From Press Release
While the auction of the Honorable Paul H. Buchanan Jr. Collection of American Art was taking place at Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas, TX, on Wednesday night, June 10, it was a strong core of top-notch Hudson River School paintings that was drawing the bidders in a Signature American Art Auction that finished the evening with a total exceeding more than $4.57 million. All prices include Buyer’s Premium.
“This auction contained paintings of high and, in some cases, true museum quality by some of the most significant innovators in nineteenth-century American art. Fine examples by many of these figures have become scarce on today’s market, and this built-up demand created tremendous enthusiasm among private collectors, dealers and museums alike, particularly with the works’ unimpeachable provenance,” said Marianne Berardi, Senior Fine Art Expert at Heritage. “This collection was something Judge Buchanan put together later in his life, by which time he’d developed a great eye that matched his brilliant judicial mind.”
“We competed against one of the major New York art auction houses for the Buchanan Collection,” said Ed Jaster, Vice President of Heritage, “and were awarded the consignment by the family. We then realized $3.88 million for it versus an estimate range of $2.05 million to $3.25 million. To top it all off, more than 98% of the value sold, nearly all of it to private collectors.”
A group of paintings by the Pennsylvania-born painter Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904) – whose intensely independent artistic career defies neat categorization with the Hudson River School – proved to be the most hotly contested, with three of them occupying spots in the top five lots of the auction, including the first and second slots, Sunset over the Marsh, c. 1876-82, and Cherokee Roses on a Purple Cloth, 1894, which realized $537,750 and $507, 875, respectively.
Heade’s Hummingbirds and Their Nest, 1863, a delicate and moody painting in an oval format – punctuated with a splash of brilliant red on the male hummingbird’s throat – took the number five spot with final price realized of $310, 700.
“In all three of these canvasses you can see how versatile Heade’s talent was, and how differently he approached the standard landscape and still life subjects,” said Berardi. “He had a great ability to take motifs no artist had paid any ‘heed’ to – many of them considered mundane before he painted them, especially the northeastern American salt marshes – and transform them into imagery that was entirely fresh, tender, and emotionally profound. More than the name of any associations or schools, collectors respond to that magic because it’s a rare gift in a painter. In Heade we see it in abundance.”
Relatively diminutive in size, roughly 1-foot high 2-feet wide, Sunset over the Marsh carries a massive emotional impact with its bold coloring sweeping the horizon. American arts and letters never dealt seriously with the salt marshes of the northeastern United States before Heade, but under his lifelong study they would become the national treasures they are today. Heade was doing something new in American landscape painting with his marshscapes, and that newness was a direct violation of the standard practices of the Hudson River School formulas. His choice to paint an “anti-picturesque” landscape, with a flat uninterrupted expanse, an absence of framing devices such as a canopy of trees, a rocky wedge of foreground or a jutting precipice, and virtually no focal point at all, patently disregarded the rules for a successful (i.e., picturesque) landscape set forth in 1792 by the Reverend William Gilpin in Three Essays: On Picturesque Beauty, On Picturesque Travel, and On Sketching Landscape.
The other pair of paintings that round out the top five offerings in the Heritage American Art event were George Henry Durrie’s (American, 1820-1863) bucolic and romantic oil painting Winter in the Country, A Cold Morning, c. 1863, which realized $448,125, and Henry Francois Farny’s (American, 1847-1916) Saddling Up, 1895, a gouache on paper painting that exquisitely portrays a quiet and authentic tableau of Native American life, as well as the sweeping grandeur of the western American landscape, realized $334,600.
“If there was ever any doubt about Heritage’s ability to find buyers of great Fine Art, then this auction puts those doubts to rest,” said Ed Beardsley, Vice President and Managing Director of Fine Arts at Heritage. “We’re committed to being a top player in this market and we’re backing it up with aggressive advertising and marketing as well as expanding our ground operations with offices opening soon in New York City and Beverly Hills. The future is wide open when in it comes to creating a greater market share of this important category. We look forward to what it will bring.”
Further highlights of the Buchanan Collection include, but are not limited to:
George Inness (American, 1825-1894), Near Leeds, New York, 1869:
Paul Buchanan’s taste in art ran to the beautiful aspects of nature – and human nature – rather than to the grotesque or haunting or emotionally unsettling. This focus can be seen in one of the most important works in his collection, this fully-realized middle-period Catskill landscape by George Inness. Near Leeds, New York, depicts a view in the southern Catskills looking east towards the Hudson River, just discernible in the distance. The verdant scene is calm and the space is beautifully constructed: A woman and her child sit on a log in the right foreground, watching a horse-drawn cart descend along a road, which carves through the heart of the composition and takes the viewer’s imagination along the same path. The greatest force in the painting is the light streaming through the gate on the right, and filtering through the delicate screen of trees.
William Trost Richards (American, 1833-1905), Woodland Landscape (Woodland Glade), 1860:
Woodland Glade of 1860 is one of the finest and earliest American Pre-Raphaelite landscapes by Philadelphia painter William Trost Richards. With all of its gloriously observed botanical detail in the foreground, and the convincing glimpse of a sunlit glade beyond a tunnel of vegetation in the center, the composition is the most sophisticated among the handful of feverishly detailed, “finished” landscapes he produced in oil, in Bethlehem, PA during the summer of 1860.
William McGregor Paxton (American, 1869-1941), Rose and Blue, 1913:
In 1913, the year he produced Rose and Blue, William Paxton decided to resign from his teaching position the Boston Museum School, where he had taught since 1906, so that he could devote more time to his painting. At some level he must have come to a realization that what he wanted to paint next would require all of his time and attention. By most critical assessments, Paxton was embarking upon the best phase of his career. Rose and Blue ushered in this five-year period, when his close study of Vermeer’s ability to render such a beautiful envelope of space, also brought him the closest he would ever come to being an impressionist.
William Bradford (American, 1823-1892), Near Cape St. Johns, Coast of Labrador, 1874:
This Bradford Labrador landscape shows icebergs offshore at sunrise. Banks of heavy clouds and fog partially obscure the green hills and the little harbor on the left, while the sun is just beginning to rise off to the right, outside the frame of the image. Fishing boats are just setting out, and a few have already gotten as far as the icebergs on the right. The icebergs are small features within this composition which is as unassuming as Bradford’s views along the gentle curve of Narragansett Bay. Only their strange bright profiles signal this scene as something more exotic than the New England coast.
John Frederick Peto (American, 1854-1907), Hard Candy, 1880-1890:
In its minimalism and strong geometry, this small painting of colorful pieces of candy on a ledge by John F. Peto displays an interest in abstract relationships that seems very modern even by contemporary standards. Rendered with soft, impressionistic brushwork and thickly textured paint – both great exceptions among nineteenth-century American trompe-l’oeil painters of whom Peto was one of the finest and most distinctive practitioners – this tumbling pyramid of peppermints is one of the most lighthearted of all the surviving still lives by Peto, a talented Pennsylvania Academy-trained painter from Philadelphia whose artistic career sadly ended in disappointment and obscurity.