Souren Melikian’s erudite knowledge and trenchant eye turns to the American painting market where great works are selling for unbelievably low prices which somewhat puts the lie to the current vogue for claiming the Impressionist and Modern market is limited by a shortage of supply when it just might be the case that demand is too narrowly focused. Here are a few of the works that Melikian highlights as missed opportunities for a collector:
The view of a mountain lake seen in the golden light of a late summer day by Alvan Fisher was expected to cost from $8,000 to $12,000 plus the sale charge. Dated 1846, “The Discovery” is typical of Fisher’s mature style. It reflects a multiple legacy that goes back to 17th-century Dutch painting, via late 18th-century English art. The landscape was once deemed beautiful enough to serve as the cover illustration of the catalog for “American Paintings From the Bentley-Sellars Collection,” an exhibition held at the Cummer Gallery of Art in 1975. It sold Wednesday for $13,750, hardly a dizzying figure.
Shortly after, “A Catskill Brook” painted by Worthington Whittredge in the late 1860s or early 1870s came as a reminder of the fascination exercised upon Hudson School artists by French Barbizon painters. A golden glow visible in the distance comes through foliage. The water glitters over emerging rocks and runs between tall trees. The landscape could easily pass for a French picture of the 1860s. The fine composition and the sketchy brushwork combine to make the landscape attractive. Its relative modernity further helped. Whittredge’s landscape realized $40,000, roughly tripling the estimate.
By contrast, Frederick Usher Devoll, born in 1879 in Providence, Rhode Island, offered a startling example of unwarranted neglect. Devoll studied under famous American artists — William Merritt Chase, Charles Hawthorne, Robert Henri — before moving to Paris where he attended classes at the Académie Julian, which was steeped in tradition. He also discovered the advanced movements of French art. His twin exposure to the diametrically opposed trends of Academic painting and the latest developments in Impressionism contributed to define his highly original manner.
A Sporting Chance for American Art (New York Times)