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Rockwell Masterworks to Lead Sotheby's American Art Auction | 13 November 2017

  • Auktion
    Rockwell Masterworks to Lead Sotheby's American Art Auction | 13 November 2017

NEW YORK, 20 October 2017 – Sotheby’s is delighted to unveil the full offerings of our New York auction of American Art on 13 November 2017. Led by two masterworks by Norman Rockwell, sold to benefit the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, the sale of 84 works of art represents the diversity of the American Art category, including strong examples of illustration, impressionist, modern and western art spanning the 19th and 20th centuries. The New York exhibition will be open to the public for 10 days, beginning 3 November.

The undisputed highlight of the November auction is Norman Rockwell’s Shuffleton’s Barbershop, one of the artist’s masterpieces, being sold to benefit the Berkshire Museum (estimate $20/30 million). Painted in 1950 – at the height of Rockwell’s career and just one year prior to Saying Grace, which holds the current auction record for the artist set at Sotheby’s in 2013 – the work is a visual testament to the full extent of Rockwell’s artistic abilities and incomparable imagination.

Rockwell’s ambitious composition positions the viewer as the witness to the action taking place beyond the cracked plate-glass window of the storefront. His dramatic treatment of light – the golden light that bathes the trio of musicians contrasts vividly with the shadows that blanket the rest of the closed-up shop – immediately captivates. Further engaging is the variety of naturalistic details Rockwell includes to emphasize the authenticity and immediacy of the scene. When considered together, however, these minute elements – a World War II remembrance poster; a December 1949 issue of Walt Disney Comics and Stories; a fishing rod and creel; the scroll of a cello – adopt a much more potent meaning. At its core, Shuffleton’s Barbershop is the culmination of Rockwell’s investigation into the power of observation and the process of making art. Thus as he presents a subtle and unexpected marriage of high and popular culture, Rockwell asserts the idea that art can be found in the most unexpected of places or indeed, that an illustrator can be a true artist.

Also selling to benefit from the Berkshire Museum is Blacksmith’s Boy – Heel and Toe (Shaftsbury Blacksmith Shop) by Norman Rockwell (estimate $7/10 million). Monumental in size – measuring 70 1/4 inches across – the painting was commissioned for a story that appeared in a 1940 edition of The Saturday Evening Post about a horseshoe-forging contest, which included the following lines:

“I’ll never forget that last hour. And never, I imagine, will any of those who watched. Both men were lost to everything now but the swing from the forge to the anvil, the heels to be turned and the toes to be welded.”

The excitement of the narrative, articulated from the point of view of the local blacksmith’s son, is brilliantly portrayed by the two men who captivate the growing crowd with this demonstration of their strength and skill. Working from a series of photographs, which he exactingly orchestrated down to the last detail, Rockwell depicts a total of 23 figures in the composition, including a self-portrait and two different representations of one of his favorite models, Harvey McKee, the undersheriff of the town of Arlington, Vermont.

Sotheby’s sale of American Art features 7 works by this beloved American artist, with estimates starting at $80,000.

This season’s offerings of American modernism are led by Milton Avery’s Sunset Sea. Executed in 1960, and having been owned by only one private collector, Sunset Sea embodies the innovative consideration of color for which the artist is acclaimed today (estimate $2/3 million). The seascape, inspired by the landscape of Provincetown, Massachusetts, where Avery spent several summers, strikes a balance between pre-war realism and post-war abstraction; fields of shimmering, subtly modulated color stretch across the canvas, drawing comparisons with the works by renowned contemporary Color Field artists including Mark Rothko and Adolph Gottlieb.

The November sale features two works by Georgia O’Keeffe, an icon of American modernism. Shell and Blue and White Abstraction evoke her lifelong fascination with the natural world. The first, painted in 1937, exemplifies the artist’s mastery of form and color (estimate $700/1,000,000). Her keen understanding of tones of white and her thoughtful experimentation with orientation shine through in this stunning depiction of a subject that attracted her attention from a young age. The second, Blue and White Abstraction, searches the expansive New Mexico sky and captures a bird in flight (estimate $500/700,000). O’Keeffe reduces the subject to its most essential lines and shapes, compelling the viewer to consider the abstract qualities inherently present in the natural world.

A third important Georgia O’Keeffe will be offered in our Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale, taking place on 14 November. Her Yellow Sweet Peas from 1925 will make its auction debut, carrying a pre-sale estimate of $2.5/3.5 million.

  • 13.11.2017
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  • Norman Rockwell’s Shuffleton’s Barbershop Highlights Sotheby’s American Art Auction On 13 November
    Norman Rockwell’s Shuffleton’s Barbershop Highlights Sotheby’s American Art Auction On 13 November
    Sotheby’s Auktionshaus