A Gaggle of Interests – Jan 16, 2011

In this series, the UAA team will list some of the interesting items that we have found in auctions, antique shops, shows or eBay. We neither own the items or have the capability of examining the items in person in some cases. It mainly serves as an inventory record of what interests us (not necessarily in terms of value or investment opportunities) and possibly how much it fetches (if the result can be obtained). If you are serious about some lots, please contact the auction houses, dealers or eBay sellers directly.

Panama Canal Photo1. Vintage Panama Canal Photo – “Dredge in Culebra Cut,” Ruby Lane Item ID: 2962.

The Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth Texas currently has on display images from the building of the Panama Canal. The exhibit contains images from the museums own collection, as well as National Archives and Military Academy. The building of the Panama Canal was a well-chonicled event that made its way into books and stereoview cards. The rarity of photographs depends of course on a lot of factors. Currently being offered on Ruby Lane by R Young Antiques is a vintage view of the Panama Canal, obviously mass-produced as it seems to have come from a Pennsylvania department store. The image is of the opened canal rather than the building of the canal. I can’t comment much on the price or value, but to say an interest in photography seems to be on the rise. Historically interesting, aesthetically the canal doesn’t to me have a great deal of appeal outside the home or office of someone in the civil engineering profession. The exhibit at the Amon Carter runs through May 11.

1850s Marble Mahogany Sink2.Pair of Empire Mahogany Marble top Sinks Wedgewood Bowl, ebay item 150546932768.

Currently offered on ebay is a pair of mahogany cabinets with marble and porcelain sink tops. My first inclination would be to assume these were later adapted from pieces of furniture, but the marble also appears to have significant age. The listing says they are from an 1850s townhouse in Boston. Period sinks would have probably have had separate hot and cold faucets, so that throws in another question mark. In any case the single faucet would probably be easier to adapt to a modern fixture. These would make a fine addition to any sizable bathroom, and would probably prove a money-saver when comparing them to modern pieces of similar quality. The curiosity about the whole thing is I’d venture if these had at one time been stand-alone cabinets, they’re probably worth more today as sink cabinets.

3.Country Antique 1840 Bed and Empire Lion Paw Antique Carved 1835 Sofa, ebay items 400181350637 and 400186497880.

Two items offered on ebay are notable not only for themselves, but for the effort the seller has given to displaying them. An 1840s Country and a Classical sofa are shown in a room settings as they would be in a department store. Nothing like helping the buyer envision an antique piece in their home. At a time when convention has it that brown furniture, particularly mid-range value antique furniture isn’t selling well, helping a buyer see an antique in a room setting is a very powerful tool. Sure, it’s a lot of work, but it’s something the industry needs to work on. It appears the classical sofa is displayed in the same room with an attractive mirror above it. Hats off to Harp Gallery Antique Furniture of Wisconsin for making the extra effort.

4. Skinner Auction, Jan 28, 2011. Sale 2535B, lot 39 Town and Country, color lithograph by Ralph Goings.

Ralph Goings - TOwn and Country, color lithograph
Ralph Goings - TOwn and Country, color lithograph

A rather large (about 21 by 32 inches) color lithograph (out of roughly 300) from Ralph Goings, a super realism painter. This particular one, dated from his early career, shows a whimsical arrangement of colors and forms, yet also has an appealing narrative .

The palm trees and the bright light gives viewers a convincing impression of a California scene. The old pickup truck and sedan create a dynamic that leads the eyes to the title of this image, which comes from the name of the restaurant: Town and Country. The same motif, trucks and diners, were revisited many times in Goings’ career. In these outdoor settings, he found a proper theme that can unite the geometry of mechanical objects, signs and banners that challenge viewers beyond their linguistic functionality and cheerful California landscape, all within a miraculous sense of natural light that almost looks real.

The cultural undertone cannot be neglected either. The Interstate Highway System was authorized in the late 1950’s. By mid 1960’s, many US highways were removed from the map when they were converted to freeways and expressways. The road trip, epitomized by wagons or pickup trucks and numerous forgettable diners is an expression of freedom to pursue the future anywhere one likes, as long as it is accessible by wheels.

It is a rather mundane, although photorealistic scene, except the sign of the restaurant has a cynical tone for modern viewers. Yet mundane objects, intertwined together in our life, have their own beauty. When such a beauty is synthesized into a canvas by the vision of a great artist, it is essentially a snapshot of our own chaotic life, yet when we pause and look, we enjoy the forms and the order, of ourselves.

The color lithograph comes from the Brooklyn Museum.

Brook in Winter by Joseph Greenwood, offered by Skinner
Brook in Winter by Joseph Greenwood, offered by Skinner

4. Skinner Auction, Jan 28, 2011. Sale 2535B, lot 309, Brook in Winter, by Joseph H. Greenwood

Quite a few paintings by Joseph Greenwood are offered in this sale. This one has the quintessential characteristics of tonal impressionism,with rather narrow tonal range which were popular in the first two decades of the 20th century. The vigorous brushstrokes give the foreground snow and creek a live impression, yet it is the background that really captures my eyes. I think it is marvelous to look at the mythic depth of the forest that he created with those monotone bare trees.

I have not heard of Joseph Greenwod before. A quick internet search shows he is an important impressionism painter, mostly in Worcester area. The Worcester Art Museum held an exhibition of Greenwood’s work back in 2004. There is a short article on the museum’s website, which gives a great introduction to the artist. The painting originally came from Jerome Marble’s estate.

It is estimated between $800 and $1200.

5. Skinner Auction, Jan 28, 2011. Sale 2535B, lot 433,  City Center, by Keith McDaniel

A Moment of solitude: City Center, Philadelphia by Keith McDaniel
A Moment of solitude: City Center, Philadelphia by Keith McDaniel

Another painting relies on strong geometric architectural forms with a narrative undertone. I have found it fascinating, especially it is labeled as city center, Philadelphia, where I have walked many times. In this urban scene, the absence of human figures give me some mysterious feeling. The door, half open, recedes mostly in the form shadow. Who has entered? In this nameless store-front, the strong light deepens the intensity of red, aided with the cast shadow. Then the white linen, folded like an absent-minded cat under the warm light, looks sensual and full of life.

I am not familiar with Keith McDaniel, but I will definitely look more his works in the future. There is a biographic article about McDaniel in Smithsonian Museum of American Art website.

6. Two posters from Swann Galleries Auction, Feb 8, 2011, Sale 2236.

Lot 186 is a TWA poster by David Klein. There is a little bit condition problem, but this one is from 1956, not the later version. According to Nicolas Lowry, it is one of the most popular airline posters, even MOMA keeps one copy. Geometric, bordering abstract, the hussle-bussle of Times Square is reduced into collages of radiating squares. I am wondering why airlines have stopped using graphic images by artists and instead opt to coffee-table-book-like photos now.

Lot 278 is one of the largest posters every produced. Nearly two meters tall and more than two meters wide, it will command attention in any house interior setting. A few years ago, I was lucky enough to see another one offered in one of the New York galleries near the Met. The catalog gives a very detailed introduction of this particular poster, but nothing is better than watching Nicolas Lowry talking about this poster on the popular Antiques Roadshow.

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