Auctioneer Press Release Rago

From Bartlett and Castle to Wolfli and Zinelli in Rago's October 20 Auction of Outsider Art, Fine Art, and Curious Objects

Oct 02,2019 | 12:00 EDT By Rago Auctions

Lambertville, NJ - Rago is pleased to announce the auction "Outsider and Fine Art. Curious Objects" on October 20, 2019 at 11am.   

"Outsider and Fine Art. Curious Objects" is Rago's best sale of outsider art to date, with 207 total lots on offer. The auction features stunning examples by masters in the category from Bartlett to Zinelli, many with provenance directly to the artists and/or celebrated collectors. The auction also features some exceptional works of fine art including paintings, works on paper, and sculpture. As in years past, trade figures, articulated artist mannequins, and devotional figures are among the offerings, as is a winning selection of vernacular photography, carnival knock downs and vaudeville dummies, signage, canes, and erotica.

"Outsider & Fine Art. Curious Objects." Sunday, October 20 at 11:00 a.m., 207 lots

Among the "who's who" of artists in this sale are Butch Anthony, Morton Bartlett, Hawkins Bolden, Ross Brodar, David Butler, James Castle, William Dawson, Thornton "Buck" Dial, Sam Doyle, Josephus Farmer, Roy Ferdinand, Howard Finster, A.W. Gimbi, Ted Gordon, Samuel Granatt, Alex Grey, Ken Grimes, James Havard, William Hawkins, Katherine Jakobsen, Gustav Klumpp, Malcolm McKesson, Willie Massey, Ed Mumma, Michel Nedjar, Mattie Lou O'Kelley, Philadelphia Wireman, Daniel Rohrig, Antonio Romano, Jack Savitsky, Antoinette Schwob, Lewis Smith, Mary T. Smith, Jimmie Lee Sudduth, Terao Katsuhiro, Edgar Tolson, Mary Francis Whitfield, Clarence and Grace Woolsey, Purvis Young, Malcah Zeldis and four artists from the Center for Creative Works, in addition to the artists featured below.  

Outsider Art Highlights

Carlo Zinelli is a canonical Art Brut figure who suffered from schizophrenia exacerbated by his experiences as a soldier during the Spanish Civil War and World War II. He painted for up to eight hours a day, producing nearly two thousand works of art using gouache. He covered his paper (often both sides) with animals and people in profile and embellished with inscriptions. When the artist Jean Dubuffet - who first championed the work of outsiders as artists and coined the term Art Brut - learned of Zinelli’s work in the 1960s, he added ninety-nine pieces to his Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland.  

Lot 1067: Carlo Zinelli, Untitled Double-sided Gouache on Paper; Estimate $8,000 - 12,000

The artist Adolf Wölfli (Swiss, 1864-1930) is considered among the greatest exemplars of Art Brut, designated "le grand Wölfli" by Jean Dubuffet. A diagnosed schizophrenic, in 1908 he started work on an illustrated personal mythology that filled 25,000 pages in 46 books by the time of his death. His composition is wildly inventive and complex, morphing from people to landscapes to animals to letters and numbers to musical notation to text and, always, birds. 

Lot 1049: Adolf Wölfli, Untitled Colored Pencil and Pencil on Paper; Estimate $10,000 - 15,000

Clementine Hunter (American, 1886 – 1988), the descendant of enslaved people, is a self-taught artist and one of the field’s best-known. A plantation worker, she recorded everyday life from memory in a bright palette, disregarding perspective and scale. Hunter did not garner public attention until the 1970s when both the Museum of American Folk Art in New York and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art exhibited her work. 

Lot 1034: Clementine Hunter, Cane River Baptising; Estimate $4,000 - 6,000

Born into poverty, Minnie Evans (American, 1892 – 1987) became a domestic worker in 1918 at an elegant estate. The beauty she saw inspired her first wax crayon paintings in 1935 (now at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art). By the 1940s she was producing hundreds of works at the gatehouse of the estate and selling them to tourists. Most of Evans' paintings and drawings are similar, yet no two are identical. They represent a cosmos in which God, man, and nature are inextricable. 

