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Antiques and Fine Art Auctions Blog

Skinner expert appraisers and auctioneers discuss antiques, fine art, and collectibles. Keep up on market trends and get collecting tips from antiques experts. Discover the stories behind the art and antiques Skinner offers at auction.

Beauty on the Block: Led by Great Works from Great Names, Skinner’s May 19 Fine Art Auctions Totaled Over $1.8 million

Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976) Untitled (Standing Mobile) c. 1953 (Lot 525, Estimate: $100,000-150,000)

More than 500 lots comprising paintings, sculpture, photographs, and works on paper and representing a wide range of periods, styles, and subject matter were offered in Skinner’s May 19 auction. Robin S. R. Starr, Director of American and European Works of Art, notes that the stand-out successes of the auction were major works by renowned artists. Their enduring appeal and well-documented provenance resulted in prices that, in many cases, exceeded pre-auction estimates.

Auction highlights included:

Alexander Calder’s Standing Mobile brought the highest price of the sale. The work is small—at less than 6 inches across, about half the size of the Calder standing mobile that headlined Skinner’s January Fine Art auction. But the diminutive sculpture has all the wit, energy and originality that are hallmarks of Calder’s works of any size. As Starr puts it, this small but mighty creation was “full of spunk and whimsy; the red curl of a tail made it sing.” Lot 525 brought $267,000 on a pre-auction estimate of $100,000-150,000.

Henry Moret’s large, colorful canvas Harvesting Kelp proved the enduring appeal of French Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. Moret worked with Gauguin, Emile Bernard and the other artists of the colony at Pont-Aven, although his style remained less expressionistic. Throughout a long and productive career, Moret most often painted landscapes like this of the Brittany coast. In a catalog of a posthumous exhibition, he is praised as “able to fuse together two fundamentally opposing styles: the Syntheticism of Pont-Aven and Impressionism.” Lot 360, with a pre-auction estimate of $35,000-50,000, achieved $159,000.

Auguste Rodin (French, 1840-1917) Grande Main Crispée Gauche (Large Clenched Left Hand) (Lot 301, Estimate: $120,000-180,000)

Auguste Rodin’s Grande Main Crispée Gauche, one of two Rodin sculptures in the auction, is a quintessential work by the iconic French master. Originally modeled around 1885, the sculpture was a preliminary study for the monumental Burghers of Calais. This cast is one of eleven made for the Musée Rodin. Lot 301 sold for $147,000.

Two prints exemplified the strength of works and artists that Robin Starr calls “quintessential” giants of 20th century art.

Matisse’s large and colorful aquatint Marie-José en robe jaune, sold for $98,400 on an estimate of $50,000-80,000, the highest price ever realized at Skinner for a 20th century fine art print. The energetic portrait is considered one of the artist’s best aquatints, and this example is notable for the vividness of its greens, which tended to be very fugitive in this print.

Jasper Johns’ Target with Four Faces, a large color etching and aquatint, is similarly an iconic piece by a blue-chip artist, and similarly is notable for its freshness of color. Johns was as innovative in his print-making as in his painting, with an extraordinary ability to make familiar two-dimensional objects as targets, flags, and maps into thought-provoking art. Lot 87 brought $29,520 on an estimate of $15,000-25,000.

Jasper Johns (American, b. 1930) Target with Four Faces, 1979 (Lot 87, Estimate: $15,000-25,000)

Elizabeth Haff, American & European Works of Art Specialist, noted that several traditional works did extremely well in a market which is increasingly hyper-focused on post-World War II art.

One notable success was the late 19th century American painter De Scott Evans’ A New Variety. A small 12 by 10-inch panel in the trompe l’oeil style so popular in its day, the strikingly photorealistic depiction of almonds in a box achieved a price of $19,680 over an estimate of $8,000-12,000.

Another highlight of pre-20th century art was Lot 200, Two Village Battle Scenes, attributed to 17th century Dutch painter Hendrick (Henri) Ambrosius Pacx (Packx). The pair sold for $18,450, far exceeding their pre-auction estimate of $800-1,200. Skinner’s research through RKD in the Netherlands (Nederlands Instituut voor Kunstgeschiedenis) will help to establish the artist’s signature, which is rarely found on his work. Haff notes “It is gratifying to find works like these and help bring them to light.”

Top lots among the photographs featured in this auction:

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) Leaves and Raindrops, Glacier Bay National Monument, c. 1948 (Lot 142, Estimate: $15,000-25,000)

Ansel Adams, Leaves and Raindrops. One of a number of mural-size black-and-white nature photographs that Adams started to create in the 1930s, this example sold for $13,530.

Edward Burtynsky, Oxford Tire Pile #5. The chromogenic print on the photographer’s recurring theme of environmental degradation sold for $10,455 on an estimate of $7,000-9,000.

John Coplans, Self-portrait, Back and Hands. The stark gelatin silver print, with a pre-auction estimate of $2,000-3,000, sold for $7,995.

It is always tempting to ask if the results of an auction point to a clear theme or trend. Robin Starr re-iterates that quality, beauty, provenance, and freshness to market (to which may be added Skinner’s broad market experience and in-depth research) are the ingredients for success.

About Skinner

Skinner auctions draw international interest from buyers and consignors alike, with material regularly achieving record prices. The company’s auction and appraisal services focus on fine art, jewelry, furniture, and decorative arts from around the globe, as well as wine, fine musical instruments, rare books, Asian art, clocks, Judaica, and more. Monthly Skinner Discovery auctions feature a breadth of estate material.

Widely regarded as one of the most trusted names in the business, Skinner appraisers have appeared on PBS-TV’s Antiques Roadshow since the show’s inception.

