Newly Rediscovered J.F. Kensett Painting Leads Case’s Aug. 5 Auction
KNOXVILLE, Tenn.— A rediscovered coastal landscape by the American Luminist painter John Frederick Kensett (1816-1872) is expected to make waves at the Summer Case Antiques Auction, set for Saturday, August 5 at the company’s gallery in Knoxville, Tennessee. Fresh from a Nashville estate, it will be included in the Kensett Catalog Raisonné being compiled by Dr. John Driscoll. The painting depicts sunset on Contentment Island on Long Island Sound at Darien, CT, and is believed to have been painted in the final year of Kensett’s life. The catalog essay, written by Kensett scholar Dr. Janice Simon of the University of Georgia, notes that this painting “convey[s] an artist engaged with the modernist sensibilities of Tonalism with its emphasis on suggestion over definition, poetry of color over niggling detail, deep feeling over topographies of place.” It is estimated at $50,000-$70,000. The painting last appeared publicly in the 1873 Kensett Memorial Exhibition at the National Academy of Design (a period photograph of it hanging in the exhibit is shown in Case’s catalog). In fact, Kensett’s Contentment Island scenes almost never come on the market – his brother gifted most of them to the Metropolitan Museum of Art shortly after the artist’s death. This one ended up in the collection of Orrin Wickersham June, whose family owned Wickersham Gallery in New York. June married a Tennessee woman and moved to Nashville in the 1960s, and by the 1970s, he had sold the Kensett to his friend, the Nashville collector, arts scholar and preservationist Dr. Benjamin Caldwell. It was a focal point in Dr. Caldwell’s notable American fine and decorative arts collection until his death in May of this year.
The auction includes many other treasures from the Caldwell estate, including his collection of Southern silver (Dr. Caldwell was regarded as an expert in the field, and authored the book, Tennessee Silversmiths), Southern art, and his Canton porcelain collection, plus several pieces of furniture from The Magazine Antiques profile on the Caldwell home written in 1971.
The auction also includes more than 800 lots of American and European paintings from various Tennessee estates, a museum collection of folk and outsider art; an extensive Civil War collection; historic documents; fine jewelry; and Asian antiques, including a single owner collection of Chinese jade buckles.
Other fine art being sold includes a colorful, Fauvist-inspired Birger Sandzen oil depicting sunset in Rocky Mountain National Park, dated 1927; genre scenes by Victor Anderson and John Rankin Barclay; landscapes by Alexander Hogue, Edwin Dickinson, J. Francis Murphy, Gilbert Gaul, Tinus de Jongh, and George Whitaker; two 1890s Toulouse Lautrec posters, “Confetti” and “Jane Avril”; drawings by Andrew Wyeth, March Avery and Walter Anderson; historic portraits by Ralph E.W. Earl and John Vanderlyn; an 1850s bird’s eye view drawing of the University of Virginia; and Audubon Havell edition folio prints of the Trumpeter Swan and Great Northern Loon. Folk/outsider art includes 2 memory paintings by Helen LaFrance; paintings by Roy Ferdinand, Jimmy Lee Sudduth and Mose Tolliver; limestone sculptures by Tim Lewis; and wood carvings by Sulton Rogers, Braxton Ponder and Minnie and Garland Adkins. There is also a collection of 7 Erte bronze sculptures.
Case’s outstanding selection of silver includes rare coin silver pieces from silversmiths across the South such as Samuel Bell of Texas, John and Joseph Elliston of Nashville, TN; Samuel Ayres of Lexington, KY; Nathaniel Vogler and Jehu Scott of North Carolina; John Ewan of Charleston, SC; and Robert Houghton of Mississippi. Notable sterling includes a rare George III sterling epergne with coat of arms for the Horner family, a pair of Scottish 18th century candlesticks, Kirk Repousse hollowware, and numerous sterling tea sets and flatware services.
