Heritage Auctions: Western Signature Auction - Dallas

Joseph Sharp's Bawling Deer by Firelight
Heritage Auctions will be presenting their Western Signature Auction in Dallas, TX on May 5, 2012. The sale starts at 12:00pm central time.  While Heritage's Art of the American West Sale held in November of 2011 realized $2,280,248, that was in large part due to the world records set for a couple of William Leigh works, and it's going to be tough sledding for Heritage to match that number with this sale.  Heritage Auctions continues to try and grow their share of the competitive Western art auction market and are in good hands under the leadership of Kirsty Buchanan.  It's not a huge sale with 114 lots, but there are some nice feature works available.  The catalog cover piece is Bawling Deer by Firelight, circa 1930 by Joseph Sharp.  It's a nice 20 x 16 inch oil on canvas estimated $100,000-$120,000.  While the Sharp market has been pretty soft the last few years, it seems to be recovering.  A 17 x 14 inch oil by Sharp titled Taos Indian Hunter sold in Scottsdale last month for $103,500 after being estimated $60,000-$80,000 and I think it's a very comparable painting.  A 16 x 20 inch oil titled Campfire sold at Stuart Holman Auctioneer in October of 2011 for $149,500.  Ancient Songs measuring 16 x 20 inches sold last July at the Coeur d'Alene Art Auction for $152,100 and it was a real gem in my opinion.  Bawling Deer was one of Sharp's favorite models and has become a somewhat iconic figure in Sharp's work.

One painting that I personally like is Kathryn Leighton's Around the Fire measuring 36 x 44 inches.  It's estimate is $12,000-$16,000 which is a nice fair estimate.  While the figure on the right doesn't compare in quality to the figure on the left, it's a good size painting, and similar paintings have gone for as much as $33,000.  The most recent comparable was sold in 2008 by Bonhams in San Francisco for $20,400 that was the same size titled White Dog, Blackfeet.  Another comparable painting sold in 2006 for $17,920 and it also had two figures and was the same size.  Here's a nice biography if you want to read more about Kathryn Leighton.
Kathryn Leighton's Around the Fire

R. Brownel McGrew's Children of the Sun, 1989
Another painting to keep your eye on is R. Brownell McGrew's Children of the Sun, 1989.  It's a 36 x 66 inch oil estimated $100,000-$150,000.  McGrew's record is $962,500, and a recent comparable painting sold last September in Jackson for $258,750 and it was titled Going on a Visit.  "Children of the Sun" illustrates the best of McGrew's talents as an artist and storyteller. The setting is the sun drenched, multi-colored desert and mountain landscape of the Navaho reservation. He has populated his canvas with several Navaho children in traditional dress which is painted in intricate detail. Most likely these are people that the artist knew well and whom he had observed on many occasions. The figure of the small girl in the foreground is a motif that he frequently used in his paintings. The work can be seen simultaneously as an overall scene of Navaho life on the reservation and as a series of small individual vignettes.

Frank McCarthy's From th eMeadows of the Beartooth, 1991
Finally, be sure to keep an eye on Frank McCarthy's From the Meadows of the Beartooth, 1991.  It's an 18 x 40 inch oil estimated $20,000-$40,000.  McCarthy's work consistently sells well at auction, so you always want to be prepared in case one slips through the crack.  This particular painting has just about everything you want in a nice McCarthy:  action, rocks, a nice landscape, etc.  The figures might be a tad small, but the perspective is vintage McCarthy.  All in all, there are plenty of familiar names in the sale like George Hallmark, Jim Norton, Harley Brown, Clyde Aspevig, Nicholas Coleman, Frank Hoffman, John Clymer, Edgar Paxson, Eanger Couse, Edward Borein and Thomas Moran.  When building a lasting collection, you want to try and acquire the best example of an artist's work as you can within your price range.  Now, I know Sothebys and Christies have 25% buyer's premiums, but that's significantly higher than the average at other major Western art auction houses.  From a consignor standpoint, that's going to hurt the hammer price, which in turn hurts what the consignor nets from the sale.  Plus, that's just a bitter pill to swallow when you know that a quarter of what you're paying is just a buyer's premium.


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