The auction was well attended, with a full house (despite the very tempting beach weather) and many national and international phone bidders, including prominent private collectors and several institutions. The sale totaled $2.47 million (BP inclusive) with 81% of the lots sold.
Most notably, a stunning, early portrait by artist Cecilia Beaux (1855-1942) depicting her life-long friend dressed as the mythological water nymph, Undine (Lot 19) soared above its initial estimate of $60,000-80,000, eventually selling to a New England institution for a record-breaking $454,000.
After spirited bidding between numerous phone bidders, private collectors and institutions around the country, Ethel Page as Undine established a new world auction record for the artist. This impressive result reflects the current strong market interest in female artists, and for Beaux herself, who has been hitherto underappreciated. The successful sale of this portrait also reaffirms Freeman’s as the preeminent auction house for handling works made in Philadelphia. The painting was originally executed on Chestnut Street in 1885, and it seems only natural that it be sold with such excitement on the same street all these years later.
Another highlight of the sale was a striking painting by Newell Convers Wyeth (1882-1945), who is considered one of America’s greatest 20th century illustrators. The work, called Angelica and the Sea Serpent (Lot 85) for short, was completed in 1924 and is one of nearly a dozen illustrations which Wyeth designed for Thomas Bulfinch's The Legends of Charlemagne, an iconic collection of European fables and legends from the Middle Ages, all compiled under the reign of Charlemagne during the eighth century. Selling for $358,000, the result confirms a healthy market for illustration art and underlines the importance of N.C. Wyeth within the realm of great illustrators.
Also of particular note was a snow-covered landscape painting by Walter Launt Palmer (1854-1932), which shattered its pre-sale estimate of $40,000-60,000 and achieved $137,500. January (Lot 57) came directly from the private collection of Andrew Carnegie, where it once hung in the Skibo Castle in Scotland. Several phone bidders vied for the piece, which achieved one of the top five auction prices for the artist.
As always, the Pennsylvania Impressionists section of the sale performed especially well, reaffirming Freeman’s commanding position in the market. Leading the group was Edward Redfield’s (1869-1965) The Frozen Creek (Lot 121), which eventually sold to a phone bidder for $298,000; as well as Daniel Garber’s (1880-1958) Cobb’s Creek (Lot 154), which realized $137,500. Like the portrait by Beaux, works by female Pennsylvania Impressionists achieved strong results. Fern Coppedge (1883-1951) confirmed her prominence in the category, with two snow scenes (lots 114 and 159) selling for $59,375 and $30,000, respectively, as well as an arresting autumn landscape, The Old Grist Mill, Bucks County (Lot 144), which sold well over its pre-sale estimate of $50,000-80,000, realizing $112,500. Additionally, an exquisite, screen-like painting with gold and silver leaf entitled Hollyhock and Oriental Poppy (Lot 146) by Mary Elizabeth Price (1877-1965) performed well, selling for $75,000.
Other auction highlights included an attractive painting by William Glackens (1870-1938), entitled Girl with a Fruit Basket (Lot 67), which sold for $17,500; a charming and quaint landscape by Hugh H. Breckenridge (1870-1937) depicting and entitled Gloucester Street (Lot 92), which sold well above its estimate for $28,750; as well as a nocturnal ocean scene, Moonlit Cove (Lot 9), by Hermann Herzog (1832-1932), which successfully exceeded its estimate of $6,000-10,000, ultimately selling for $21,250. Finally, a group of thirty paintings from the Collection of the Faultless Starch/Bon Ami Company, primarily depicting chickens, hens, and chicks, together realized $125,000.
I was absolutely delighted with the results of our June auction many of which far exceeded expectations. Half a dozen lots sold for six figure sums and I was particularly pleased that the beautiful Beaux painting set a new auction record for the artist and deservedly so--further proof that Philadelphia artists sell best in Philadelphia. We are actively seeking exceptional works for our December auction which will be held in our new premises. We already have secured some stellar consignments and are anticipating a rousing end to the year.
Chairman Alasdair Nichol