While rooted as firmly in the South as any state can be, Texas is also largely considered a Western state. Its epic landscapes, larger-than-life personality and iconoclastic status all lend to this perception. Besides in its people, this unique spirit is best displayed in the great Western art to have come out of the state, and that talent will be on display, and up for bid, in Heritage Auctions’ Signature® Art of the American West & Texas Auction, Dec. 16, live, in-person and online at www.HA.com.
“It’s a unique tribute to the homegrown talent of this state that its best artists so easily cross classifications,” said Michael Duty, Director of Art of the American West at Heritage Auctions. “This is evidenced by the great demand for the best examples of Western canvases by Texans, and by the sublime quality of the art itself.”
Perhaps the best example of a Texan creating an important piece of art that straddles the Texas/Western line is Tony Eubanks’ 1981 oil painting Dallas County Courthouse, a work of great artistic merit and exhaustive scholarly research. It is estimated at $15,000-$20,000.
Dallas County Courthouse is a glimpse into Dallas at the turn of the 20th century. Eubanks shows the bustling life around the courthouse as Dallas is transitioning to the modern era. Cowboys ride down a muddy street; the setting sun highlights the red stone of the newly constructed courthouse, illuminated by early electric lights. Decades later the courthouse would become known locally as “Old Red,” due to the color of the stones.
“To create a historically accurate scene, Eubanks drew on period photographs and research as well as first hand observation,” said Duty. “He also had the advantage of stories his grandfather, who helped build the courthouse, told him about the construction of the building. Eubanks painted the building as it was at the turn of the century, not as it was when the painting was completed in 1981. The clock tower, which is a prominent feature of the painting, was removed from the structure in the 1920s after being so severely damaged in a wind storm that city fathers feared it would topple into the street.”
A large grouping of paintings by G. Harvey is also superbly representative of the broad reach of Texas brushstrokes into the Western realm. Harvey, one of the most successful living artists in the nation, hails originally from San Antonio. He internalized the stories of his grandfather, a cowboy who drove longhorn cattle along trails toward the Kansas railway, and his subsequent art training at North Texas State University drew upon these tales, resulting in early paintings of cowboys in the Hill Country.
“A brief teaching post at the University of Texas led Harvey to a full-time painting career in the 1960s,” said Duty, “whereupon he added cityscapes – moody, nostalgic scenes with streetcars, horse-drawn buggies, glowing street lamps, and pedestrians – to his cowboy repertoire.”
Almost all Harvey’s paintings, whether urban or western, include horses, a signature motif.
The Heritage offering of Harvey paintings in this auction is a broad survey from his storied career. There is the tender horse “portrait,” First Spring (estimated at $40,000-$50,000); the extraordinary cityscape After Tea (estimated at $50,000-$70,000); the evocative and moody brilliance of Hot Grub Coming Up (estimated at $30,000-$40,000) and the iconic cowboy image of Closing the Winter Gap (estimated at $30,000-$40,000), which demonstrates his mastery of equine form and aesthetics.
If famous Western artists from Texas tells one of the more compelling storylines of the Dec. 16 Heritage Auctions event, the great Western painters from outside the Lone Star State certainly hold their own within the context of the auction, and nowhere is this greatness more evident than in the ethereal canvas, Moose, Alberta, by Carl Clemens Moritz Rungius, estimated at $60,000-$80,000.
“Rungius can arguably be called America’s greatest wildlife painter,” said Duty. “He was an avid big game hunter and had learned much early on about animal anatomy from his grandfather, a taxidermist. Moose, Alberta shows his ability to capture the beauty of the landscape with quick, bold brushstrokes.”
River Bed at Pojoaque by Fremont Ellis (estimated at $25,000-$40,000), a founding member in 1921 of Los Cinco Pintores, Santa Fe’s Modernist Art movement, is another painting that is sure to garner much attention and spirited bidding from collectors. In this painting Ellis captures an eerie, pre-storm effect, where light, peeking out beneath turbulent gray clouds, throws into relief the sandy Pojoaque River bed below.
Further highlights include, but are not limited to:
- Eanger Irving Couse, (American, 1866-1936), The Encampment, circa 1896: Oil on canvas, 12 x 16 inches. Estimate: $30,000 – $40,000.
- Tom Lovell (American, 1909-1997), Fremont Crossing the Rockies: Oil on canvas, 22 x 32 inches. Estimate: $50,000-$60,000.
- Tim Cox (American, b. 1957), Pardners, 1981: Oil on masonite, 30 x 40 inches. Estimate: $20,000-$30,000.
Heritage Auctions, headed by Steve Ivy, Jim Halperin and Greg Rohan, is the world’s third largest auction house, with annual sales more than $700 million, and 475,000+ registered online bidder members. For more information about Heritage Auctions, and to join and gain access to a complete record of prices realized, along with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, please visit www.HA.com.