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The American Market – Sotheby’s

August 30, 2020
sculpture one man with chair

Augustus Saint-Gaudens

At the end of June, Sotheby’s offered a selection of American paintings from the 19th and 20th centuries.  As you will soon see, the sale performed reasonably well. (w/p = with buyer’s premium)

midwest landscape with farmer and horses

Thomas Hart Benton’s Noon

Taking the top spot was Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s Abraham Lincoln: The Man (Standing Lincoln), which carried a $600-900K estimate and sold for $1.3M ($1.58M w/p). What I did find interesting is that the work is a posthumous cast (done after the artist died).  In a press release about the sale, Sotheby’s notes: Beginning in 1910, the artist’s widow, Augusta, authorized the casting of commercial-sized reductions of the original monument. The reductions of Lincoln: The Man, of which the present work is one, stand at 40 ½ inches high and were cast in an edition of approximately 17. I always find it interesting that people will pay high prices for works an artist never put their hands on.

modernist painting in yellow, blue and pink

Milton Avery’s Mandolin with Pears

The second-highest price – $850K ($1.04M w/p) – was achieved by Thomas Hart Benton’s Noon — it carried an estimate of $700-1M. So this one hammered within the range. In third, they had Milton Avery’s Mandolin with Pears, which was estimated to bring $500-700K and hammered for $600K ($740K w/p). Rounding out the top five were Mary Cassatt’s Mother in Purple Holding Her Child that brought $450K ($560K w/p – est. $400-600K) and an early (before abstraction) Jackson Pollock – Landscape with White Horse – that made $380K ($475 w/p – est. $150-250K).  I thought some of you would enjoy seeing what an early Pollock looks like, so we included an image.

landscape with horse

Jackson Pollock – Landscape with White Horse

There were a few works that failed to find buyers… among them were Jamie Wyeth’s The Thief (est. $400-600K) and his Surf Watchers ($250-350K), N.C. Wyeth’s Ayrton’s Fight with the Pirates ($200-300K), Childe Hassam’s Promenade – Winter in New York (est. $400-600K), and the most expensive, Dennis Miller Bunker’s A Winter’s Tale of Sprites and Goblins (est. $700-1M).

Initially, the sale consisted of 51 works, but it seems that 3 were withdrawn before they came up.  Of the 48 works offered, 36 sold, giving them a sell-through rate of 75% – not too bad – and the total take was $9.1M w/p … the presale estimate range was $7.998 – $12M; so they fell into the range with the buyer’s premium.