Front Page, Saturday, December 13, 2008
Published: Saturday, December 13, 2008
A painting by American artist Albert Bierstadt has sold for $200,000, the highest price ever paid for an auctioned piece of art in Victoria.
Kilshaw’s Auctioneers owner Alison Ross had estimated Bierstadt’s rendering of a mountain scene in New Hampshire would fetch between $30,000 and $60,000, but Canadian telephone bidders pushed the price far beyond expectations during the auction company’s Thursday night sale.
The painting went to a Vancouver buyer, said Ross, who did not provide details but said “they were very pleased and thought it was a lovely piece.”
Kilshaw’s had previously set the auction art record in February when a portrait of Czar Alexander III by Johann Koler sold for $80,000.
Ross was “very surprised” when Bierstadt’s 66-centimetre-by-92-centimetre oil on canvas titled Autumn Storm Franconia Mountains New Hampshire more than doubled the previous record.
“My initial concern was quoting too high with the financial meltdown going on in the U.S.,” Ross said in an interview yesterday. The reality was there was interest from both sides of the border with four telephone bidders and one absentee bid. Although several hundred people attended the fine art and jewelry sale, no one bid from the crowd.
“People underestimate what can happen in Victoria,” Ross said. “I think if it had been offered at a U.S. auction, it would not have done as well. I wasn’t too sure, considering where the U.S. economy was, what would happen.”
Ross said the painting belonged to a “prominent American family” who now have roots in Victoria. The seller’s parents had received it as a wedding present in 1935, and it had been in the family ever since.
Kilshaw’s gets about a 20 per cent cut of the $200,000 sale — with five per cent coming from the seller and a 15 per cent buyer premium.
Although the painting was undated, Bierstadt was thought to have produced the work in 1859 at age 29, at the start of his rise in popularity.
Bierstadt became the foremost American landscape artist of the 19th century and commanded the highest prices of any artist of his time, according to research done by Ross. In the 1860s, New York business magnate Le Grand Lockwood commissioned Bierstadt to create The Dome of Yosemite for $25,000. “He got astonishing sums when you consider the price of building a mansion at the time was about $10,000,” Ross said.
Today, Bierstadt’s art is coveted by private collectors, and much of it is scattered in museums, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Metropolitan in New York.
Bierstadt was a member of the Hudson River Art School and was noted for his romantic views of landscapes and a dramatic use of light called luminism. He would often do sketches on location and return to his studio to detail his paintings with brilliant flashes of sunlight or change certain parts to inspire awe — something his critics were always quick to point out.
He was said to have created anywhere between 500 and 4,000 pieces of art. Bierstadt died in 1902.
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2008