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Monday, May 13, 2013

Sotheby's American Art Auction, Featuring John Singer Sargent Painting Descended through the Artist's Family - NY, 22 May 2013

Sotheby’s annual spring auction of American Art in New York will feature an important, highly personal painting by John Singer Sargent, which remained in the artist’s collection for more than 20 years before descending through his family to the present owner. Marionettes (est. $5/7 million) is a rare and dynamic example of the artist’s work outside of society portraiture, depicting a group of men from the large Italian American community of Philadelphia at the turn of the 20th century performing Sicilian puppet theater. The American Art auction also will be highlighted by a wonderful selection of property that has not been seen previously on the market, and has emerged from notable private, corporate and museum collections, with important works that span the many periods and styles offered by the category. The full sale will be on view in Sotheby’s York Avenue galleries beginning 18 May, with the auction on the 22nd followed that afternoon by an inaugural sale of Arts of the American West.


By the last decades of the 19th century, Sargent had established his reputation as a preeminent portrait painter. As his success grew, however, his interest in the genre gradually waned, as he never felt truly comfortable socializing in such powerful social circles. As a result, Sargent’s travels became more important as a source of creative stimulation – he would stop accepting portrait commissions altogether by 1909, choosing instead to paint what he liked while exploring the world with friends and family.

Sargent painted Marionettes in 1903 during a four-month stay in the United States. At the time, Philadelphia was home to a large population of Italian-Americans who transported many of their cultural traditions with them – Sicilian marionette theater among them. In the present work, Sargent presents a quartet of men operating these Sicilian rod puppets within a confined and dramatically lit interior. The painting was so personal to the artist that the kept it remained in his own collection until his death in 1925, at which point it descended through the Sargent family to the present owner.

Only six works by Sargent have ever come to auction with estimates of more than $5 million – all of these have been sold at Sotheby’s New York, including Group with Parasols from the Fraad Collection that set the artist’s auction record of $23.5 million in 2004.


Sotheby’s is privileged to offer a diverse group of important works from four American museums as highlights of the May sale:

- Three works sold by the Art Institute of Chicago are led by Fredric Remington’s Call the Doctor from 1889, an example of the artist and illustrator’s popular and romantic visions of the wild American West (est. $1/1.5 million). The painting seizes on a moment of dramatic action, when a heroic party of American soldiers must confront the extent of their wounded comrade’s injuries in the midst of a remote and unfamiliar locale.

- Property from the Museum of Modern Art, sold to benefit the acquisitions fund, featuresTrumpet Flowers from 1919, a rare work by Stanton Macdonald-Wright who, along with fellow American painter Morgan Russell, founded the aesthetic movement Synchromism (“with color”) in 1913 (est. $400/600,000). As exemplified by the present work, the Synchromist reverence for color proved profoundly influential on the development of modern art in the US.

- The Nevada Museum will offer Stuart Davis’s Summer Landscape #2 to benefit future acquisitions (est. $300/400,000). Between 1930 and 1940, Davis produced a series of works based on a specific site in Rockport, Massachusetts, which he would visit during the summers. He produced the present example in 1940, in which the objective world is symbolized with abstracted forms and overlapping clocks of bold color.

- Two works from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, sold to benefit the collection, include Norman Wilfred-Lewis’s Meeting Place (Shopping), dated 1941 (est. $70/100,000). Part of a large concentration of works by Lewis acquired by George and the late Joyce Wein, the work depicts a group of eager women surrounding a store-front bin, in hopes of spotting a bargain during the Great Depression.


Following the success of Sotheby’s November 2012 auction of American Art, in which five works by Norman Rockwell totaled $6.1 million, the May 2013 auction will offer a selection of six pieces by the iconic illustrator. Highlights include: He’s Going to Be Taller than Dad, a domestic scene of a boy and his faithful dog that stands among the finest examples of Rockwell's imagery as a commercial illustrator (left, est. $500/700,000); Doc Mellhorn and the Pearly Gates, which epitomizes Rockwell’s ability to market new products and technology – in this case, the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries – by tapping into the country’s nostalgia for the past (est. $500/700,000); and Sport (Man in a Fishing Boat), which appeared on the April 29, 1939 cover of the Saturday Evening Post featuring professional model and Rockwell’s personal friend Fred Hildebrandt in the setting of New Rochelle, NY (est. $500/700,000).


Works emerging after decades spent in private collections include:

- Property from the estate of screen star Gregory Peck and his wife Veronique offers Music Makers by Milton Avery (est. $1/1.5 million). Avery’s figurative images from the 1940s exemplify the unique aesthetic approach that has made him among the most admired artists of the mid-20th century. Music Makers was painted in 1946-47, four years after he joined Paul Rosenberg’s gallery in New York.

- Five works from the collection of David S. Copley of La Jolla, California, led by Eastman Johnson’s Interesting News dated 1872 (est. $150/200,000). The work reflects many of the stylistic and thematic influences Johnson absorbed in Europe, and depicts a young woman who has disregarded her sewing materials in favor of a daily newspaper – perhaps illustrating the nation’s newly-favorable stance on female literacy.

- Portrait of a Child by James McNeill Whistler has remained in the family of Denys Sutton since its purchase in the early 1950s (est. $250/350,000). Mr. Sutton assumed the role of editor of the London-based arts magazine Apollo in 1962, considerably expanding the scope of the publication during his 25 year tenure, and, among other accomplishments, served as secretary of the international commission for the restitution of cultural material after World War II.


Three works by Alfred Jacob Miller from the Bank of America Collection – whose proceeds will benefit non-profit organizations – are led by War Path (est. $150/250,000). The majority of Miller’s artistic success can be traced to his nearly six month expedition West in 1837. William Drummond Stewart, a retired Captain of the British army and Scottish nobleman, invited Miller to accompany him as the commissioned artist on a trip to the Rocky Mountains, where they traveled on what would become the Oregon Trail. Miller executed some 100 watercolor and pen-and-ink-sketches during this expedition, which he later reworked into finished watercolors and oils for a variety of patrons.


Sotheby’s has been uniting collectors with world-class works of art since 1744. Sotheby’s became the first international auction house when it expanded from London to New York (1955), the first to conduct sales in Hong Kong (1973) and France (2001), and the firstinternational fine art auction house in China (2012). Today, Sotheby’s presents auctions in eight different salesrooms, including New York, London, Hong Kong and Paris, and Sotheby’sBidNow program allows visitors to view all auctions live online and place bids in real-time from anywhere in the world. Sotheby’s offers collectors the resources of Sotheby’s Financial Services, the world’s only full-service art financing company, as well as private saleopportunities in more than 70 categories, including S|2, the gallery arm of Sotheby’s Contemporary Art department, as well as Sotheby’s Diamonds and Sotheby’s Wine. Sotheby’s has a global network of 90 offices in 40 countries and is the oldest company listed on the New York Stock Exchange (BID).

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium and prices achieved include the hammer price plus buyer’s premium.

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