John Moran’s October 25th California and American Fine Art Auction Gratifies Collector Demand for California-Centric Works


• Quintessential California scenes at every price point prove ever-popular among collectors
• More than $2.1 million in sales achieved
• Four auction records broken for California and American artists
• An important early painting of the Yosemite Valley by Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902 New York, NY) inspires a dozen bidders to compete via telephone and obliterates its conservative pre-auction estimate.


MONROVIA, CA - John Moran Auctioneers’ highly anticipated October 25th California and American Fine Art Auction was a standing-room-only affair, bringing in bidders from across the country to participate in person, via telephone, and online though the Liveauctioneers and Invaluable platforms. Bidders were particularly energized to bid for high-value auction lots, such as a coveted Albert Bierstadt painting of Yosemite and a large-scale poppy field scene by John Frost. Amassing more than $2.1 million in sales and breaking four artist auction records, Moran’s October California and American Fine Art Auction was a decided success for consignors.

Top-lot status for the evening went definitively to Albert Bierstadt’s (1830-1902 New York, NY) “El Capitan, Yosemite”, a historically important scene of Yosemite Valley dating to 1866, shortly after Bierstadt’s first expedition to the valley in 1863. It is important to note that this work was completed a few short years after the bloodiest battles of the American Civil War were fought, at a time where East Coast collectors sought escapist, romanticized scenes to assuage their war fatigue. “El Capitan, Yosemite” is an excellent example of the artist’s overriding commitment to realism; while the romantic, unsullied western landscape aims to provide a much-needed salve to east coast collectors, nobody could accuse Bierstadt of taking undue liberties with the grand Yosemite scenery. “El Capitan, Yosemite” inspired at least ten bidders to sign up to bid via telephone, as well as multiple buyers participating via online platforms and left bids. In the end, a telephone bidder proved successful, paying $660,000 for the work, well over the very conservative $40,000 to $60,000 estimate (prices realized include Moran’s 20% house Buyer’s Premium).

Romantic California-centric scenes did well throughout the evening. Earlier in the sale, Pasadena artist John Frost’s 1927 composition “Poppies”, which provided a sweeping view of a blooming poppy-filled California landscape with distant snow-capped mountains in the background, was brought to the block with a $60,000 to $90,000 estimate. “Poppies” earned a price just over the high end of the range, realizing $96,000. William Wendt (1865-1946 Laguna Beach, CA) was represented in Moran’s October catalogue with a verdant view of Santa Ana Canyon; providing a wide-reaching perspective from a sloping hillside, Wendt’s landscape brought $90,00 at the auction block, thanks to competition from multiple telephone bidders (pre-auction estimate: $80,000 to $120,000). Providing a more modern example, Orrin A. White’s “Mountain Ranch”, a masterful light-splashed depiction of a farmhouse nestled beneath a swath of gold-toned foothills was brought to the block with a $15,000 to $20,000 estimate, which proved prescient when the work brought $15,600. Breaking the current auction record for the artist, “Sunshine on the Swamp, California” by Carmel, CA artist Ida Maynard Curtis provided a sweet, painterly view of California in the summer; the work brought $6000 after a bidding war between telephone buyers broke out (estimate: $2000 to $3000).

In addition to the more idealized California scenes on offer, some works featured in Moran’s October catalogue put forward a more somber view of the west; Alfred James Dewey’s “Forgotten Men” broke the auction record for the artist, earning $9600 at the block. Depicting men laboring to build the Sierra Madre Bailey Canyon dam, the work was initially estimated to bring $3000 to $5000. The second-highest earning lot of the evening was a more atmospheric work by Granville Redmond, a rather large-scale scene of a shepherd and his flock heading down a dirt lane; dating to 1913, “Going Home” brought a price within estimate, at $114,000 (pre-auction estimate: $100,000 to $150,00).

