Fanciful Designs Draw Fantastic Prices at Treadway-Toomey Galleries’ 20th Century Art Auction A Teco vase in ingenious, flowing design by Fritz Albert was the event's pièce de résistance that commanded the top price of $78,000, surpassing pre-sale estimates of $45,000-65,000.
Chicago’s emergence as a major center for African-American Art. The auction catalog included this excerpt, which was written in 1940 by American artist Willard Motley (1909-1965) who recognized their prowess: “There is a small group of young Negro artists in Chicago that will be heard from one of these days. At present they are struggling in garage and top floor tenement studios… They paint for the love of it. There is much talent in the group.”
“Roof Tops on Wabash,” a compelling, circa 1938 oil on canvas by Eldzier Cortor (b. 1916), fetched the auction’s top painting price of $39,000 (est. $30,000-50,000). A renowned painter and printmaker, Cortor received both the Rosenwald and Guggenheim Fellowships, which allowed him to travel to Haiti where he taught at the Centre d’Art.
“The Money Changers,” a stunning egg tempera on board, circa 1938, by Charles Sebree (b. 1914), brought $12,000 (est. $10,000-20,000). A splendid “Autumn Landscape,” a circa 1940 oil on board by John Wesley Hardrick (1891-1968) of Indianapolis, another important African-American artist, sold for $2,760 (est. $2,000-3,000). Delightful works by The Honorable Nathan B. Young (1894-1993), the judge-turned-painter, were extremely interesting. He was an Alabama native who attended Yale University Law School and in 1965 became the first African-American to be appointed as a municipal court judge in St. Louis. Young’s “Kneeling for Prayer” brought $360 and “Yellow House” sold for $660. Each circa 1970 piece was an acrylic on board estimated at $400-600.
“Summer Landscape,” a circa 1910 oil on canvas by American painter Wilson Henry Irvine (1869-1936), who studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, fetched $20,400, twice estimates of $6000-10,000. “Pieta,” an oil on canvas, circa 1945, by Abraham Rattner (1895-1978), a leading American Expressionist painter, reached $20,400 (est. $20,000-30,000). “Desert Home,” a striking circa 1920 oil on canvas by American George Brandriff (1890-1936), sold for $22,800, exceeding estimates of $10,000-20,000. “Lake Vista,” a serene Northern Indiana dune scene circa 1925 in oil on canvas by Frank V. Dudley (1868-1957), who also attended the Art Institute of Chicago, brought $12,000 (est. $10,000-15,000).
Top seller in the 1950s to Modern domain was a George Nakashima Conoid dining table, which featured a black walnut top with free-form edges and two three-inch wide knot holes sold for $31,200, surpassing its estimated $25,000-30,000. Included were two letters Nakashima had handwritten in 1965 in response to the table’s bewildered buyer, who evidently was experiencing pangs of buyer’s remorse when pondering the knotholes. A hand-signed George Nakashima Harvest bench dated 1967 sold for $21,600, exceeding its estimated $15,000-20,000. The bench had a walnut free-form slab seat and back rail, which were connected by hickory spindles. Several Paul Frankl pieces fared extremely well, including a console with a cork top over a mahogany base that brought $5,400, six times its estimated $600-800. A fascinating circa 1948 Klaus Grabbe chaise, which featured an interestingly shaped plywood form covered with brown cotton webbing sold for $2,040 (est. $1500-2000).
The auction sold 92-percent of the more than 1,100 lots