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The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York is giving thanks to generations of benefactors with the exhibition “Shaping a Collection: Five Decades of Gifts.” Since the institution was founded in 1930, its permanent collection has grown primarily through the generosity of individual donors, beginning with sculptor Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s founding gift, which included over 500 works by artists such as Thomas Hart Benton, George Bellows, Stuart Davis, Edward Hopper, Maurice Prendergast, and John Sloan. Whitney continued to add to the museum’s collection throughout her lifetime and in 1948, the institution began accepting gifts from outside sources.

Since the Whitney’s Marcel Breuer-designed building opened to the public in 1931, its permanent collection has expanded from about 2,300 objects to more than 21,000. It is estimated that nearly two-thirds of the institution’s collection, including some of its most iconic holdings, were donated by museum trustees, collectors, foundations, and artists. While “Shaping a Collection” represents a small portion of the gifts received by the Whitney, the exhibition honors all of the benefactors who have helped make the Whitney’s collection what it is today.

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On March 1, 2014, “An American Odyssey: The Warner Collection of American Painting” will open at the Frick Art Museum at the Frick Art & Historical Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The exhibition features 50 paintings from the collection of Alabama businessman and philanthropist, Jack Warner. Warner, who is the former CEO of Gulf States Paper Corp., founded Alabama’s Tuscaloosa Museum of Art in 2011.

The exhibition, which spans the entire 19th century, includes works by Gilbert Stuart, Charles Peale Polk, Thomas Cole, Frederic Edwin Church, Severin Roesen, William Merritt Chase, James McNeill Whistler, Winslow Homer, Childe Hassam, Maurice Prendergast, John Henry Twachtman, and Mary Cassatt. The comprehensive show tracks the evolution of painting in the United States from early American portraiture to the romantic paintings of the Hudson River School and the rise of American Impressionism during the tail-end of the century.

“An American Odyssey: The Warner Collection of American Painting,” which was organized by the Warner Foundation, will remain on view at the Frick Art Museum through May 25, 2014.

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Monday, 02 December 2013 18:18

The American Art Fair Opens in New York

The American Art Fair is celebrating its sixth year at the Bohemian National Hall in New York now through December 5. The show opened on Sunday, December 1 with a gala preview, which also marked the beginning of American Paintings Week.

The American Art Fair focuses on American 19th and 20th century art and features top-notch exhibitors such as Adelson Galleries, Avery Galleries, Driscoll Babcock Galleries, Godel & Co. Fine Art, Hirschl & Adler Galleries, John H. Surovek Gallery and Questroyal Fine Art. This year’s show marks the first time that Tom Veilleux Gallery will be counted among the exhibitors.

Galleries will present everything from landscapes, portraits and still lifes to studies and sculptures. Highlights include a portrait by John Singleton Copley (Alexander Gallery), a landscape by Childe Hassam (Driscoll Babcock Galleries) and other works by Maurice Prendergast (Adelson Galleries), Marsden Hartley (Questroyal Fine Art), and Jacob Lawrence (Jonathan Boos).

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The New-York Historical Society is exhibiting a recently acquired sketchbook of drawings and watercolors by the Post-Impressionist American artist, Maurice Prendergast (1858-1924). The sketchbook, which is from the final years of the artist’s life, features 152 lined and paginated leaves. The volume includes many seaside scenes and park views populated by figures in endless variations.

Dr. Roberta J.M. Olson, curator of drawings at New-York Historical, said, “We are thrilled to add this volume of sketches to the collection of the New-York Historical Society, which holds the oldest public drawings collection in the United States. This sketchbook offers keen insights into Prendergast’s creative output during his final years and the intense graphomania that he demonstrated throughout his career.”

The sketchbook is currently on view in the Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture. For preservation reasons, the watercolors require turning ever three months. The sketchbook’s 152 pages can be seen in their entirety on a nearby digital monitor thanks to turn-the-page technology.

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Maurice Prendergast: By the Sea, which is now on view at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Brunswick, Maine, explores the artist’s lifelong fascination with the sea. Maurice Prendergast, a pioneering post-Impressionist painter, spent much of the late 19th century and early 20th century capturing modern life on the coast of New England.

 By the Sea is the first retrospective of Prendergast’s oeuvre in over two decades. The exhibition presents more than 90 works in a variety of media from over 30 public and private collections in addition to Bowdoin College Museum of Art’s own holdings. The exhibition traces the development of Prendergast’s highly personal style, which is recognized for its use of jewel-like colors and pattern-like compositions containing flattened, free-form figures. The exhibition also includes Prendergast’s sketchbooks and oil studies, allowing visitors to see into the Modernist artist’s creative process.

