On Thursday, July 23, Copley Fine Art Auctions, the nation’s premier decoy and sporting art auction house, will host their Sporting Sale 2020. The sale, consisting of 294 lots, will offer the opportunity to take home world-class paintings and bird carvings. Auctioneer Peter Cocculuto will be conducting the live sale once again; however, in light of the current Covid-19 restrictions, the auction will be held at Copley’s headquarters and there will not be any in-person bidding. The auction will be live-streamed and will utilize phone, absentee, and internet bidding. Phone bidders are strongly encouraged to sign up early. The live auction will begin at 10 a.m. on Thursday, July 23.
Copley Principal Stephen O’Brien Jr. reports, “I’ve been surprised by the number of big private sales we have been seeing over the last month. The market for top-notch decoys and paintings has been quite resilient. We saw this in 2008 and 2009 as well. Having something on the wall or shelf gives our clients a tremendous amount of security. You don’t have to worry about losing secret keys like you do with cryptocurrencies. Most importantly, art brings our clients a tremendous amount of joy.”
The auction’s fine art highlights include a major quail hunting watercolor by Ogden M. Pleissner ($40/60,000) and two watercolors by Aiden Lassell Ripley: the vibrant A Pair of Pheasants ($14/18,000) and Pheasants Near the Old Farm ($12/18,000).
Two oil paintings by Francis Lee Jaques, created in the 1940s for Alexander Sprunt Jr.'s book South Carolina Bird Life will be available. Inland Waterway Scene and Tidal Creek Scene are two of Jaques’ classics of ornithological reference, showing over a dozen birds in their natural environment ($10/15,000 each). Additional paintings will cross the block by Lynn Bogue Hunt, Richard LaBarre Goodwin, Eric Sloane, David A. Hagerbaumer, Owen Gromme, Lanford Monroe, and George Browne, among others.
Lot 12, Thomas Aquinas Daly (b. 1937) Electric Mountain, Oil on board; Estimate $8,000-$12,000
Three works by Thomas Aquinas Daly will come up for bid, led by Electric Mountain, a stunning depiction of elk and one of the largest works the artist ever completed ($8/12,000). O’Brien is excited to handle this work: “I’d be shocked if this painting doesn’t set a new world record for the artist; if it doesn’t, someone will be stealing it.” Additionally, a number of acrylic paintings from noted contemporary artist Chet Reneson will be available, as well as new works from Ewoud de Groot, Luke Frazier, David Allen, Gordon Allen, and Al Barker, and pieces by John Swan, Jim Morgan, Dave Chapple, Dave Hodges, and David Lazarus.
Copley will again offer items from the Estate of Alfred F. King III. King was the owner of The Sportsman’s Edge gallery in New York City for many years, and pieces from his estate include items by Bob Kuhn, David A. Maass, and Frank W. Benson. A significant selection of ornithological works from the collection of Eddie Woodin, including pieces by well-known bird artists C. F. Tunnicliffe, Archibald Thorburn, Louis Agassiz Fuertes, Robert Verity Clem, Harry Curieux Adamson, and Roger Tory Peterson, will be included.
An exciting selection of prints and works on paper will come to market, including seven prints by wildlife artist Carl Rungius, nine print lots by Frank W. Benson, and additional works by Marguerite Kirmse, Roland Green, Roland Clark, Richard Bishop, William J. Schaldach, Ripley, and Percival Rosseau, rounding out the fine art offerings.
Lot 172, The Starr Lincoln American Merganser Drake Decoy, Joseph W. Lincoln (1859-1938) Estimate $50,000-$70,000
Copley is excited to once again present a select group of antique decoys and bird carvings. Works directly from the Collections of Thomas M. Evans, Thomas K. Figge, Ted and Judy Harmon, Dr. Morton Kramer, Grant Nelson, and others will be featured in the sale. In all, over 150 American bird decoys will cross the block. Diverse offerings of carvings from virtually every major region will be on display. Important makers represented include Melvin G. Lawrence, Charles F. Coffin, A. Elmer Crowell, The Ward Brothers, Ira Hudson, Lothrop Holmes, the Mason Factory, Joseph W. Lincoln, John Dawson, Obediah Verity, “Shang” Wheeler, The Burr Family, Oliver Lawson, Keith Mueller, Cameron McIntyre, Steve Weaver, and Mark S. McNair, and other esteemed carvers.
The decoys to be offered at the Sporting Sale 2020 are led by the O’Brien-Nelson Hollow Nantucket Curlew, carved in the late-19th century by Charles F. Coffin (1835-1919)
($125/175,000). The sale will once again include important carvings by the “father of American bird carving” A. Elmer Crowell (1862–1952): an Open-Bill Calling Decorative Yellowlegs ($60/90,000), a P. W. Whittemore Rig Willet ($25/35,000), and a rare, possibly unique, Alighting Tern ($15/20,000).
This July two iconic American mergansers will grace the auction: The Starr American Merganser Drake ($40/60,000) by Joseph W. Lincoln (1859-1938) of Accord, MA, and a merganser hen by John Dawson (1889-1959) ($40/60,000). The sale will also feature two other rare works by the Accord Pond maker, a canvas long-tailed drake ($10/14,000) and a willet ($4,5/6,500). Two exceptional plover carvings by Melvin Gardner Lawrence (1880-1930), a sleeper ($30/50,000) and a runner ($20/30,000), are also on offer. Both works hail from the Thomas K. Figge Collection and the former can be seen spanning the front dust-jacket cover of the Museum of American Bird Art’s Massachusetts Masterpieces book.
Other important works include an early canvas scoter ($18/24,000) by Lothrop Turner Holmes (1824-1899), a folky pair of bluebills ($10/14,000) by Frank W. Buchner (1871-1947), a rare cork-bodied goose ($5/8,000) by “Shang” Wheeler (1872-1949), a Mason Factory mallard ($10/15,000) from the rig of G. K. Schmidt, and an eider pair ($8/12,000) by Capt. Merritt P. Pinkham (1861-1947) with exceptional provenance, previously owned by David and Peggy Rockefeller, Donal C. O’Brien Jr., and Dr. George Ross Starr Jr.
Lot 239, Rigmate Pintail Pair, The Ward Brothers; Estimate $12,000-$16,000
The top Ward Brothers carvings include a rigmate pair of pintails ($12/16,000), an outstanding black duck ($10/14,000), and a classic 1936 canvasback hen ($10/15,000). Contemporary works by carver Mark McNair include a cohesive rig of six shorebird species, an eider with mussel, and a hollow plover with a dovetailed head.
“The decoy market is the fastest growing segment of the sporting art market. Advances in research, tracking, and transparency have given buyers a much higher degree of confidence. This has translated into steady growth in terms of higher prices for vetted works and a greater number of collectors participating,” explains Copley Decoy Specialist Colin S. McNair. He continues, “Provenance gets a lot of attention here at Copley, and it deserves every bit of it. In this sale, as has been the standard, many of the early and source collectors, including Mackey, O’Brien, Starr, and Hillman, are represented as prior owners. What is of particular note is the inclusion of consignments from some of the field’s defining modern-day figures, including Mr. Evans, Mr. Figge, and the Harmons. Those three names alone have made tremendous contributions through books, museum exhibitions, and the Crowell Foundation. It is an honor to represent them.”
By Copley Fine Art Auctions
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