink and White Peonies by Paul de Longpre is, according to Levitt, “one of the largest floral works to come to market in recent history.” Setting a new auction record at $144,000, the 1891 painting is “alive with blooms in the saturated tones of dainty pink, rich mauve, assorted greens and a skilled application of white, cream and ivory. The work will be available to the public as it was acquired by the Irvine Museum in Irvine California.”

Maurice Prendergast’s Two Women Seated with Parasols in a Park was estimated to fetch as much as $50,000, but actually brought $204,000.

Additional highlights of the August auction include Granville Redmond’s A Field of California Poppies which brought $420,000; Moonlight Reflections also by Redmond sold for $204,000; Lake in the Sierras by Edgar Payne surpassed its high estimate of $150,000 selling for $264,000, and John Marshall Gamble’s Wild Heliotrope near Laguna Beach brought $144,000.

For more information, visit