Chronology : 1870-1879 1896 1904 1907 1908 1918 1927 2000 2001
1878 Green River of Wyoming by Thomas Moran
2008 SOLD 17.7 M$ including premium by Christie's
1896 The Old Wyoming
2015 SOLD for $ 8.6M including premium
The village of Green River in Dakota Territory is served by the Pacific section in July 1868 before the famous transcontinental junction of 10 May 1869. Green River will be part of Wyoming in the later division of states.
Green River was incorporated as a city in 1868 and became a rallying point for geological and geographical expeditions starting with Powell in 1869.
Thomas Moran arrives by train to Green River in 1871 to join the Hayden expedition. The admirer of Turner is dazzled by the variety of colors: the reflection in water adds green and lavender to the yellow and orange of the cliffs. He immediately realizes a first watercolor. He does not seek realism but idealization and the result is sumptuous.
The Cliffs of Green River, Wyoming is one of the finest western landscapes and Moran painted this scenery in different sizes without changing the composition.
An oil on canvas 64 x 122 cm painted in 1878 was sold for $ 17.7M including premium by Christie's on 21 May 2008. A later version in the same technique, 51 x 76 cm painted in 1896, is estimated $ 6M for sale by the same auction house in New York on May 21, lot 7.
1896 Typically Far West : the bronzes of Frederic Remington
2008 SOLD 5.6 M$ including premium
Very animated, with two horses full speed and two riders on their backs, the lot 171 is titled Wounded Bunkie. Estimated 3 M$, it is a 51 cm high bronze of red brown patina edited in 1896.
Quite as dynamic with its rider on a pulled up horse, the 57 cm high Outlaw, lot 167, is awaited 2 M$. Edited in 1906, therefore still during the artist's life, it is a dark brown patina bronze.
These two lots will be sold for the benefit of a charitable foundation.
Reviewing the other bronzes of Remington presented in the same catalogue, one can think that the importance of the price is related to the model, and especially to the dramatic intensity of the action. It is what still makes it possible to envisage Mountain Man at 400 K$ (lot 158) but leaves a rather insipid Scalp, lot 179, at 250 K$.
But it is not so simple: in the past, the important biddings mostly went on Broncho Busters, these models culminating with the specimen sold 2,6 M$ fees included at Christie's, of course in New York, on November 29, 2007. There is well also a Broncho Buster at Sotheby's on May 22, lot 163, but it is estimated 500 K$ only. All these sculptures are of similar size and times, and it would be necessary to be in the passion of the subject to identify what makes the difference of price between these specimens.
POST AUCTION COMMENT
The auction house knew about it. Among the five bronzes that I had identified, the most expensive made the best gains. The three following lots were also sold beyond estimate.
Here are their results, including the fees: $ 5.6 million for Wounded Bunkie; $ 3.4 million for Outlaw; 710 K$ for Broncho Buster; 540 K$ for Mountain Man.
I was not entirely wrong either, even if my explanations do not yet understand everything about the ratings for Remington: Scalp, which from the photo was not of interest, did not find buyer, on an estimate of 250 K€. For this artist like everyone else, the signature is not enough to predict a price.
By the way, here is a competitor for Remington: on July 26 in Reno at The Coeur d'Alene Art Auction, a large bronze by Charles M. Russell is estimated $ 3 million. It shows Indians on horseback attacking cattle. (SOLD 3.6 M$ before fees).
1899 Anything is possible for Charles Russell at Coeur d'Alene
2008 SOLD 5.2 M$ including premium
Christie's and Sotheby's have no exclusivity of the art market, but it is very difficult to compete in specialties or artists they include in their international sales. Other auction houses have the dynamism required to maintain a loyal clientele of buyers and sellers on very narrow market sectors where they can get prices that multinational groups are not able to achieve.
The first example that I analysed was Guyette & Schmidt for the hunting decoys, and the fact that they are associated with Christie's for some of their operations will not change the demonstration. In France, I've presented successively Etienne Dinet at Gros & Delettrez, and Pierre Soulages at Versailles Enchères.
The example of today is just as obvious, and concerns even higher prices. The Coeur d'Alene Art Auction organizes a yearly sale in Reno, Nevada. Its specialty is, of course, the art of the far west, paintings and sculptures.
The work featured in the sale of July 26 is an oil on canvas by Charles M. Russell, dated 1899, 75x120 cm. Entitled The Hold Up, it shows bandits pointing their guns towards travellers as they just leaved their diligence. They have their hands up, which is a fairly classical and even recommended attitude in this type of situation. To acquire it, you must provide $ 4 million.
Last year, a painting of less dynamic colours, showing Indians burning a ranch, had approached the $ 3 million charge included. In 2005, another painting showing Indians on horseback ready to negotiate had obtained $ 5.6 million. Apparently, never the two multinational groups, which however manage some specialized sales of American art, have approached these prices.