Skinner has galleries in Boston and Marlborough, Massachusetts, as well as in New York City and Miami, Florida, with bidders participating in person, by phone, and online. Join auctions live with SkinnerLive! and Bidsquare. For more information and to read our blog, visit the website at, find us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

A Celebration of Text and Art

Arabic Manuscript on Paper with Persian Commentary (Lot 1108, Estimate $2,000-3,000)

Papermaking, calligraphy, illumination, paper marbling, and gold-tooled goatskin bindings define fine bookmaking and are generally associated with western and continental books. However, mastery of these book arts was transmitted to Europe through the Middle East during the Middle Ages. Although the Chinese pioneered papermaking and printing with movable type, in Medieval times, all roads from China to continental Europe passed through the Middle East and North Africa.… Read More

First Tuesday | June 6 | Marlborough

Join us for First Tuesday in Marlborough

Tuesday, June 6 | 1:30PM – 4PM

Skinner experts will provide complimentary verbal auction evaluations during our monthly consignment event on the first Tuesday of each month.

Experts Available in June:

LaGina Austin, General Appraisals ♦ Kathleen Leland, Modern & Contemporary Works of Art ♦ Robin S.R. Starr, American & European Works of Art ♦ Kyle Johnson, Coins & Currency

Skinner Marlborough Gallery 274 Cedar Hill Street Marlborough, MA

First come, first served.… Read More

Just for him: Skinner’s Gentleman’s Auction Offers One-of-a-kind Gifts for One-of-a-kind Guys

Boxed Hardwood Domino Set, Taxco, Mexico, third quarter 20th century (Lot 1145, Estimate: $200-300)

Perfectly timed for Father’s Day, graduation, and all of the festive occasions of summer, Skinner’s Gentleman’s Auction offers a wide variety of items that are destined to be favorite possessions. Some are practical, some are beautiful, and some are just plain fun.  Many combine all these desirable qualities. All have been selected by Skinner’s specialists to intrigue and delight both purchaser and recipient.… Read More

A Conversation About Collecting Asian Art with Richard Kenworthy, PhD

Richard Kenworthy, Former Professor of Architecture at Auburn University in Alabama and Asian Art expert discusses collecting with Melanie Mitcheson, Skinner’s Auction Coordinator.

Indian Hardwood Valuables Chest (Lot 1520, Estimate $400-600)

What are the Asian countries represented in the current auction?

Primarily China and Japan. We do have a very unusual piece from India:  a dark wooden valuables chest with decorative straps around it—in the right space, it would be very dramatic (Lot 1520).Read More

Charles Prendergast’s Rare and Exquisite Decorative Panels

Charles E. Prendergast (American, 1863-1948) Untitled (Vase with Flowers and Birds) (Lot 382, Estimate $30,000-50,000)

A skilled and inventive frame maker, admired by artists and collectors for his ability to create frames that corresponded perfectly to the style and intention of the canvases they surrounded, Charles Prendergast (1863-1948) did not begin working on his own artworks in earnest until he was in his fifties. After having spent years as a woodworker and craftsman, he created his painted panels, like Lot 382 in our upcoming Fine Paintings and Sculpture auction, with many of the same materials and techniques he had used for his frames.… Read More

Lecture | May 31 | Radiant with Color and Art: McLoughlin Brothers & the Business of Picture Books

Radiant with Color and Art: McLoughlin Brothers & the Business of Picture Books, 1858-1920

A Lecture by Laura Wasowicz




Laura Wasowicz, curator of Children’s Literature at the American Antiquarian Society is delighted to share her research on New York picture book publisher McLoughlin Brothers.  Rising from the gritty printing district of lower Manhattan, McLoughlin Brothers blew the international picture book trade wide open with its embrace of cutting edge technologies like chromolithography and branding techniques that are still strikingly modern today. … Read More

Skinner to Host Books & Manuscripts Online Auction, May 23 – June 2

Wyeth, Andrew (1917-2009) Archive of Forty-three Signed Autograph Letters and Notes, with Sketches (Lot 1106, Estimate: $80,000-120,000)

MARLBOROUGH, MAAn archive of forty-three unpublished love letters written by secretive and celebrated artist Andrew Wyeth highlights Skinner’s spring auction of Books & Manuscripts. The online-only auction features 592 lots of historical and literary documents, fine and rare books, prints, and maps.… Read More

Rodin and Fragments

Auguste Rodin (French, 1840-1917) Tête de la Luxure, a Later Casting (Lot 385, Estimate: $8,000-12,000)

Two bronze sculptures by Rodin will be offered in our May 19th American & European Works of Art auction. Both were conceived by the artist as parts of larger works, and can therefore be considered fragments, but both also stand as unique and expressive works of art in their own right.

Tête de la Luxure (Head of Lust) (Lot 385, Estimate $8,000-12,000) was first created as the head of the figure Crouching Woman, one of Rodin’s favorite compositions, likely originally dated to 1881-82, and one of the earliest figures Rodin modeled for the Gates of Hell. … Read More

Andrew Wyeth’s Unpublished Love Letters Offered at Skinner in May

Wyeth, Andrew (1917-2009) Archive of Forty-three Signed Autograph Letters and Notes, with Sketches (Lot 1106, Estimate: $80,000-120,000)

Writings Provide New Insights To Secretive Painter’s Work and Life

An extensive archive of letters previously unknown to scholars and collectors concerning one of the most secretive and celebrated American artists of the 20th century will be offered in Skinner’s May Fine Books & Manuscripts online auction.… Read More

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