Death of a Warrior, Dearth of Competition for American Portraiture

Doyle Auctions sent out a release today regarding a recent sale. The headline was Robert Havell Jr’s Death of a Warrior brought more than $80,000 November 18–the Second Highest Price achieved for a work by the artist. Less noticed was the fact that a work by Charles Willson Peale went for what seems a very good price. From what I can tell the portrait of Philadelphia Merchant Andrew Caldwell sold for less than half of the second lowest price for a work by this American old master. Moreover the work at Doyle came with a bonus 18th Century portrait for just $10,000. A Peale portrait of Gunning Bedford, Jr.’ sold for $9,000 is 2005. Most of the American portraits at the sale sold near or less than the low estimates. Lot 7, American School 19th Century Portrait of a Woman, brought just $125. A portrait of a woman by Mary Jane Peale went unsold.  Lot 2, 19th Century Portraits of a Gentleman and a Lady, said to be the Reverend Brown Emerson and His Wife, went just above the high estimate at $1,250 and a Portrait of a Lady by Thomas Sully went right down the middle at $2,000.

About Art After X

With the death of President Kennedy in 1963, America changed. As hard as it is to minimize that sentiment, the effect of Dallas was even greater. The same year saw the merging of the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts, which had been central to the art scene, and the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Douglas MacAgy, then the director of DMCA, not only opposed the merger, but also declined to directorship of the combined museum. The regionalist movement which had been strong for decades, was giving way to more of an interest in what was going on nationally, and internationally. Like it or not, Dallas was on the national stage.

When the Kennedy’s arrived in Fort Worth, local collectors had decorated a hotel room with internationally-renowned works. While the president and his wife learned a great deal about the ability of Texans to collect major art, there was little they could glean about the local scene in this era-defining city.

With this in mind, we have begun a project to look not back at the art scene in Dallas, but foreword from 1963. We are interviewing gallery owners, curators and others involved in the art scene then, but this will be a story told mostly through interviews with artists active in the city from that point into the 1980s.

The result will be a book with a video component.

We hope you will join us in our journey. The hashtag for the project is #artafterx and the url will point to the latest updates on this weblog.

Leave a Reply