American paintings at auction
November 30, 2009 | On the horizon are the fall sales of American paintings, drawings, and sculpture at Christie's and Sotheby's in New York. Among the highlights to be offered at Christie's, on December 2, is Andrew Wyeth's 1960 Above the Narrows, a painting the New York Times art critic Roberta Smith once referred to as "bleak" and "inexplicably barren," featuring a young boy in shorts and shirt in a desolate landscape. While important examples of Wyeth's tempera paintings on panel or paper can bring auction prices in the millions, this picture's estimate of $3 to $5 million suggests Christie's is banking on a continued boost in interest due to the artist's death earlier this year. On December 3, Sotheby's is offering Wyeth's 1968 watercolor Bikini, depicting his frequent subject Siri Erickson posing seminude at the back door of her shed (the same door that appears in Erickson's Barn and Maine Door). In a 1976 interview with Thomas Hoving then the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Wyeth described his pictures of Siri as representing "an invigorating, zestful, powerful phenomenon." Being sold from the estate of the artist and collector Arthur Byron Phillips, the work has an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000.
Among the impressionist works on offer are the charming Bathing Beach-Low Tide by Edward Henry Potthast, which Christie's expects to sell for $800,000 to $1.2, and, at Sotheby's, Mary Cassatt's 1890 pastel Mathilde Holding a Baby Who Reaches Out to the Right ($700,000 to $900,000), and The White Dory, Gloucester by Childe Hassam, an 1895 oil on canvas first exhibited at that year's annual exhibition at the National Academy of Design in New York and that retains its original frame.
A standout among the modernist works is Marsden Hartley's 1930 oil on canvas Mountains No. 22, a Cézannesque landscape view that Sotheby's estimates will bring $800,000 to $1,200,000. Milton Avery, another perennial favorite, whose auction prices have been strong over the past decade, is being represented by two major works: Woman at Telephone of 1946 ($700,000 to $1,000,000 at Sotheby's); and the later Hills by the Sea of 1960 ($400,000 to $600,000 at Christie's).
American Paintings • Christie's, New York • December 2, 10am • previews November 28 to December 1 • www.christies.com
American Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture • Sotheby's, New York • December 3, 10am • previews November 28 to December 2 • www.sothebys.com
Images from above: Above the Narrows by Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009), 1960. Photograph by courtesy of Christie's, New York; Bikini by Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009), 1968; The White Dory, Gloucester by Childe Hassam (1859-1935), 1895; Mountains No. 22 by Marsden Hartley (1877-1943), 1930; Photographs by courtesy of Sotheby's, New York;