Joseph Ryan Woodwell at Auction

A hansome pair of Joseph Ryan Woodwell paintings sold at auction this weekend. Wiederseim auction house had estimated the paintings would fetch between $200 and $300, far short of the $2400 they ended up bringing. The last Woodwell painting I know of to come up at auction was in October of ’06. That painting, somewhat larger than the ones this weekend fetched $4100. Still, this weekends offering was a pair and they appear very representative of Western Pennsylvania.

The pair of paintings show a river scene, perhaps the Niagara River, and a wooded landscape with a small cabin. The description read “Pair of oil on canvas landscape paintings signed “J. R. Woodwell” and dated 1861. 7.5″x9.5″”

Woodwell would sometimes travel with George Hetzel to the area known as the Scalp Level, an artists retreat near Johnstown. Unlike Hetzel, Woodwell’s compositions featured clear signs of human life. Woodwell studied in Paris in the 1860’s and adopted impressionism.

Woodwell exhibited at the 1893 Columbian Exhibition, National Academy of Design, Art Institute of Chicago, and Panama Pacific Exhibition of 1915. He worked in Pennsylvania, California, and Niagra Falls. He was an original trustee of Carnegie Institute and chairman of the Fine Arts Committee during the last two years of his life.

Woodwell was born to Pittsburgh cabinetmaker Joseph Woodwell. His daughter, Johanna Woodwell Hailman would also become a well-known Pittsburgh artist. A portrait of him by Philadelphia artist Thomas Eakins is in the Carnegie Museum of Art.

The pair of paintings was won by a floor bidder.

There are several great places to view works by Woodwell in Western Pennsylvania. The Westmoreland Museum of Art has a few and if you’re ever in the Carnegie Music Hall there are several hanging in the lobby (one similar to the pair sold at auction) along with other Western Pennsylvania paintings often missed by visitors to the museum.

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