Lot 1041: Minnie Evans, Untitled Oil Crayon on Cardboard; Estimate $6,000 - 8,000

Daydreaming Girl, ca. 1950, is the only figure by Morton Bartlett that is not in an institutional or private collection. She has been shown for the last year at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, MD as part of the exhibition Parenthood: An Art without a Manual. This figure is one among a fantasy family of meticulously sculpted children created by Bartlett, the adopted son of a wealthy Boston family. He dressed the figures in hand-made clothes and photographed them in staged scenarios that are at once both quotidian and dramatic. This remarkable body of work became known to the general public only after his death in 1992, when the sculptures and photographs were discovered at a New York antiques fair. Since then the works of Morton Bartlett have reached iconic status in both the outsider and contemporary art fields.

Lot 1052: Morton Bartlett, Daydreaming Girl; Estimate $100,000 - 150,000

Fine Art Highlights

Bo Bartlett (American, b. 1955) is a contemporary American realist painter in the tradition of Thomas Eakins, Andrew Wyeth, and Winslow Homer. Bartlett paints the world around him - his family, friends, and his wife and muse, Betsy Eby - in settings that depict memories, dreams, literary references, and current events. He has received numerous solo exhibitions in the U.S. and abroad.

Lot 1108: Bo Bartlett, Victim Starts Fire while Trying to Destroy Evidence; Estimate $4,000 - 6,000

The African American artist Wadsworth Jarrell (b. 1929) paints the attitudes and the many colors of his people. His visual language celebrates style and life. A distinctive tool Jarrell has used in some paintings, including the one featured in lot 1174, is a brick laying trowel. Jarrell emerged on the Chicago art scene in the mid-1960s and co-founded two extraordinarily influential coalitions of African American artists, COBRA and AFRICOBRA. Jarrell’s work has been featured in close to 200 exhibitions, including 28 solo shows.


Lot 1174: Wadsworth Jarrell, Untitled Mixed Media on Paper; Estimate $6,000 - 8,000

In the 1960s, Lester Johnson (American, 1919-2010), a maverick associate of the Abstract Expressionists, shifted from somber paintings to colorful paintings of stylized women and men moving ebulliently through city streets. “If there is such a thing as the poetry of congestion, Mr. Johnson invented it,” John Russell wrote in The New York Times in 1977. “The people in his painting just love company. They can’t get enough of it.” This is the era of the painting catalogued in lot 1170. Johnson's work is in the permanent collections of over 40 major institutions.

Lot 1170: Lester Johnson, Street Scene: A Group; Estimate $5,000 - 7,000

Curious Object Highlights

This extraordinary, powerful figure was obviously meant to hold specific objects, but its history is not entirely clear at this time. It may well have been an advertising display or part of an exhibition. Those familiar with Jewish folklore may see a Golem; an imitation of a man magically imbued with life and consciousness, lacking a soul and the power of speech, fantastically strong, created to obey orders, but not always controllable. 

Lot 1038: Carved and Articulated, Life-Size Figure of a Man; Estimate $4,000 – 6,000

Artists’ models, the articulated figures found among the stocks of art-supply merchants, date back several centuries. Reaching their peak of manufacture and popularity in France circa 1850, these figures were highly coveted. “Mannequin Articulé” would be listed in the inventory of important artists’ possessions at that time.

Lot 1098, Pair of French Articulated Artist Mannequins; Estimate $3,500 - 4,500

Perhaps the most curious lot in the sale is the series of three sequential display boxes showing two taxidermied squirrels posed as Victorian/Edwardian boxers in "The Prize Fight" series by Edward Hart. Anthropomorphic taxidermy was a craze of the Victorian and Edwardian periods in England, the love child of a fascination with natural history and death. Edward Hart was among its best-known practitioners. 

Lot 1089: Edward Hart, Three Sequential Display Boxes of Two Taxidermied Squirrels from The Prize Fight Series; Estimate $10,000 - 12,000

Auction Exhibition/Preview/Bidding

October 12–15, 17, 12–5:00 pm. October 16, 12–7:00 pm. Doors open at 9 a.m. on October 18-20. Also by appointment.  

A panel discussion entitled Worthy: Artists with Intellectual Disabilities featuring artists, mentor artists, and staff from the Center for Creative Works, moderated by Miriam Tucker on Tuesday, October 15. The auction house opens at noon, reception at 5 p.m., discussion at 6 p.m.

Rago is located midway between NYC (1 hr. 15 min) and Philadelphia (50 min). Directions online at

For those unable to attend, telephone/absentee bidding available at 609.397.9374. Online bidding available at

By Rago