The late John F. Gale of Cambridge, a real estate entrepreneur, grew up in the small rural Vermont town of Plainfield and he never lost his love for the Northeast Kingdom.
Nostalgia for that area, which was described in 2006 by the National Geographic Society as “the most desirable place to visit in this country and the ninth most desirable place to visit in the world,” led Gale to start collecting paintings of Vermont’s snow-covered mountains and other wintry scenes by Aldro Thompson Hibbard (1886-1972), the Cape Ann artist who wintered in Vermont and became known as “the painter of New England winters.”
Gale’s interest gradually gravitated toward paintings of Rockport and Gloucester scenes by Hibbard and other Cape Ann School artists such as Frederick Mulhaupt (1871-1938), one of its premier impressionists and dean of the Cape Ann School; W. Lester Stevens (1888-1969), Rockport’s first native-born artist; T.M. Nicholas (1963-), considered one of the most prominent painters of his generation; and Emile Gruppe (1896-1978), known not only for his portrayal of Gloucester’s harbor and houses but also for his rural Vermont scenes.
Gale’s collection grew over the years to number 120 paintings, all but 16 of them by Cape Ann artists, and they literally filled the walls of his two-story home from floor to ceiling.
Gale died in October 2011 at 80. His collection will be offered at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, the first of James D. Julia’s three-day Winter Antiques, Fine Art & Asian Auction in Fairfield, Maine.
Topping the collection, described by Julia, president of the auction firm, as “without doubt the finest and largest offering of Cape Ann School paintings to come to auction in many years,” are Mulhaupt’s harbor scene “Gloucester Gill Netters” (with an estimate of $50,000-$80,000), Hibbard’s snow-covered “West River Valley, Vt.” ($30,000-
$40,000), and Stevens’s “Old Mill, Vermont” ($15,000-$20,000).
Wednesday’s auction includes 283 other works of fine art with estimates from $15,000-$25,000 to $100-$200.
Gale also collected vintage toys, and last November Julia sold his collection of 47 cast-iron and tin toys from the 1920s and ’30s, all but one of which brought above estimate for a gross of just over $51,000. The top seller was a circa 1920s tin lithographed Lyons Confectionery delivery truck that went for $4,830.
Julia’s Thursday session features folk art, furniture, clocks, and nautical, historical, and Native American items.
Highlighting the folk art are 19 weather vanes with estimates from $15,000-$20,000 to $1,200-$1,500 and a pair of circa 1839 Portsmouth, N.H., fire buckets ($35,000-$45,000), while highlighting the furniture is an eight-piece late-19th-century Aesthetic Movement parlor suite by Herter Brothers of New York ($15,000-$20,000).
One of the rarest offerings is a late-18th/early-19th-century “Father Time” wall clock from the property of actress Polly Bergen. Carved with winged figures of “Father Time” with a sickle and “Mother Time” with an hourglass, it has a $50,000-$70,000 estimate.
Friday’s auction featuring Asian art and artifacts is highlighted by an 18th/19th-century Korean longevity screen and a rare 17th/18th-century Chinese rhinoceros horn raft cup, one of about 18 known to exist.
The 10-panel folding screen decorated with symbols for long life is being sold without a reserve (no minimum set price). The rhinoceros cup, carved as a hollowed-out tree trunk raft or boat with two figures, one depicting the second-century BC explorer Zhang Qian and a partially dressed European woman, has a $40,000-$60,000 estimate.
Other offerings of note are two Chinese beds, a 19th-century or earlier
Luohan Chuang, a low three-railing daybed ($3,000-$5,000), and a late-19th/early-20th-century “marriage bed,” a canopy bed with side panels for privacy ($2,000-$3,000) .
. . .
A charming painting of two children playing with geese in a lakeside meadow by the German artist Alexander Max Koester (1864-1932) is among the highlights of Skinner’s American & European Works of Art Auction Friday at its Boston gallery. The estimate is $50,000-
This also is the estimate for “St. Tropez,” an enigmatic circa 1937-39 oil painting by the French artist Francis Picabia (1879-1953) and a prime example of the type of reworking and overpainting for which he was known. An earlier composition, probably from the late 1920s, lies underneath the visible work.
Other top paintings (each with a $30,000-$50,000 estimate) include a Mulhaupt oil, “Evening Glow, Gloucester Harbor,” and “The Old Homestead, Castine, Maine,” an 1851 watercolor by Fitz Henry Lane (1804-65), which he inscribed to his friend “J.L. Stevens Jr.,” whose father owned the homestead.
The expected top selling work of art is a
pair of bronze Great Danes sculpted in 1907 in France by Cambridge-born Anna Hyatt Huntington (1876-1973) and recast in the 1930s without their bases. The estimate is $125,000-
The paintings and sculpture will be sold at 4 p.m. following the noon sale of 261 prints and photographs led by the 1977 “Drawing on Woodblock Proof 1” ($50,000-$60,000) by the abstract expressionist Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011). It is being sold to benefit Community Servings, a nonprofit food and nutrition program feeding families of the critically ill in 18 Massachusetts communities.
. . .
Skinner is offering for the first time a new way to bid on and purchase Asian art.
A fixed-time online auction will be held concurrently with Thursday’s
10 a.m. live auction of 569 lots being held at its Marlborough gallery. Bidding on the online auction of an additional 572 lots starts tomorrow at noon and will continue until 6 p.m. on Feb. 6. For more information call 508-970-3279.
Estimates for the two auctions range from $2,500-$3,500 for a 19th-century Chinese 5-inch blue-and-white lobed jar to $50-$75 for two pairs of 20th-century Chinese 6-inch cloisonné vases.
Virginia Bohlin can be reached at globe