American Art Achieves $43.3 million at Sotheby’s NY; PAFA Privately Acquires Frederic Edwin Church Masterpiece

NC Wyeth, Portrait of a Farmer, 1943, tempera on Renaissance panel. Estimate: $2,500,000 - 3,500,000. Sold for: $5,985,900.

Yesterday’s auction of American Art at Sotheby’s New York totaled $43.3 million*, with 9 lots achieving prices over $1 million. Among the 120 lots offered were 12 works by Norman Rockwell, all of which sold, realizing a combined total of $19.8 million. The group was led by Blacksmiths’ Boy – Heel and Toe (Shaftsbury Blacksmith Shop) – a monumental painting by the artist – which sold for $8.1 million. Auction highlights also included N.C. Wyeth’s Portrait of a Farmer (Pennsylvania Farmer), which set a new record for the artist at auction with a final price of $6 million.

Following yesterday’s auction, The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) acquired Frederic Edwin Church’s masterpiece, Valley of Santa Isabel, New Granada, from the collection of the Berkshire Museum through a private sale arranged by Sotheby’s. Church is arguably one of the artists most integral to the history of American art, and this will be the first work by Church (1826 – 1900) to enter the Museum’s permanent collection. “PAFA is thrilled that this important American artwork will allow us to tell the sweeping story of American art,” said Brooke Davis Anderson, Edna S. Tuttleman Director of the Museum. “We are honored to become the custodians of this important painting.” 

George Luks, The Swan Boats, circa 1922, oil on canvas. Estimate: $500,000 – 700,000. Sold for: $1,155,000.

Kayla Carlsen, Head of Sotheby’s American Art Department, New York, commented: “With prices over a million for works by Norman Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth, Milton Avery, and George Luks, we were pleased to see interest yesterday across genres – a sign of confidence in this market. Collectors respond with enthusiasm for works fresh to the market, and our auction of American Art was a great testament to this.” 

The American Art auction was dominated by Norman Rockwell, with 6 of the top 10 prices in the sale realized for works by the artist. Blacksmith’s Boy – Heel and Toe (Shaftsbury Blacksmith Shop) was the top offering, sold to benefit the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Commissioned for a 2 November 1940 The Saturday Evening Post story by Edward W. O’Brien, the large-scale painting illustrating a horseshoe-forging contest sold for $8.1 million (estimate $7/10 million). Boy Playing Flute Surrounded by Animals (Springtime) from the Jack & Bonita Granville Wrather Collection also achieved a significant price. An early work by the artist that appeared on the 16 April 1927 cover of The Saturday Evening Post, the painting ignited a bidding war between two potential buyers before selling for $4.1 million (estimate $1.5/2.5 million).


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