Thursday, February 20, 2014

Results of Swann's African-American Fine Art Sale 2338

Swann Auction Galleries' African-American Fine Art Sale 2338 on February 13, 2014 brought in $704,930  with buyer’s premium, almost reaching its pre-sale low estimates ($848,000) for the sale as a whole. Of the 82 lots that were offered at auction, 61 sold (74% sell-through rate by lot). According to Nigel Freeman, Director of African-American Fine Art at Swann Galleries,"Despite trying conditions with yesterday's blizzard, we were thrilled to see institutions and collectors alike compete for these scarce works. Auction records were set for Nancy Elizabeth Prophet, Joseph Delaney, Pauline Powell Burns, and Dox Thrash."

Eighteen (18) lots, many of which were in the lower to mid-range, sold above their pre-sale high estimates. There were no lots that were sold in the five figure range. However, the following five lots sold above $25,000, exceeding their high estimates and are worth noting. Lot 44 (William H. Johnson, On a John Brown Flight) had a high estimate of $75,000 and sold for $81,250 with buyer’s premium. This was a record for a print by the artist, and it was sold to a collector.

William H. Johnson, On a John Brown Flight, Color pochoir and screenprint on cream wove paper, circa 1942-45. 16" x 24"
Image: Swann Auction Galleries

Lot 65 (Joseph Delaney, Harlem, Sunday Morning) had a high estimate of $25,000 and sold for $40,000. This was an artist record and it was sold to a collector.

Joseph Delaney, Harlem, Sunday Morning, Oil on masonite board, 1942. 40" x 21"
Image: Swann Auction Galleries  

Lot 80 (Aaron Douglas, Snow Storm) sold for $30,000, more than doubling its high estimate of $12,000. It was sold to a collector.
Aaron Douglas, Snow Storm,
Charcoal on wove paper, circa 1950-1955. 13¾" x 12½"
Image: Swann Auction Galleries 

Lot 69 (Eldzier Cortor, Untitled / Nude Seated on a Bed) sold for $27,500, doubling its high estimate of $12,000. This lot was sold to an institution.

Eldzier Cortor, Untitled (Nude Seated on a Bed), Pen, ink, pastel and wash on cream wove paper, circa 1948. 24½" x 12¼"
Image: Swann Auction Galleries 
Lot 40 (Hale Woodruff, Portrait of a Girl) had a high estimate of $18,000 and it sold to a collector for $27,500. All sold prices are with buyer's premium.

Hale Woodruff, Portrait of a Girl, Oil on masonite board, circa 1935-40. 10¾"x 8½". Image: Swann Auction Galleries  

The next Swann Galleries African-American Fine Art Sale is scheduled for June 10, 2014. Consignment deadline for that sale is March 10, 2014. SEE: Sale2353


Monday, February 3, 2014

Swann Galleries: African-American Fine Art Sale 2338

Swann Auction Galleries' upcoming African-American Sale, Shadows Uplifted: The Rise of African-American Fine Art, focuses on 19th century, Works Progress Administration (WPA), and Harlem Renaissance artists whose work helped to shape the landscape of American art. Shadows Uplifted: The Rise of African-American Fine Art, Sale 2338, will be held on February 13, 2014. It includes 82 lots of paintings, sculptures, drawings, fine prints, and photography by artists who emerged from the shadows of academic and genre painting, and defined a new visual culture during the Harlem Renaissance and WPA eras. These treasures capture many of the earliest, select, and scarce works from this time period.

According to Swann Galleries, "the auction's title is taken from Frances Harper's 1892 book , Iola Leroy or Shadows Uplifted, one of the first novels written by an African-American female author. The struggles faced by African-American visual artists at the turn of the century mirror those of the book's protagonist-- a young woman in antebellum South. 