Feeling to be strong on its market, The Coeur d'Alene Art Auction announces that it holds the record price of fifty artists whom they give the list. Russell appears twice, for his paintings and for his bronzes, one of them having reached $ 1 million last year. In our sale of 26 July, Meat for Wild Men, a large bronze of 1924 nearly 1 m long showing Indians attacking livestock, is estimated $ 3 million, a price that would be considered excellent even for a better internationalized artist such as Frederic Remington.
For immersing ourselves in these sales that are geographically far from anywhere, I announce to you that in association with Manitou Galleries, The Coeur d'Alene Art Auction manages in March an annual sale in Montana. The next, 13 and 14 March of 2009, will honour the birthday of Charles M. Russell. I have calculated this will be his 145 th birthday. Appreciate if you can ...
POST SALE COMMENT
The wealthy buyers came as usual, and the auctioneer has not been disappointed. Judge:
The Hold up, oil on canvas, sold $ 4.6 million.
Meat for Wild Men, bronze, sold $ 3.6 million.
I had not spoken about watercolors. One of them, Return of the warriors, showing seven armed Indians on horseback, was sold at its high estimate: $ 1.2 million.
These prices are before fees.
1900 The Death of the Bisons
2007 SOLD for $ 4.4M including premium by Christie's
2020 SOLD for $ 2.9M including premium
Frederic Remington is the illustrator of the Wild West for the use of the magazines. He maintains this know-how through short trips to the West. In 1900 he returns disappointed : civilization had distorted the life in the West which provided his business. He decides never to go West again and will keep his word. He still has his imagination and his artistic production is not slowed down.
Remington provides the images expected by the readers. He has no ethnological curiosity. The Indian is an enemy warrior with whom communication is impossible.
The Buffalo Signal, oil on canvas 102 x 69 cm painted in 1900, is a rare example in which Remington expresses his nostalgia. To make a signal, an Indian scout rears his horse and brandishes a buffalo hide high over his head. A buffalo skull is placed in front of him on the sand. The arid desert and the cloudless sky complete this typical atmosphere that anticipates the western movies.
Two years later Remington uses this image as the frontispiece in a book, with the title If Skulls Could Speak, a direct allusion to the bygone cultures of the American West, symbolized by the extinction of the bison herds.
The painting was sold for $ 4.4M including premium by Christie's on November 29, 2007, lot 103. It is estimated $ 3M for sale by Christie's in New York on October 28, lot 16.
1904 The Mountains of a New Land
2014 SOLD 12.5 M$ including premium
Photos are black and white at that time, so it was left to the paintings of Moran to display to the Americans the extraordinary colors of the Rocky Mountains. Even the Congress is charmed by these images. In 1872 the first national park is established in Yellowstone.
Moran was seduced by this theme that occupied him for his entire career. Inspired by Turner's art, he expressed the deep sensitivity of the landscape in a sharp line that respected the geological realism.
Painted in 1878, the Wyoming mountain reflected in the Green River is one of his masterpieces. This oil on canvas 64 x 122 cm was sold for $ 17.7 million including premium by Christie's on May 21, 2008.
On May 22 in New York, Christie's sells a panoramic view in the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, expressive and contrasted. Painted in 1904, this oil on canvas 75 x 152 cm is estimated $ 8M.
POST SALE COMMENT
Great price for this late panoramic view by Moran: $ 12.5 million including premium.
1905 Gallops in the Wild West
2017 SOLD for $ 11.2M including premium
When Remington becomes a sculptor, he pushes to its paroxysm the study of the imbalance in rapid movements. In 1895 his first masterpiece in that technique, The Broncho Buster, shows a tall prancing horse on his hind legs with no other support, seeking to dismantle his rider. A bronze 58 cm high edited in 1906 was sold for $ 2,6M including premium by Christie's on November 29, 2007.
Even bolder : in 1896, the sculptor attempted a group of two in full gallop entitled The Wounded Bunkie, only connected to the base by two hoofs, one per horse in compliance with the findings of Muybridge. A bronze 51 cm high edited in the first year was sold for $ 5.6M including premium by Sotheby's on May 22, 2008.
Nothing stops that demanding artist. In 1902 he conceives a group of four linked through five legs, departing from Muybridge. The founder succeeds in convincing him of the impossibility of the realization and a compromise with six bearing hoofs is accepted. Titled Coming through the Rye, it is once again a scene expressing a great fastness. The four galloping horses are ridden by cowboys in full euphoria who exhibit their pistols at the end of their arms stretched upwards.
Some orders are received in 1903 but the realization is a feat. This complex piece 78 cm high is too cumbersome and the price tag at 2,000 dollars is too expensive. Very few copies will be made.
Dated 1905 and delivered in 1906 to Tiffany and Co, the serial number 3 is estimated $ 7M for sale by Christie's in New York on May 23, lot 7.
Considering this commercial failure Remington destroyed his models in wax and plaster in 1908. In the same year, disgusted by the new trend of fantasy illustrations, he prepared a bonfire in his yard and destroyed hundreds of his original paintings. This artist out of standards in every sense of that wording dies in 1909 at the age of 48 from complications related to his extreme obesity.
