The art market is currently very lop-sided with prices and number of sales heavily favoring postwar and contemporary art, while the art of Gari Melchers era is actually below 2011 sales numbers. But this should favor the buyer in this sector, and collectors are encouraged to patiently seek opportunities in this more reasonably priced niche.
So, the picture to keep on your radar is Nellie Kabel, ca. 1913, an exceptional offering by Melchers consigned through Christies New York on May 22nd. It is a marvelous example of the pre-WWI theme of women in decorative domestic settings popularized by Melchers and other American impressionists like Childe Hassam, Frederick Frieseke, and Robert Reid. This is large signed oil on canvas, measuring 38 x 40 inches, and it is in its original frame. The painting’s setting is the attractive interior of Schuylenburg, the former Dutch residence of his painter-friend George Hitchcock and a favorite choice of Melchers for interior backgrounds. The subject is a local Dutch model Nellie Kabel. The picture is being sold by the Sidney and Diana Avery Trust of Sherman Oaks, CA. Mr. Avery is a legendary Hollywood photographer of the stars, who also developed the technique of solarization in motion picture film and founded the Hollywood Photographers Archive, later the Motion Picture and Television Archives, now known as mptvimages. The presale estimate is $150,000 to $200,000.
All around it’s been an active market season for painter Gari Melchers, with some affordable deals being offered. Beginning in February of this year a signed 32 x 25 inch oil on canvas portrait of an unknown man sold for 15,000 at Christies, NY.
About a month later Charlton Hall Galleries, Columbia, South Carolina, brought to the auction block an unsigned 23 x 25 inch oil on canvas sketch Melchers painted of the house at Belmont about 1916, about the time he first took possession of the property. The composition is based on a photograph taken at the base of a decrepit arbor at the east elevation of the house. The painting was presented as a gift by Mrs. Melchers to a young friend and descendent of the Ficklen family, previous owners of the property. The painting remains unsold.
Shannon’s Fine Art Auctioneers, Milford, Ct, just sold a strikingly chromatic Still Life with Blue Bowl, 16 x 21 inches. The bowl of zinnias was painted by the artist while on retreat from his commercial headquarters in New York. In later years Melchers enjoyed reproducing flower- laden containers brought inside from his wife’s garden at Belmont. The bowl featured in the composition is still in the collection at Belmont. The picture sold for $18,000.