For their first annual sporting arts sale, veteran auctioneers Bob and Andrew Brunk lead off with a remarkable collection from a prominent North Carolina family. It took years for the family to accumulate the sale’s premier wildlife paintings. Most had decorated their walls for decades. Then a cache of 18th century maps and other sporting watercolors was discovered in metal storage containers. The containers had not been opened in years.
The Brunks added to the family lots an impressive array of sporting bronzes, rifles and revolvers from private and institutional collections.
“This superb collection signals the opening of sporting arts season at Brunk Auctions,” says Andrew Brunk. “For July we have an eclectic sale with something for everyone- from big game to fishing to wing shooting, with estimates from $300 to $30,000.” Brunk also stressed his commitment to the sporting arts: “This July and each July thereafter, hunters and collectors can expect that we will offer for sale the best in sporting antiques.”
Among the sale’s highlights:
Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait (England, New York: 1819-1905) was America’s first important sporting artist. Trained as a lithographer in England, Tait was largely a self-taught artist before immigrating to the United States in 1850. He specialized in landscapes and wildlife paintings that were realistic, detailed and colorful. Three of his late-19th century paintings are featured in the sale: A Close Point (est. $20,000/$30,000), Prairie Shooting (est. $12,000/$18,000) and A Covey of Grouse (est. $12,000/$18,000).
Ogden Minton Pleissner (Vermont/New York, 1905-1983) loved nature, wing shooting and fishing, subjects he painted in oil and watercolor. Beginning in the mid-1920s he traveled to the Western United States in the summer and throughout New England and the South the rest of the year. The End of the Day, Duck Shooting depicts two weary duck hunters unloading their flat boat on the shore at sunset. The 16” X 20” oil on canvas in its original fame is estimated at $20,000/$30,000.
A.B. Frost (1851-1928) was called the most American of American artists. He became famous as a cartoonist for Life magazine and illustrator of books by Lewis Carroll, Mark Twain and Joel Chandler Harris. Frost was also an avid
sportsman. His hunting and shooting paintings of marshes and woodlands in the Eastern United States are richly detailed and dramatic. In the July sale is Frost’s The Bull Moose (30” X 20”), a woodland scene with a recently shot moose and a hunter with rifle. It is signed “A. B. Frost/1899” lower right and estimated at $12,000/$18,000.
Noted Western illustrator and sculptor Frederic Remington (1861-1909) did most of his art work in pen and ink and ink wash. His ink Mare and Colt is signed lower left and is estimated at $6000/$9000.
The North Carolina family collected a large number of sporting watercolors by Boris Riab (Russian/French, 1898-1975) whose specialty was watercolors of hunting dogs and birds. Riab’s dogs included pointers, spaniels, Labradors and setters; his favorite birds were woodcocks, teal, pheasants, ducks, partridge, doves and snipe. Pre-sale estimates for the Riabs range from $300 to $600.
Also in abundance are paintings by Boris O’Klein (Russian/French, 1893-1985). O’Klein is best known for Dirty Dogs of Pairs, a humorous lineup of dogs waiting to urinate on a scrawny tree. All of the O’Klein paintings in the sale feature the mishaps of a comical hunter, his hunting dog and the ducks he is trying to bag. The O’Kleins will sell in lots of two with a pre-sale estimate of $500/$1000.
Speaking of ducks, three early original works of art for the federal duck stamp program are in the sale. The first stamp ever issued is the 1934 Ding Darling (American 1876-1962) mallards in flight. Darling conceived the idea of using duck stamps to raise money for the purchase of wetlands. Darling’s original art work for the first stamp and the early stamp itself are estimated at $1500/$2500. Also in the sale is Frank Benson’s canvasback art work for the 1935 stamp and Joseph Knap’s pen and ink drawing for the 1937 greater scaups stamp. The Benson is estimated at $2000/$4000 and the Knap $1000/$1500.
The finest sporting bronze in the sale is Valet de chasse Louis XV et sa harde by Pierre-Jules Mêne (French, 1810-1879). The 27” X 29” X 16 ½” bronze depicts one of King Louis XV’s royal huntsman on horseback, a horn slung around his chest, with five hunting dogs on sloping ground. The original was first commissioned by Napoleon III in 1869. This variation is a late 19th or early 20th century casting and is estimated at $15,000/$20,000.
“The market for fine antique and sporting firearms is strong,” said Auctioneer Bob Brunk. There are over 100 antique firearms and edged weapons in the sale including Winchester rifles, Colt revolvers and some of the finest Sharps carbines ever to cross the auction block. One of the featured rifles is a Guilford County longrifle by William Lamb, one of the early members of a longrifle school operating in that area of North Carolina. With coin silver inlay and a twisted daisy star patch box, the 1830-1840 rifle carries a pre-sale estimate of $4000/$8000.
For information on bidding on any item in the sale via the Internet, by phone, in person or absentee, please visit www.brunkauctions.com or call 828-254-6846 for a color catalog with dimensions, descriptions and estimates.