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American Art Auction – Christie’s, New York

January 20, 2022

It was nice to have a break from the major auction action in New York. But we are now in a new year, and the sales are starting to ramp up. On January 19, Christie’s offered a selection of 19th and 20th-Century American Art.

a landscape with water and mountains - Albert Bierstadt’s In the Yosemite - American Art


Taking the top spot was Albert Bierstadt’s In the Yosemite. This pretty landscape was an oil on paper, measured 19 x 26 inches, and was estimated to bring $300-500K; it hammered down at $630K ($786K w/p – this was last on the market in 1973). Bierstadt also captured the second spot when his On Route to Yellowstone Park, Company A’s Camp of the 86th U.S. Army (also oil on paper measuring 14 x 19 inches) made $320K ($400K w/p) on a $120-180K estimate – the seller bought this in 1984. David Johnson’s Mount Lafayette from Franconia, New Hampshire, a 30 x 50-inch example from 1874-75, was expected to make $100-150K and sold for $280K ($350K w/p). The Johnson was also another fresh-to-the-market work in the same family collection since the 1970s. Three fresh works and three strong prices.

landscape with a tent and wagon - Albert Bierstadt - On Route to Yellowstone Park, Company A's Camp of the 86th U.S. Army - American Art


Rounding out the top five of the American art auction were Charles Schreyvogel’s bronze The Last Drop, a great example of what happens when someone sells something at the wrong saleroom. On November 19, 2020, this small bronze 12 inches, was offered at an auction in Germany and sold for 17,000 Euros ($20K). Fourteen months later, it appeared here with an estimate of $40-60K and sold for $220K ($275K w/p). The fifth spot fell short… Winslow Homer’s Startled, a watercolor, gouache, and charcoal on paper, carried a $200-300K estimate and hammered for $150K ($187.5K w/p).

a river landscape - David Johnson’s Mount Lafayette from Franconia, New Hampshire - - American Art


There were several additional strong results; among them were Otis Kaye’s Two Old Ways at $60K ($75K w/p – est. $15-25K), John Martin Tracy’s Hunter and Two Dogs made $100K ($125K w/p – est. $15-25K), George Inness’s Moonrise brought $120K ($150K w/p – est. $50-70K), and Robert Blum’s unsigned A Venetian Canal at $65K ($81.25K w/p – est. $20-30K). The lots that did not find a buyer included William M. Chase’s A Girl in Yellow (est. $120-180K), Alfred Bricher’s Coastal Landscape (est. $30-50K), James Buttersworth’s American Ships in a Storm (est. $40-60K), and Julian Scott’s Civil War Battle Scene: A Moment of Decision (est. $30-50K).

Of the 69 works offered, 62 sold (89.9% sell-through rate) by the time the sale ended – pretty good. The low end of their estimate range was $2.96M, and the total hammer price was $3.98M ($4.97M w/p). Of the 62 sold lots, 19 were below, 20 within, and 23 above their presale estimate ranges, leaving them with an accuracy rate of 29% — also pretty good.

This sale demonstrates that there is still a solid collector base for traditional works of art.