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Auction Report: Wyeth’s ‘Above The Narrows’ Leads $32.3M American Art Sale

by WorthPoint Staff (12/03/09).

Above the Narrows,” by Andrew Wyeth, is among the works featuring three generations of Wyeths to come up for auction at Christie’s Important American Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture auction on Dec. 2, 2009 in New York.

Above The Narrows,” tempera on panel by Andrew Wyeth, brought $6.9 million, second-highest price achieved for an Andrew Wyeth painting. The painting depicts the artist’s teenage son Nicky as a lone figure standing at Bradford’s Point, overlooking the St. George River in Maine.

NEW YORK – Andrew Wyeth’s tempera on panel painting “Above The Narrows” brought $6.9 million at Christie’s Important American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture sale on Dec. 2, 2009, the second-highest price ever paid for a Wyeth work.

The auction achieved a total of $32,358,750, with works by Wyeth, Mary Cassatt and Charles Prendergast commanding the highest prices, and two new world auction records were set for American artists Guy Pène Du Bois and John Joseph Boyle.

“Our December 2 sale saw collectors returning to the saleroom to bid with vigor and enthusiasm on many of our top lots,” said Eric Widing, head of American paintings at Christie’s. “Our sale results were by far the best we have seen in American Art for over a year. Good paintings sold well, and great paintings touched the stratosphere.”

After a protracted bidding competition, Wyeth’s “Above The Narrows”—the sale’s top lot—achieved $6,914,500, which prompted a spirited applause in the saleroom when the gavel came down. The standing record price was set by Christie’s in May 2007 with the sale of “Ericksons,” a 1973 tempera on panel, which sold for $10.3 million. “Above The Narrows” depicts the artist’s teenage son Nicky as a lone figure standing at Bradford’s Point, overlooking the St. George River in Maine. Executed with precise detail, the tempera is imbued with stillness and Wyeth’s characteristic atmosphere of mystery. The painting stands as one of Wyeth’s most profound and personal meditations.

Other highlights included robust prices across the spectrum of American Art, beginning with an exceptional price for Raphaelle Peale’s 1815 masterpiece “Still Life,” which climbed well above its estimate to sell for $842,000. A modern work by Guy Pène du Bois completed in 1932 entitled “Third Avenue El,” sold for $782,500, setting a new world auction record for the artist.

American Impressionism showed depth and strength, led by Mary Cassatt’s newly rediscovered masterpiece, “Study for ‘Young Mother Sewing’,” consigned by a French private collection. The richly-hued pastel on paper sold for double its estimate to achieve $2,434,500. A second Cassatt work, “Françoise Wearing a Big White Hat,” painted circa 1908, also performed well, selling for $842,500.

Among the Western works in the sale, solid prices were achieved for Albert Bierstadt’s “Mountainous Landscape by Moonlight,” which achieved $1,142,500. Painted in 1871, the naturalistic night scene is lit by a dramatic combination of reflected moon light and camp fire. Widely exhibited in museums around the U.S., this superb painting was consigned to sale by the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. to benefit the museum’s Acquisitions Fund. An additional Western highlight was Walter Ufer’s “A Pueblo Well Scene,” which achieved $1,142,500. The painting was consigned from the estate of the late American businessman Oscar G. Mayer, who inherited the painting from his father Oscar F. Mayer, an early financial supporter of Ufer and his fellow members of the Taos Society of Artists.

Among the works of sculpture in the sale, the Western artist John Joseph Boyle’s bronze “Indian Capturing an Eagle” soared beyond its estimate of $30,000-50,000 to sell for $116,500, setting a new world auction record for a work by the artist.

For more information about this auction, visit the Christie’s Web site.

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