Master Works


By The Intelligent Collector Staff

The past year in fine art shows collectors continue looking for impeccable provenance, freshness to market and excellent condition.

“Collectors are also focusing on acquiring pieces that are most representative of an artist’s oeuvre,” says Heritage Auctions Vice President Ed Beardsley. “We are delighted yet not surprised when iconic pieces of an artist’s work soar at auction.”

A selection of top prices realized at Heritage Auctions for the 12-month period ending November 2016 shows record results for American landscape painter Birger Sandzén and French academic painter Guillaume Seignac. “We have found the more beautiful the subject,” Beardsley says, “the more interest we have from collectors, as evidenced by the record-breaking price we saw for Seignac’s Le secret d’Amour.”

Western Art is also garnering attention from collectors. “It’s been particularly strong with collectors who appreciate its bold palettes and dynamic brushwork,” Beardsley says.

“We are also seeing continued interest in conceptual works by artists such as Jeff Koons,” Beardsley says, “and in big names like Helen Frankenthaler and Milton Avery, who are among abstract expressionism’s most important artists. We expect these trends to continue in 2017.”

Birger Sandzén (1871-1954)

Lake at Sunset, Colorado, 1921
Oil on canvas, 80 x 60 in.
Realized: $670,000
May 2016

Sandzén was born in Sweden but later established his life in America. He studied in Paris, where he was exposed to Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. He is one of America’s most important landscape painters.

William Robinson Leigh (1866-1955)
Indian Rider, 1918
Oil on canvas, 20 x 16 in.
Realized: $394,000
May 2016

Born in West Virginia, Leigh is best known for his dramatic images of Western landscapes, wildlife, cavalry, cowboys and American Indians. He’s been called “America’s Sagebrush Rembrandt.”

Guillaume Seignac (1870-1924)
Le secret d’Amour
Oil on canvas, 61¼  x 37½ in.
Realized: $250,000
June 2016

Born in France, Seignac studied at the Ecole des Beaux-arts under William Bouguereau, Gabriel Ferrier and Tony Robert-Fleury. Today, his work is best known for its crisp, clear technique and classical imagery, which focused on idealized beauty.

Sean Scully (b.1945)
Barcelona, 1999
Oil on canvas, 20 x 16 in.
Realized: $286,000
November 2016

Born in Ireland, Scully moved to London as a child before emigrating to the United States in 1975. “My abstraction has never been theory-based,” Scully has said. “It’s always been rather experiential. I’ve always used metaphors that relate to things outside painting.”

Frederic Remington (1861-1909)
The Broncho Buster #17, cast circa 1902
23 1/8 in. high
Realized: $346,000
November 2016

Remington’s Broncho Buster in its various permutations was America’s most popular bronze in the 19th and early 20th centuries and is commonly regarded as one of the world’s finest action bronzes.

Jeff Koons (b.1954)
Ice Bucket, 1986
Cast stainless steel, 9¼ x 7 x 12 in.
Ed. 1/3
Realized: $370,000
May 2016

Luxury, consumption and sexuality are key themes that characterize the work of Koons, a native of York, Penn. He is considered one of the world’s most famous artists.

Willem de Kooning (1904-1997)
East Hampton II, 1968
Oil on paper laid on canvas, 41¾  x 30 in.
Realized: $802,000
May 2016

Born in The Netherlands, de Kooning moved to the United States, where his black-and-white abstractions of the late 1940s made him a leader among the New York Abstract Expressionists. He is considered one of the most important artists of the 20th century.

Milton Avery (1885-1965)
Bather, 1961
Oil on canvasboard, 30 x 24 in.
Realized: $292,000
May 2016

Born New York, Avery befriended Mark Rothko and would soon be regarded as a significant figurative painter. It’s been said his late paintings, created between 1947 and 1963, stand at the nexus of figurative modernism and Abstract Expressionism.

Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011)
Tantric, 1977
Acrylic on canvas, 69¼ x 67½ in.
Realized: $610,000
May 2016

New York native Frankenthaler is best known for “composing with color” rather than with lines, resulting in compositions that would become the hallmark of her long and prolific career.

Morris Louis (1912-1962)
Blue Pilaster II, 1960
Acrylic resin (Magna) on canvas,
83 x 23½ in.
Realized: $310,000
November 2016

Critics have said Louis’ huge color-field paintings are modern icons. Born in Baltimore, he became one of the earliest exponents of “Color Field” painting, a style that emerged in New York City the 1940s.


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