Western-themed works of art have, for the last two years at least, been performing quite well thanks to renewed collector interest. Even contemporary examples have been hotly contested at Moran’s auctions – one apt example came in the form of a large-scale work consigned from the Estate of Phoebe Hearst Cooke by artist Tucker Smith (b. 1940 Hoback Rim, WY), titled “Wyoming Range”. Offering a sweeping view of mountains, pine forests, and two cowboys on horseback herding cattle, the work brought $45,000 (estimate: $40,000 to $60,000). Also from the Hearst Cooke estate, a dynamic bronze titled “Jumping Cholla” by Keith Christie (b. 1935 Browns Valley, CA), depicting a cowboy on the back of a horse startled by the cactus, brought $2700 (estimate: $1500 to $2500). A small selection of large-scale polychromed bronzes by Dave McGary (1958-2013 Ruidoso, NM) also performed quite well – McGary’s “Bounty of Gray Hawk” was brought to the block with a $6000 to $8000 estimate, earning $15,600.

Select modern and contemporary paintings and prints were offered later in the evening, with some works achieving stellar prices thanks to heavy online participation. Che Chuang’s (b. 1934 Michigan/China) abstract expressionist composition performed particularly well at the block, bringing $15,600 (estimate: $5000 to $8000). Shortly thereafter, prints by Santa Monica, CA artist Sam Francis (1923-1994) and Spencertown, NY artist Ellsworth Kelly (1923-2015) were offered and earned very respectable prices realized. Going to an absentee bidder, Sam Francis’s “Freshet”, an abstract splatter composition, brought a price within the $2000 to $4000 estimate, earning $3600. Ellsworth Kelly’s geometric abstract “Blue/Yellow/Red” found a buyer online for $3900 (estimate: $4000 to 6000)

Additional highlights from throughout Moran’s sale include:
• The evening’s first auction record set was for Los Angeles, CA-based artist Florine A. Hyer (1868-1936), whose charming painterly still life of roses in a basket consigned from a private Virginia collection brought $3000, well over the $800 to $1200 estimate.
• Later, a more traditional American still life featuring fruit, a glass of champagne and a bird’s nest by Severin Roesen (1815-1872 Williamsport, PA) earned $27,000 at the auction block . Consigned from a Private Southern California collection, the work was initially estimated to bring $25,000 to $35,000.
• An auction record was also set for Brentwood, CA artist Warren Newcombe (1894-1960), whose painting “The Plaza – Los Angeles” dating to 1936 earned $13,200 (estimate: $5000 to $7000).
• Alson Skinner Clark’s impressionist view of a eucalyptus-lined path through a verdant landscape, consigned from the prestigious University Club of Pasadena, proved a bidder favorite. Full of golden California light, the scene realized $36,000 (estimate: $30,000 to $50,000).

Moran’s next auction is their November 15th 2016 Decorative Art Auction, which features Asian objects from the Estate of Andrew F. Chandler alongside Continental furniture and paintings, silver and porcelain from other private Southern California estates and Collections. Highlights from the November catalogue include gilt-bronze sculptures of Buddhist deities, porcelain by Amphora and Sevres and a curated selection of European works of art spanning from the 19th century to the contemporary. The full catalogue is online now, and online bidding is available via www.liveauctioneers.com and www.invaluable.com.

John Moran will host three auction sessions on Tuesday, December 6th, including a Fine Jewelry Auction, a Decorative Art Auction and a special session comprising a curated selection of Important Chinese Objects from the Estate of Andrew F. Chandler and a private Ventura, CA collection. Catalogues for these sessions will be live via www.johnmoran.com and the above-listed online platforms in the coming weeks.

John Moran Auctioneers is currently consigning for their March 2017 California and American Fine Art Auction, as well as for their January 2017 Studio Auction, which will feature American, European and Asian works of art spanning from the 18th century to the contemporary. Contact John Moran Auctioneers directly via telephone: (626) 793-1833 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for information about consignment.

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