Rare colored pencil work by Swiss folk artist commands $40,480 at Slotin auction

BUFORD, Ga. – A colored pencil on paper rendering, done in 1917 by Swiss self-taught artist Adolf Wolfli (1864-1930), titled Blatt Aus Heft #15, sold for $40,480 at a folk art auction held March 28 by Slotin Auction. The framed piece, inscribed throughout, measured 11 1/4 inches by 16 1/4 inches and was in excellent condition. It was the top earner of the sale.

“This was one of only a few Wolfli pieces we’ve ever offered at auction, and it made a very strong showing, probably stronger than a gallery sale,” said Amy Slotin who, along with her husband Steve, oversee the auction firm.

The March 28 sale saw nearly 1,000 lots cross the block. “Usually we start a sale with more staff than bidders,” Amy remarked, “but this time it was standing-room only from the start, with every one of the 200 chairs filled. The room was overflowing. I had to double up on my orders for lunch and dinner.”

She continued, “People really did want to be part of this auction, despite the dismal economy. I did notice that where people used to bid on 30 to 40 items in the past, this time they were much more focused on their selections. But I really appreciate the fact that they are still in the game and enthusiastic about the genre.” She added phone and absentee bidding was strong.

Additional highlights from the sale follow. All prices quoted include a 15 percent buyer’s premium.

A paint on board work by the late folk art icon Howard Finster, executed in 1981 and titled Hope Beyond This World is Power of Life, soared to $16,100. The painting contained hundreds of faces, animals and images to make it one of Finster’s most elaborate and powerful pieces. The signed work measured 51 inches by 21 inches in a wood-burned, decorated frame.

A pair of three-dimensional carved and painted wooden figures by S.L. Jones, titled Couple in Blue, hammered for $12,650. The figures – a man and a woman – were carved in 1973. Each measured 8 inches long and exhibited some natural wood splitting. Jones’ carved signature was at the base of the woman, and S.L. Jones was stamped on the back of the neck.

A two-sided work by Charles A.A. Dellschau (1830-1923), titled Card Gander #4307 and #4308, brought $10,235. The piece was framed to display either side, both of which were similar, showing a cutaway view of a futuristic flying vessel or land vehicle. People were shown in various components of the traveling ship. The side had a newspaper clipping from February 1919.

An acrylic on cardboard painting by Slotin Auction fan favorite Sister Gertrude Morgan, titled The Revelations of Jesus Fan, topped out at $9,775. Morgan signed her name and even included her home address on the 1971 work, which was in excellent condition. The double-sided archival frame measured 21 inches by 22 1/2 inches and allowed for display on either side. 

Two pieces went for new world auction record prices. An acrylic on canvas by B.F. Perkins, titled Cherokee Love Birds in Orange, with the artist’s thin wood frame, climbed to $6,900. The 1991 piece measured 50 1/2 inches by 60 1/2 inches. Bernice Sims’s early oil on canvas rendering, titled New Hope Church (circa 1989), 36 inches by 36 inches, made $3,450.

A late 1970s/early 1980s Devil Jack O’Lantern by renowned Georgia potter Lanier Meaders (another Slotin Auction favorite) rose to $6,325. The signed piece, in mint condition, had holes in the back, mouth, eyes and ears, allowing light to stream through. The piece featured clay teeth, a glossy glaze at the top and matte glaze on the bottom half. It was 9 3/4 inches tall.

Clementine Hunter’s paint on artist board painting, titled Tending the Corn on Melrose Plantation (circa 1960-1965), fetched the identical price as the Meaders pottery, $6,325. The wide work, measuring 36 inches by 9 inches (framed), was twice signed. A circus banner from the 1940s or ’50s, titled African Gorilla, hand-painted on heavy canvas, achieved $4,025.

Two very different pieces realized identical prices of $3,450. The first was a tramp art frame with glass mirror by an unknown artisan, decorated with pyramids in the corners and a highly stylized picket fence effect. The other was a hand-carved African-American bed frame, carved and stained wood, Carolina in origin. The unique piece had an alligatored patina varnish.

Rounding out the top lots, a charcoal and pastel on paper work by Thornton Dial, titled Nudes and Birds Over Shacks (36 inches by 49 1/2 inches, framed) changed hands for $3,680; and a carved and painted wood depiction of a fish by Phillippe Sirois, titled Pike, gaveled for $2,070. The oval-shaped work measured 28 inches by 11 inches and was initialed and dated on the back.

Slotin Auction has been in business for about 15 years. The firm conducts sales in a converted grocery store in downtown Buford, Ga., just north of Atlanta.

Slotin Auction’s next big event will be a November Masterpiece Sale on Nov. 7. For more information call 770-532-1115 or 404-403-4244, or e-mail auction@Slotinfolkart.com or visit www.Slotinfolkart.com.

All photos courtesy Slotin Folk Art Auction.