Review By Madelia Hickman Ring; Photos Courtesy Brunk Auctions
ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Brunk Auctions’ bidders were busy July 13-15 when a 411-lot Emporium sale on July 13 was followed by an additional 663 lots in the firm’s Premier Auction, offered over two days July 14-15. Nearly 1,050 lots crossed the block, tallying a total of $1,518,958.
“With a 92 percent sell through rate and a ‘within estimate’ total, the team here at Brunk Auctions was very pleased with the solid results from our midsummer sale,” said Andrew Brunk. “There was a great response to the Chatham University consignment, especially from Pittsburgh area buyers, and the interest in works by Winfred Rembert continues to be robust. We are excited to launch the September auction which promises to be a very strong offering.”
As it has in every sale in the last 10 months, works by folk artist Winfred Rembert (American, 1945-2021) were included; both from the estate of Litchfield, Conn., dealer Peter Tillou. Bringing $184,500 and the top price of the sale was “Patsy Mother (Red and Green),” a 2008 dye on carved and tooled leather that sold to a trade buyer. It was followed at $61,500 by “Momma’s Post Card” from a year later, that, in addition to Tillou provenance, had been with New York City’s Adelson Galleries. A private collector won the lot.
Southern furniture is a staple in sales at Brunk Auctions and this edition had several high-selling examples. Leading the category with a strong $98,400 result was a rare North Carolina Queen Anne walnut dressing table that the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA) had attributed to the Hillsborough School, Orange Co., N.C., circa 1770. The table, which had provenance through the family of Hillsborough merchant Richard Bennehan (1743-1825) related to another example of similar size and design at MESDA, which had descended in the family of Governor Thomas Burke (circa 1747-1783).
Inclusion in the Summer 2013 article in Journal of Backcountry Studies titled “The Legend of Little Jimmy Webb’s Dressing Table,” and a drawing of the table in the Summer 2001 Journal of Early Southern Decorative Arts gave bidders even more reason to bid, and Andrew Brunk told Antiques and The Arts Weekly that several collectors competed for it, including the one bidding on the phone who won it.
Topping off at $27,060 from a private collector was another North Carolina rarity, a late Eighteenth or early Nineteenth Century Federal walnut cellarette, likely from the Freeman School in northeastern North Carolina. It bore similarities with others in the MESDA files that are attributed to Joseph Freeman of Gates County, N.C.
Other Southern furniture results include a late Eighteenth Century Southwest Virginia figured maple and mixed woods secretary bookcase ($7,995), a Federal figured and inlaid mahogany card table, possibly from Charleston, S.C., that bidders played to $2,706, and a Virginia Federal inlaid mahogany serpentine chest ($2,337).
Tiffany, the brand that continues to have long-lasting appeal among collectors, was represented throughout the sale, with buying opportunities in a broad range of prices. A Tiffany Studios telescopic bronze base with a Paul Christ shade exceeded expectations when it brought $18,450. It was surpassed at $46,740 by a Tiffany Studios Peony table lamp that sold to a private collector and relates to one published in Alastair Duncan’s Tiffany Lamps and Metalware (2019). The lamp was one of more than 50 lots that had been given to Chatham University in Pittsburgh, Penn., in 2014 from Robert Thomson, a descendant of Thomas Chalmer Darsie who built Thomson House on Fifth Avenue in Pittsburgh. Interest in the Thomson collection was strong and other lots that finished in the sale’s top tiers of results included a painting of the Pittsburgh Steel Mills by Johanna Hailman (American, 1871-1958), that found a new home with a private collector for $19,680. The painting depicted the Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation Mills looking from Oakland across the Monongahela River to Pittsburgh’s South Side. According to the catalog, the painting was the reason the artist obtained a monographic exhibition at the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Art in 1958.
Also from the Thomson collection was a 25-volume set of the works of Mark Twain, which bidders pushed to $9,840, nearly 10 times its high estimate. A private collector will be giving the lot a new shelf.
Five works by modern Western artist Dave McGary (American, 1958-2013) were presented, all from the Mariette, Ga., collection of Dave and Chris Knoke. Prices on the group ranged from $369 for “Home Sweet Home” to $23,370, earned by “Touch the Clouds,” a 1995 cold-painted and patinated bronze that stood an impressive 41 inches tall on a rotating wood base and for which a trade bidder prevailed.
Another bronze figural sculpture, “The Spirit of Detroit” by Marshall Maynard Fredericks (American, 1908-1998), was made in 2000 from an edition of 15 issued by the Marshall Maynard Fredericks Museum and retained both the estate stamp and Daedalus Foundry stamp. A private collector fended off competitors to win it for $17,220, more than eight times its high estimate.
The Knoke collection was also the source for Allen Tucker’s (American, 1866-1939) “Silver Poplars,” which traded hands successfully — and above expectations — to a trade buyer for $20,910. Painted in 1921, the painting had been included in the artist’s 1980 memorial exhibition at the Art Students League in New York City.
“Cosmos and Hollyhocks, Taos, New Mexico” by Western artist Joseph Henry Sharp (American, 1859-1953) sold within expectations and to a private collector for $23,370. The painting came from a Tryon, N.C., estate and had been conserved by an art restorer in Asheville in 2002.
As a category, historical portraiture can be tricky to predict but an 1831 portrait of Ellen Shepherd Brooks (Mrs Gorham Brooks) by Thomas Sully (British/American, 1783-1872) that had been exhibited in Boston at both the Fogg Art Museum and MFA, and illustrated in Edward Biddle and Mantle Fielding’s 1921 tome, The Life and Works of Thomas Sully (1783-1872) achieved a strong — and above estimate result — when a private collector paid $20,910 for it.
Brunk Auctions will conduct another round of Emporium and Premier auctions September 14-16 and a sale of Asian art on October 19.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. For information, www.brunkauctions.com or 828-254-6846.