The Longshoreman (African-American Dock Worker), Samuel Countee’s evocative, museum-quality 1940 masterpiece, a prime example of Texas talent and historical importance, is the premier painting in Heritage Auction’s Nov. 15 Texas Art Signature® Auction. It is expected to bring $60,000+ and joins highlights from the Kelly Fearing estate along with works by other important Texas artists Porfirio Salinas, Frank Reaugh, Robert William Wood and William A. Slaughter.
The Longshoreman is among Countee’s greatest achievements as a painter.
“This is a very important historical painting,” said Atlee Phillips, Director of Texas Art at Heritage, “as important as the best works of his Texas contemporaries, and most certainly a standout example of Countee’s Regionalism. The work is uniquely Texas in every light and shows why Countee was one of the finest early Texas artists active in the twentieth century.”
It is likely that the scene derives from the many dockworkers active in Houston docks, which would have been a familiar scene to Countee. It remains a bold statement on the power and potential of African-American men, despite the fact Countee produced the work during troubled times for African-Americans in East Texas.
“The Longshoreman represents a coming of age to full personhood, dignified and fully present, for African-Americans in the mid-20th Century,” said Texas art scholar James Baker. “It’s no doubt influenced by Joe Louis and his victories in the boxing rings of the late 1930s and through the ‘40s, which gave African-Americans a great sense of pride and new visions of what was possible.”
The painting will be the subject of the Nov. 14 2nd Tuesdays @ Slocum, Heritage’s free monthly lecture series held at its Design District Annex, 1518 Slocum Street. Scholar James Graham Baker will explore The Longshoreman and Countee’s perseverance during an era of racial adversity.
Items from the estate of artist Kelly Fearing are also expected to draw plenty of collector attention in the Nov. 15 event, especially Back Lot Rehearsal (1941), which is estimated at $15,000+. Fearing’s interest in physical fitness, healthy lifestyles and professional dance may have been the inspiration for this oil on gesso panel. His work 1939 work, Jitterbuggers, is expected to bring $5,000+ and carries important provenance from Fort Worth’s Amon Carter Museum as part of a 2008 exhibit on Fort Worth Circle Artists.
Also from Fearing’s estate comes Bill Bomar’s The Virgin Future, circa 1941, a fine and rarely seen example of non-objective painting, anticipated to sell for $4,000+. Bomar painted the non-objective The Virgin Future in the early 1940s, about the same time he took up permanent residence in New York City, where he studied with artist John Sloan and, subsequently, with master abstractionist Hans Hoffman.
Other modern works in the auction include Vessels and Fish, 1953, by Bor Alexander Utter, expected to bring $8,000+; Hill Country Blue Bonnets (1965) by Porfirio Salinas, which could bring $20,000+, Ducks and Waning Moon, by Frank Reaugh, estimated at $9,000+ and After a Shower by Robert William Wood, expected to realize for $10,000+.
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