Oil painting by the American abstract expressionist Fritz Bultman (1919-1985), titled Cape May II, one of five paintings by Bultman in the auction ($23,750).
CRANSTON, RI.- Abstract expressionist paintings by American artist Fritz Bultman (1919-1985) dominated the list of top lots at Bruneau & Co. Auctioneers’ Summer Antiques & Fine Art Auction held June 3rd, online and in the firm’s Cranston gallery. The sale consisted of over 400 lots of original artwork, vintage lamps, American and European bronze sculptures and art glass.
There were five works by Bultman up for bid, all part of a larger collection owned by Ruth Latta of Provincetown, Mass. The sale’s two top lots were both large collages of painted papers by Bultman, one titled Cape May II ($23,750) and the other Insectual ($22,500). A third work, an untitled oil on canvas by Bultman, acquired from the artist directly and done in 1960, hit $8,750.
That the Bultman paintings did so well came as no real surprise. As a painter, sculptor and collagist, and a member of the esteemed New York School of artists, Fritz Bultman is an artist whose creations are highly sought after by collectors. He was born in New Orleans and honed his craft in New York City, where he became one of the era’s pre-eminent abstract expressionists.
“June 3rd was definitely the day for Fritz Bultman,” said Travis Landry, Bruneau & Co.’s specialist and auctioneer. “His collages reached prices previously unattainable. He’s certainly an artist to keep an eye on for the future market, having been a student of Hans Hofmann (German-American, 1880-1966). This was absolutely a case of the apple not falling far from the tree.”
About 120 people attended the auction in person, while another 2,593 people registered to bid online, across all platforms: LiveAuctioneers.com, Invaluable.com, eBay and Auctionzip.com, the Bruneau & Co. Auctioneers’ app available on GooglePlay and the Apple Store, as well as at bidlive.bruneauandco.com. In addition, 109 phone bids and 89 absentee bids were also recorded.
Overall, the auction grossed a little more than $222,000, including the buyer’s premium. “Prices were strong on the quality, high-end items,” said Kevin Bruneau, Bruneau & Co.’s president and auctioneer.” He added, “Prices were also fair throughout the middle of the road.” Following are additional highlights from the auction. All prices quoted include the 25 percent buyer’s premium.
A Ludwig Vierthaler (German, 1875-1967) for Winhart & Co. (Munich, Germany) Art Nouveau hand-wrought copper vase gaveled for $5,938. It was one of two Ludwig Vierthaler vases in the sale and was decorated with a gorgeous and naturalistic repousse cicada with inset opal. The wings of the cicada beautifully enveloped the 7 ¼ inch tall vase with hammered dimple accents.
An Impressionist oil on canvas painting titled Gloucester, Mass., done by Herbert Cyrus Farnum (R.I., 1866-1925), a member of the Providence Art Club, sailed past its $1,000-$2,000 estimate to fetch $3,125. The artist-signed work depicted a dirt road running alongside a coastline with cottages, and a man leaning against a fence. Several boats were shown at sea in the background.
An ink, pencil and watercolor by Vermont illustrator-realist George Timothy Tobin (1864-1956), used as cover art for the January 1907 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, finished at $4,000. It was one of six works in the sale by Tobin from the artist’s private collection, given directly to his niece It depicted the profile of a Greek goddess holding a large gilt skeleton key and a seated man on the bow of the key.
A bronze sculpture of a standing female nude titled Star, attributed to Harriet Whitney Frishmuth (Conn./N.Y., 1880-1980), signed and dated 1918, hammered for $4,375. The 19 ¾ inch sculpture (with base) depicted a female nude with arched back and arms outstretched toward the sky. The piece was not numbered, but it did bear the Gorham foundry mark and a form number (“Q505”).
A fine scrimshaw model of a Schooner sailboat by Chester Gotauco (Dartmouth, Mass.), 30 ½ inches long and 30 inches tall, masterfully crafted with intricate detail, knocked down for $3,438. The boat possessed numerous superb intricacies, including adjustable masts, cannons, interior components of the vessel and a life boat strung on the stern. It exhibited only very minor wear.
An Art Nouveau figural bowl by the French-Russian-American artist known as “Erte” (real name, Romain de Tirtoff, 1892-1990), titled Ocean II, coasted to $2.250. The bowl was an abstracted sailing vessel with a front figurehead of a nude woman. The interior of the bowl was signed “Erte”. It was dated (“1987”), numbered (292 of 300), and had the Conker foundry mark.
A pair of European Grand Tour Greco-Roman bronze bookends of athletes, each one overall about 11 inches tall including the sienna marble plinth base, went to a determined bidder for $1,875. The athletes were depicted in contrapposto, with heads bowed and hands on abdomens.
Not sold in the auction was a folk art automaton of a steamboat side wheeler made by prospector William “Billy” Briggs of Bristol, Rhode Island upon his return from the Klondike Gold Rush in Canada and completed around 1905. The vessel, titled the Klondike, is 7 inches tall by 21 inches long. It was masterfully constructed with intricate detail and had an estimate of $25,000-$35,000.
“Just goes to show how markets have changed in the last decade,” Mr. Landry said. “Ten years ago a fierce bidding war would have broken out for this wonderful piece of American history, but not today. I have no doubt it will command a nice high price sometime in the future – just not this sale. Fortunately, just about everything else in all categories met or exceeded expectations.”
Bruneau & Co. Auctioneers’ next big sale will be on Saturday, July 22nd, also online and in the Cranston gallery. Featured items will include around 25 pieces of fine jewelry and watches, to include a collection of Patek Philippes, Rolexes and a 5-carat diamond ring. Also sold will be a 1986 Mustang SVO muscle car, a 1948 Chevrolet stake body truck and a 2002 Mercedes E320.