American art and Pennsylvania Impressionists triumphed at the June 14 sale at Philadelphia-based auction house Freeman’s. The biannual American art auction featured 74 lots that saw a 95 percent sell-through rate, with only four lots failing to find buyers, to end with a total sales result of $2.8 million. The 36 lots in the Pennsylvania Impressionists section saw a 100 percent sell-through to take in more than $2.2 million, accounting for close to 80 percent of the sales total overall.
Leading that section were an assortment of 11 lots from the collection of the late Heidi Bingham Stott, which toted up $1.3 million, with nearly 82 percent of them surpassing presale high estimates.
The top lot, a choice from the Stott collection, was Edward Willis Redfield’s Spring at Point Pleasant on the Delaware River painted in 1926, which sold for $483,000. A top name in the American group, Redfield is known for his plein air painting style. Heidi Bingham Stott and her husband, Robert L. Stott Jr., who predeceased her, bought the widely exhibited painting from a private collector in Pennsylvania. Two other Redfield landscapes each achieved $225,000: May, Point Pleasant, from 1932, was acquired directly from the artist in 1960 and carried an estimate of $120,000–$180,000. The other, The Peaceful Valley, circa 1930, was estimated at $200,000–$300,000.
Another piece from the Stott collection, Rodger’s Meadow from 1922, by leading artist Daniel Garber of the New Hope school, went to a phone bidder for a final price of $312,500, on a high estimate of $300,000. Carrying a strong exhibition record, the work was showcased at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the Woodmere Art Museum in Philadelphia before coming to market; it appeared in the artist’s second solo show at the Macbeth Gallery in New York in 1925.
Despite market challenges induced by the Covid-19 pandemic, Freeman’s sale shows an active interest in its top names. “With strong competition and bidding wars throughout, it felt like we were selling during a market peak rather than in current circumstances,” said Freeman chairman and director of fine art Alasdair Nichol.
Also from the Stott collection, William Langson Lathrop’s light-filled American landscape, The Bonfire from 1921, drew the interest of 14 telephone bidders, eventually selling for $112,500, more than four times its presale high estimate of $15,000–$25,000. The sale set a new record for the artist, the leading name in the New Hope Pennsylvania Impressionist school.
Early on in the sale, November Evening by Jackson Lee Nesbitt blew past its $5,000–$8,000 estimate to set a record $52,000 price for that artist as well. The work had been held in the family of a private Lancaster, Pennsylvania, collector for several decades before debuting at auction.
Despite competition for early 20th-century American landscapes, some works by leading figures in the American art category failed to meet expectations. Robert Henri’s Portrait of Katherine Cecil Sanford, from a private Ohio collection, sold for well below its low estimate of $40,000, taking in only $25,000.
Elsewhere in the sale, two winter night scenes by George Sotter met expectations: Moonlit Stream, Buckingham, dated 1928, brought $50,000 against an estimate of $50,000–$80,000; and Carversville House, 1935, eased by its high $60,000 estimate to fetch $68,750.
Following the intense demand sparked by the Pennsylvania Impressionist portion of the sale, other artworks in the American Art section also fared well. Bidding wars broke out for two works in particular, The Signing of the Compact in the Cabin of the Mayflower by Edwin White, which more than doubled its high estimate to rake in $32,500; and Theodore Robinson’s Vermont Hillside collected $43,750, beating its $30,000 high estimate.
The sale also saw institutional demand, with Mlle de C. by Arthur Beecher Carles from 1908 selling for $27,500 to the Woodmere Art Museum in Philadelphia. The work features Mercedes de Cordoba, the painter’s muse and fiancée, whom he’d met in 1904 through Edward Steichen; it was staged at Steichen’s Voulangis estate in France. Passed down to the artist’s descendants, the work last came to market in 2000, when it sold at Hollis Taggart Galleries to a private collector in Delaware.