Works by American artists were in high demand during Cowan’s two live salesroom auctions in March. Oil paintings by George Inness (1825-1894) and Alfred Hutty (1877-1954) were the top lots of the month fetching $96,000 and $69,000 respectively. Both were featured in Cowan’s Fine & Decorative Art Auction on March 11, which saw five pieces by American artists sell for over $10,000.
The Inness painting, entitled Spring, is an important example of how Inness mixed multiple styles. The impressionist representation of the figure and cows blends perfectly with his rich depiction of a large tree dominating the view, the various shades of green emphasizing the tree’s physicality and texture. Similarly, Spring displays a careful study of clouds, capturing their volume and varied forms.
Hutty was one of the four leading artists associated with the Charleston, South Carolina Renaissance. Between World War I and World War II, the city attracted painters, writers, architects, and historical preservationists whose work combined to revitalize Charleston’s image following a decline that had gripped the area since the Civil War. The visual arts played a noteworthy role in the turn-around, which eventually led to the rise of the city’s tourist industry. The piece sold in this auction was an untitled Charleston street scene depicting two African-Americans — a man pushing a cart down the street and an aproned woman walking under a line of trees.
One week later, Cowan’s held its Spring Cleveland Auction at its salesroom in Cleveland where, once again, a work by an American artist was the highlight of the sale. A large Hudson River landscape by Edmund Darch Lewis (American, 1835-1910) entitled Valley of the Wyoming, oil on canvas, dated 1886, sold for $6,600 at the March 17 auction making it the top lot of the day.
The auction featured a wide array of fine and decorative art from across the United States and around the world including paintings and prints, sterling silver, rugs, furniture, glass, lighting, and timepieces. Highlights from the sale included an Art Deco enamel panel that sold for $3,998; a Jean Alexis Achard (French, 1807-1884) oil painting for $3,360; a Queen Anne bonnet-top highboy in curly maple for $3,240; and a Hampshire Pottery and Bigelow lamp for $2,760.