Highlights include the watercolor The Balloon, which is part of a private collection and has not been included in earlier Prendergast retrospectives; St. Malo, a bright watercolor on loan from the Williams College Museum of Art, which was lauded as one of the first American introductions of the bold European Post-Impressionist avant-garde; and a number of works that the artist contributed to the seminal Armory Show of 1913 (also known as the International Exhibition of Modern Art).

Maurice Prendergast: By the Sea will be on view at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art through October 13, 2013.

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Thursday, 29 November 2012 18:26

New York Hosts Two Major American Art Auctions

The back-to-back American art auctions that took place at Christie’s and Sotheby’s this week both garnered impressive numbers. The auction at Christie’s on November 28 set the bar high when it reached $38,469,650 in sales. However, Sotheby’s followed up strong and achieved a total sale of $27,608,500, exceeding the high estimate of $24,158,000. Franklin Riehlman, owner of Franklin Riehlman Fine Art in New York City said, “Prices at Sotheby’s were nice and strong. Christie’s had a phenomenal sale and Liz Sterling has done a wonderful job reconstructing the department.” Elizabeth Sterling was appointed the head of American art at Christie’s earlier this year.

The top lot at Christie’s was Edward Hopper’s October on Cape Cod (1946), which went for $9.6 million and set a new record for the most expensive item sold to an online bidder. The oil painting, which features a house and small barn from a distance, is one of the last works by Hopper remaining in private hands. Other solid sales were Charles Burchfield’s Golden Dream (1959), which brought $1,202,500; Stuart Davis’ City Snow Scene (1911), which also reached $1,202,500; and Martin John Heade’s Hummingbird Perched on the Orchid Plant (1901), which brought $1,802,500.

Georgia O’Keeffe fared well at both auctions and took the top two lots at Sotheby’s; both plant paintings, Autumn Leaf II (1927) realized $4,282,500 and A White Camellia (1938) brought $3,218,500. “O’Keeffe did very well,” said Riehlman. “There was a lot of bidding.” An O’Keeffe painting titled Sun Water Maine (1922) also reached the second highest price at Christie’s when it realized $2,210,500, exceeding the high estimate of $1,500,000.

Norman Rockwell continued to perform well at Sotheby’s and two paintings exceeded their high estimates when The Muscleman (1941) sold for $2,210,500 (high estimate: $800,000) and Doctor and Doll (1942) reached $1,874,500 (high estimate: $700,000). Other impressive sales included Alfred Jacob Miller’s Caravan En Route [Sir William Drummond Stewart’s Caravan] (circa 1850), which went for $1,762,500 and Arthur Dove’s Town Scraper (circa 1933), which realized $1,258,500.

“The market for early modernists seems very strong,” said Riehlman. “Older works didn’t do as well. Cassatt and Prendergast are spotty, but 15 years ago every Cassatt would have sold.” Out of the one Mary Cassatt work offered at Sotheby’s and two present at Christie’s, not a single piece sold. Similarly, Maurice Prendergast’s one painting offered by Sotheby’s, Park Street Church, Boston (circa 1905-07), failed to sell and at Sotheby’s, Picnic Party (circa 1900-03) didn’t quite reach its low estimate of $300,000 when it sold for $290,500 and New Hampshire (circa 1910-13) just broke its low estimate of $40,000 when it realized $43,750.

“Both houses are being very selective in terms of traditional 18th and 19th century materials,” said Riehlman. Buyers are much more likely to make significant purchases when the majority of works are top-quality. Despite the declining interest in older works, there was a lot of action at both sales. Riehlman was planning on buying Marvin Cone’s Stone City Landscape (1936), which realized $752,500, a record for the artist. “It went like a freight train right by me,” he said, a testament to just how eager buyers were this week.  

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Beginning on November 13, Doyle New York will start auctioning select works from the Spanierman Gallery, one of the Upper East Side’s foremost American art galleries. Founded by Ira Spanierman in the 1960s, the Spanierman Gallery has played an important role in the understanding and appreciation of American art from the colonial era through the 20th century. The gallery has also placed many iconic works in prominent public and private collections across the country.

As the Spanierman Gallery has decided to shift its focus to modern and contemporary American art, they will auction hundreds of works from their early American art collection at a number of select sales that will take place in 2012 and 2013. The November 13 auction will include thirty works including four pieces by John Henry Twachtman, the last fully bound sketchbook of studies by Maurice Prendergast not in a museum collection, and a double-sided work by Alfred Maurer that exemplifies the artist’s Fauvist palette.

Another 36 works from the Spanierman collection will be sold at Doyle’s American furniture, decorations, and 19th century painting sale on November 19.

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