Historical documents, books and maps have become an increasingly important category at Case. This season’s offerings include papers signed by 5 presidents including Abraham Lincoln and by 25 Tennessee governors, and a letter signed by both James Buchanan and Sam Houston. An extensive archive of early printed portraits of Andrew Jackson is enhanced by a miniature portrait or campaign pin attributed to painter Thomas Birch, plus a Jackson letter to Richard Call referencing the Missouri Compromise, Jackson death/eulogy items, and Battle of New Orleans ephemera. There is also an archive related to the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson, a collection of 18th century New England almanacs, Tennessee maps and imprints, and rare American books including a signed first edition of America’s National Game by A.G. Spalding.
Civil War and military collectors will find an important Vidette camp newspaper broadside signed by “The Thunderbolt of the Confederacy,” General John Hunt Morgan; 16 rare Confederate artillery uniform brass buttons; a Confederate Naval revolver holster; ambrotypes of Zouave and Mississippi soldiers; archives from the Civil War and both World Wars, a Harper’s Ferry musket, and numerous other historic weapons including a Spanish Miquelet, and a U.S. Historical Society commemorative revolver and pistol.
Furniture includes a dated 1960 Wharton Esherick three-legged stool; an American Gothic Revival giltwood settee and chairs; a Federal bellflower inlaid card table attributed to Baltimore and a serpentine front Sheraton chest of drawers attributed to Robert Wilson of Kentucky; a rare East Tennessee inlaid tea table, and two Tennessee Federal Sugar Chests – one from Rosemount Plantation in Williamson County, the other attributed to Perry County and published in The Art and Mystery of Tennessee Furniture by Nathan Harsh and Derita Williams. There are also several examples of miniature furniture, including a painted chest of drawers attributed to Soap Hollow, Pennsylvania.
A scarce Temperance Jug with applied animal figures, attributed to Simeon Lewis Bray of Indiana, leads the pottery offerings. There is also a Virginia cobalt decorated stoneware jar by Henry Lowndes, and a Jesse Vestal script signed jar, a Tennessee cobalt decorated stoneware jar attributed to Charles Decker, a Southern stoneware pitcher with applied sunflower decoration (found in Alabama) and face jugs by Burlon Craig of North Carolina and Jerry Brown of Alabama.
A sparkling assemblage of estate and vintage jewelry includes a Marcus & Co. platinum bracelet containing 6.8 carats of diamonds, a Tiffany gold and jade necklace and bracelet, three vintage Rolex watches, a 2.53 carat round brilliant diamond ring with baguettes, and an Omega 14K gold necklace.
The auction also includes 2 Pennsylvania Fraktur (one is possibly the work of the “Nine Hearts Artist”); a Galle presentation vase and other art glass; fine porcelain; estate rugs; a Native American basket collection including a 21” diameter Apache “Devil Claw” decorated basket; Schoenhut circus figures and dolls; a 1930s Morse dive suit and helmet, an Angle or Sign Post Barometer, and a Western Union Ticker Tape machine.
The complete catalog for the auction, with full descriptions, price estimates, and photographs for items, in the order in which they will be sold, can be viewed online at www.caseantiques.com.
The auction will take place at Case’s gallery in the Cherokee Mills Building, 2240 Sutherland Avenue in Knoxville, on Saturday, August 5th at 9:00 AM EST. Online, absentee and phone bids will also be accepted. A preview will take place on Friday, August 4th, from noon to 6PM EST or by appointment. For more information or to consign objects for a future auction, call the gallery in Knoxville at (865) 558-3033 or the company’s Nashville office at (615) 812-6096 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Fresh from a Nashville estate is an oil landscape of sunset on Contentment Island (off Long Island Sound, at Darien, Connecticut) by luminist master John Frederick Kensett (1816-1872). Est. $50,000-$70,000.
- A Fauvist-inspired landscape depicting Sunset in the Rocky Mountain National Park, 1927, by Birger Sandzen (1871-1954) is estimated at $50,000-$60,000.
- The auction features two original 1890s lithographs by Toulouse Lautrec; this one depicts Moulin Rouge dancer Jane Avril (est. $18,000-22,000).
- The auction includes more than 100 lots of fine silver, including this George III Sterling epergne by John Kentember, dated 1769, est. $10,000-$14,000.
- Estate jewelry includes this Marcus & Co. Art Deco 6.8 ct diamond and platinum bracelet, est. $6,000-$8,000.