1907 The Pink Stone of Wyoming
2016 SOLD for $ 3.6M excluding fees by The Russell
In 1871 Thomas Moran joined the Hayden Expedition exploring Yellowstone. Influenced by the colors in Turner's art, he is seduced by Castle Rock, a spectacular peak that dominates the Green River valley in Wyoming.
For four decades, the artist wanders through Wyoming, Montana and Arizona in search of extreme landscapes. His paintings with subtle pink, yellow, orange, lavender and vermilion hues of the cliffs in the beautiful morning light make him famous while appealing tourists to Yellowstone National Park, created in 1872.
Throughout this period he also idealizes with many variations his Castle Rock, bringing an additional majesty to the mountain by reducing its width. Painted in 1878, an intensely colored 64 x 122 cm oil on canvas was sold for $ 17.7 million including premium by Christie's on May 21, 2008.
Another variant is less arid, with some trees on both banks. In this peaceful and slightly hazy atmosphere, Moran added an animation, a rare feature in his work : a caravan of Native Americans on horseback is crossing the river on a ford.
This oil on canvas 51 x 76 cm painted in 1907 was sold for $ 3.6M excluding fees in March 2016 in the annual sale organized by The Russell in Great Falls for the benefit of the C.M. Russell Museum. It is estimated $ 3.5M for sale in Scottsdale AZ on April 6 by Scottsdale Art Auction, lot 229 here linked on iCollector bidding platform.
1907-1930 The Cultural Heritage of the American Indians
2012 SOLD 2.9 M$ including premium
When Curtis began to visit the western America, the tribal populations had declined dramatically, and many of them were snapped up by other forms of civilization. This is the end of an era.
When Curtis began recording thousands of photographs, this technique was already fully mastered. The photographer is no more a chemist or an experimenter, he can concentrate on his subject. This is the beginning of another era.
Compare dates: the first issue of Camera Work is published by Stieglitz in 1903. The first delivery of The North American Indian by Curtis, sold by subscription, in 1907.
Tirelessly, Curtis visited the 80 most authentic tribes. His friendship with some chiefs was facilitated by his application to use their own language, opening to him the path for the other communities.
When the publishing venture of The North American Indian ends in 1930 because of financial difficulties, Curtis had managed the most extraordinary and unsurpassed photographic documentary of all time: 2200 selected photographs distributed among twenty volumes of text and twenty portfolios.
The copy for sale by Christie's in New York on April 10 is complete. Kept in excellent condition, it is certainly the finest surviving example of this unusual work.
This lot is estimated $ 1M. Here is the link to the catalog.
POST SALE COMMENT
Its exceptional freshness enabled this highly important book to reach $ 2.9 million including premium.
1908 The Illustrator of the US Cavalry
2013 SOLD 5.6 M$ including premium
He at first made frequent trips to the West to soak up the atmosphere. The men of the cavalry were gallant heroes against the fierce Indians, and they were also clients who could ensure his glory.
Caught in the social life of the East, he became obese and almost impotent. He began at that point his career as a sculptor. He was the best interpreter of the riders on their fiery horses, with magnificent bronzes and also realistic figures of the gallop positions as proved to artists by Muybridge's experiments.
From 1901 his work for Collier's became steady. When Remington died in 1909, the magazine still had sixteen of his paintings ready to be published.
Painted in 1908, 'Cutting out pony herds' shows the US cavalry guiding a herd of Indian horses away from their camp. This oil on canvas 60 x 100 cm was published by Collier's in 1913. It is estimated $ 5M, for sale on July 27 in Reno by The Coeur d'Alene Art Auction.
POST SALE COMMENT
This painting was sold exactly at its lower estimate, $ 5 million before fees.
1918 Piegans by CM Russell
2005 SOLD for $ 5.6M including premium by The Coeur d'Alene Art Auction
1927 Gentle Indians of NC Wyeth
2020 SOLD for $ 3.5M including premium
He traveled the West in 1904 and 1906. For Wyeth, Indians are calm and sympathetic. They live with ingenuity in these immaculate conditions of which Frederic Remington had just seen the inexorable disappearance.
In 1908 Wyeth declared that painting and illustration are two different arts that cannot be mixed. He was probably concerned that his growing reputation as an illustrator would hurt his clients' demands for larger format paintings.
Indian Love Call, oil on canvas 117 x 176 cm in arched format painted in 1927, is typical of Wyeth's romanticism. The young Indian in his birch wood canoe plays the flute to attract a young woman who listens in the distance, in front of her tipi.
This work had been privately commissioned by an employee of a publishing house. Kept in the family, it surfaced unrecorded 80 years later. It was sold for $ 1.83M including premium by Sotheby's on November 28, 2007, lot 39, and is estimated $ 2M for sale by Christie's in New York on October 28, lot 15.
#AuctionUpdate Newell Convers Wyeth, 'Indian Love Call' achieved $3,510,000. One of Wyeth's favorite motifs in his Native American paintings was the solitary Indian in a reflective mood, as shown in this mural alongside the tranquility of the landscape. https://t.co/FlaKVSgIBM pic.twitter.com/ezUhP0xRMM— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) October 28, 2020