Some highlights of Shadows Uplifted follow:

Lot 14
Henry  Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937)
Study for Disciples Healing the Sick

Henry Ossawa Tanner, Study for Disciples Healing the Sick. Oil on thin plywood panel, circa 1930, 10½"x 13¾"
Image: Swann Auction Galleries
Study for Disciples Healing the Sick, a wonderfully modern and painterly oil, is an excellent example of Tanner's late studies for his Biblical scenes. As preliminary works, Tanner experimented in palette, medium and composition in these small scale paintings. This Study, Lot 14, was one of the studies made in preparation for the much larger painting, Disciples Healing the Sick, circa 1930, 36"x 48", in the collection of the Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries.

Study for Disciples Healing the Sick has an estimate of $60,000 - $90,000.

Lot 25
Nancy Elizabeth Prophet (1890-1960)
Untitled (Head)

Nancy Elizabeth Prophet, Untitled (Head). Stained and oiled wood, circa early 1930s, 12½"x 6½"x7"
Image: Swann Auction Galleries

Untitled (Head) is the first work by early modern sculptor Nancy Elizabeth Prophet, who studied at Rhode Island School of Design, to come to auction. This enigmatic and imposing untitled carved wood head dates from the early 1930s.

This androgynous head is most similar in its material, and simplified polished features to Prophet's polychrome wood Discontent, circa 1929. Instead of a skull cap, Discontent is cloaked in a cowl but shares the distinctive Roman nose and features of this untitled head. Lot 25 has an estimate of $35,000 - 50,000.

Additional sculpture highlights are Beulah Ecton Woodward's African Head, Lot 58 (estimate $10,000 - $15,000); Augusta Savage's iconic Lift Every Voice and Sing, Lot 59 (estimate of $12,000 - $18,000); Sargent Claude Johnson's The Knot and the Noose, Lot 79 (estimate of $40,000 - $60,000); and William E. Artis' Michael (Head of a Boy), Lot 82 (estimate of $8,000 - $12,000).

Lot 28
James A. Porter (1905-1970)
James A. Porter, Self-Portrait.
Oil on linen canvas, circa 1935, 14"x 12" 
Image: Swann Auction Galleries

James A. Porter, artist, art historian, and head of the Howard University Art Department, shows himself here as a young artist at his easel. Porter was widely exhibited in the 1930s at such venues as the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Museum of Modern Art, the Baltimore Museum, and the Harmon Foundation (New York). In 1943, Porter's seminal Modern Negro Art was published; it was one of the first comprehensive academic studies of African-American art.

This work, Self-Portrait, is the cover image for Sale 2338, and it is the first portrait in oil on canvas by Porter to come to auction. Its estimate is $12,000 - $18,000.

Lot 55
Hughie Lee-Smith (1915-1999)
Coal Breakers

Hughie Lee-Smith, Coal Breakers. Oil on canvas, 1938, 30¼" x 25¼" 
Illustrated: King-Hammond, Leslie. Hughie Lee-Smith, plate 5, page 17. Image: Swann Auction Galleries

Lot 55 is a scarce early painting by Hughie Lee-Smith from the late 1930s, and it is one of his earliest paintings to come to auction. Coal Breakers (1938) is Lee-Smith's first known social-realist oil painting, and an important early manifestation of his long interest in depicting figures in desolate landscapes. Coal Breakers is the top lot in Sale 2338 and has an estimate of $80,000 - $120,000.

Printmakers are represented in Sale 2338 by Dox Thrash, Claude Clark, Allan Freelon, Hayward L. Oubre, Albert Alexander Smith, and others, including a collection of approximately 200 linoleum cut blocks (Lot 47) by Allan Rohan Crite.

An illustrated auction catalogue, with information on bidding by mail or fax, is available for $35 from Swann Galleries, Inc., 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010. View online catalogue.

Live online bidding is available. Also, you may make advance arrangements to bid by telephone during the auction, please call Swann's bid department (212-254-4710, ext. 0) during business hours (Monday - Friday, 10 AM - 6 PM). For further information, please contact Nigel Freeman, Director (African-American Fine Art Department) at 212-254-4710, extension 33, or via e-mail at