Review by WA Demers, photos courtesy of Helmuth Stone Gallery
SARASOTA, FLA. – A monumental painting by Syd Solomon and over 450 lots of American and European artwork, a large single-owner collection of Florida Highwaymen paintings, modern art, antiques, jewelry and more walked across the block at the Helmuth Stone Gallery on February 27. Solomon’s (1917-2004) “Wake”, a 1976 abstract oil on canvas, led the day, grossing $27,830. Signed at the top right, in addition to being inscribed on the back on the canvas, the work measured 42 by 40 inches.
Solomon was an American abstract artist. He spent most of his time in his homes in East Hampton, NY, and Sarasota, which influenced many of his paintings. His works have been shown at the Guggenheim, the Whitney, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Wadsworth Athenaeum and several others. His works were also featured in a Ringling School exhibition a year or two ago, which garnered a lot of local attention. “His prices have really exploded, says Austin Helmuth, contacted after the sale. “We actually had a few in-house bidders for this as well as a phone bidder, who was in Sarasota but not present for the sale. He ended up winning this painting.
The total sale was just over $300,000, according to Helmuth. “We actually had a private sale of our largest lot before the auction, so we had to pull it out before,” he said, noting that the sell-through rate for the fine art sale was by about 65%. A total of 4,520 bidders were registered across six online platforms, as well as left-hand auctions, telephones and 25-30 in-house customers.
Russian artist Julius Sergius von Klever (1850-1924) was a landscape painter who showed artistic talent from an early age and after completing his primary education he was enrolled in the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts where he first studied architecture, then began taking landscape painting classes. In this sale, one of his exceptional paintings of wooded landscapes in oil on canvas, entitled “Pine Forest After Rain”, signed lower left and dated on the reverse of 1895, 21 by 31 inches, sold for 8,370 $.
A monumental painting of an encampment, possibly Idaho, by John Fery (1859-1934) has been priced at $7,260. Signed and dated 1890 lower left, the oil on canvas, inscribed on the reverse, measured 32 by 45½ inches. Born Johann Nepomuk Levy, Fery was an Austrian-born painter known for his works of the western United States. He was an exterior scene painter, whose biggest client was the Great Northern Railway. His works were large in size, often over 100 square feet, and his paintings hung in train stations and other places, promoting travel.
A series of Florida Highwaymen paintings did well, attesting to the continued strength of the market for the works of these enterprising, mostly self-taught African-American painters who, beginning in the late 1950s, captured the natural landscapes of Florida. An example from Alfred Hair (1941-1971), fetching $6,510, was an oil on Upson board, signed lower right, and measuring 24 by 36 inches.
More unusual was a painting of an encampment scene with figures by George Buckner (1943-2002), who painted with skill and more formality than his fellow Highwaymen, which is seen in the elegance of compositions like this . Signed lower right, the oil on cardboard Upson measured 24 by 36 inches.
And while not technically a Highwaymen painting but certainly in the style of that genre, Mary Ann Carroll’s (b. 1940) oil on panel painting of a coastal scene from the Florida, signed lower right, 24 by 36 inches, found a buyer at $5,890.
A highlight of contemporary art came in the form of a thrilling work by Jesus Soto (Venezuelan, 1923-2005). “Vibration,” 1967, engraved, signed, dated, and numbered (71/100) on the top edge, also fetched $5,890. Published by Editions Denise René, Paris, its dimensions were 11½ by 16¾ by 3-1/8 inches.
An old Orientalist oil on canvas depicting a guard, signed lower right, came from a private collection in Maryland. The 36½ by 23-inch painting came out at $6,200.
Not all of the highlights of the sale were in the fine art category. A 22K gold Ilias Lalaounis cuff bracelet realized $5,580. It has been marked inside the band and comes with the original box, total weight 2.13 troy ounces.
Overall, Helmuth said he was most surprised at how the Highwaymen paintings performed. “Ourselves and the collectors who came to the sale thought they were going for more than usual, and I think that was mainly because of the attention we got for them. All of these paintings came from from a specific collector. She was around 100 years old and we just learned that she passed away just days ago. There will be more of her Highwaymen treasure featured in the gallery’s upcoming sale, scheduled for the April 10.
The prices shown include the buyer’s commission as quoted by the auction house. For more information, www.helmuthstone.com or 941-260-9703.