Nine world auction records set at Bonhams & Butterfields

American Impressionism and Western themes brought $5.5 million as collectors and connoisseurs filled the rooms at Bonhams & Butterfields on Aug. 5, 2008.

Simulcast to Los Angeles and San Francisco, the two-session sale offered a variety of California, Western, Society of Six, Hawaiian scenes and Plein Air works.

According to Scot Levitt, vice president and Fine Arts Department Director, “We were pleased to see robust bidding both on the telephone and in the salerooms, as the market, especially for high-caliber and fresh-to-market works, continues to show growth and strength.”

The top lot was an Impressionistic Western rodeo scene by Armin Hansen titled First Feel of Leather. The work embodies action, movement and atmosphere, while capturing the dangers of the rodeo. Estimated at $80,000-$120,000, the work brought $390,000. Running Mates, a smaller oil on board by Hansen, carrying the same estimate, sold for $156,000.

Charles Marion Russell’s Battle between Blackfeet and the Piegans, 1897, highlighted the evening secession of the sale. Russell’s watercolor depicted a dynamic confrontation between two Native American tribes. Typical of his work, the composition is full of bright, fresh, lively colors accentuating each aspect of the masterpiece. The work brought $276,000.

Western themes, both traditional and modern, brought competitive bidding throughout the auction. In addition to the Russell masterwork, the sale also featured a large 40-inch by 40-inch work titled Packing in the Sierras by Edgar Payne, which sold for: $300,000; Maynard Dixon’s Mountains in Sunset Light that sold for $360,000; and a second work by Dixon, Summer Clouds, New Mexico, that sold for $330,000.

Bidding was strong for a number of American masterworks including: Herman Herzog’s A Hunter Among Windswept Palms and Passing Clouds, which doubled its high estimate to fetch $144,000; William Ritschel’s Land’s End brought $132,000 and California Coast by Maurice Braun sold for $108,000. The auctioneer’s catalog back cover lot, a colorful oil on canvas landscape entitled California Wildflowers was also featured. A classic example of work from John Marshall Gamble, the painting sold for $120,000.

Raymond Jonson’s work Composition Eleven – Rain (Opus to Vera), 1931, brought $108,000 after several rounds of highly competitive bidding. An abstract work, the colorful oil on canvas was painted as an homage to Vera, the artist’s wife.

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