Moran fine art sale largest in firm’s 39 years

PASADENA, Calif. – On Feb. 19, John Moran Auctioneers hosted the first of its tri-annual California and American paintings sales for 2008.

The sale was headlined by an important work by Nicolai Fechin. In all, 13 new world auction records were set, and more than $3.4 million was earned on 229 lots resulting in the highest grossing sale in John Moran Auctioneers’ 39-year history. Unless indicated, all prices listed include the 15 percent buyer’s premium. Hammer prices do not include premium.

The evening started off strong with Yerba Buena, a nocturne depicting San Francisco Bay by Charles Rollo Peters (1862-1928) that was sold together with an original note from the artist, quickly surpassing its high estimate of $25,000, selling for $40,250. The previous high record for this artist was $36,000, achieved in October 2006 at Christie’s Los Angeles.

Just 10 lots later, a new world record was set for Nell Walker Warner (1891-1970). The signed oil on canvas, depicting cherry blossoms in a still life set against an unusual gauze-effect background created by cross-hatching into the wet paint, sold for $12,650, more than double the high estimate. The previous world record for this artist was set by John Moran with last year’s sale of House in a Eucalyptus Foothill Landscape for $11,500.

The leading lot of the evening was a masterwork by renowned portraitist and painter Nicolai Fechin (1881-1955) entitled The Wood Engraver.

Fechin painted Moran AT 3-19.jpg shortly after his arrival in America from Russia and it earned him the 1924 Thomas R. Proctor Award for Portraiture at the National Academy of Design.

The Wood Engraver won the 1924 Thomas R. Proctor Award for Portraiture at the National Academy of Design.

The portrait possesses all the hallmarks of Fechin’s best work and, until coming on the block on Feb. 19, had been privately held for more than 60 years. John Moran Auctioneers had assigned a presale estimate of $400,000-$600,000. The bidding opened at $200,000, quickly escalating to $700,000, before two phone bidders raised the final price to $950,000, a new world record hammer price for Fechin.

John Moran’s next auction of California and American paintings will be held on June 24. Moran’s art sales feature California and American Impressionist oil paintings and watercolors painted before 1950. Bidding for these sales is available in person, by phone, absentee and via the Internet through eBayLiveAuctions/LiveAuctioneers.

All sales are held at the Pasadena Convention Center.

For more information, call 626-296-6642, or go online to