“Throughout my life I have always been collecting. Every picture I ever sold I still regret. But I never gave up buying. I could not imagine a life without paintings.”
Those were the words of Andy Williams discussing his love of art.
The legendary entertainer, who died last September at 84, said his first interest was French Impressionist painting, but that was early in his career, when he was in his 20s and “I didn’t have any money.”
All he could afford were two dollar prints, he said, “but when I made a little bit of money, then I started buying lithographs for $75.”
It wasn’t until the early 1960s, after nearly a decade of successful records, including his signature “Moon River,” that Williams was able to buy paintings. They grew in number to become a vast collection housed in his California and Branson, Mo., homes and at his Moon River Theater at Branson, and now up for auction at sales in this country and Europe.
The first of the sales was his folk art collection that sold last month at Skinner’s American Furniture & Decorative Arts Auction for $2,074,250.
The top seller was the 1834 double portrait of the 10-year-old Ten Broeck twins, Jacob Wessel and William Henry, of Clermont, N.Y., painted by the Connecticut-born folk artist Ammi Phillips. It sold for $750,000 against a $300,000-
It was followed by the $400,000 paid for an unsigned 19th-century still life of fruit and flowers, possibly by Joseph Proctor, a little-known African-American artist, and the $325,000 paid for a racetrack tout tobacconist figure, possibly carved by Charles Dowler of Providence. Each had a $150,000-$250,000 estimate.
An 1830 Phillips portrait of a young boy in a pink dress pictured with a spaniel sold for $120,000 against a $200,000-$300,000 estimate, while a pair of early-20th-century widgeon decoys by the Ward brothers, Lemuel and Stephen, of Crisfield, Md., went for $110,000, more than five times the low of the $20,000-$30,000 estimate.
The 1866 portrait of the side-wheeler steamboat Neversink by the New York marine artist James Bard brought $90,000 (estimate was $50,000-
$75,000) and a circa 1880 view of the buildings and surroundings of the Berks County almshouse in Reading, Pa., painted by John Rasmussen, a German émigré, fetched $85,000 (estimate $100,000-$150,000).
The collection’s 12 weather vanes were topped by a late-19th-century gilt molded copper and cast zinc pig vane that brought $30,000 against a $15,000-$25,000 estimate.
All of the collection’s 22 lots sold except for a circa 1860 horse weather vane by J. Howard & Co., of West Bridgewater (estimate $15,000-
$25,000), and a 19th-century portrait of a woman attributed to the Leverett-born folk artist Erastus Salisbury Field (estimate $2,500-$3,500). The vane had minor imperfections and the portrait had a patch repair on the back of the canvas.
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Andy Williams’s collection of postwar and contemporary art, Impressionist and modern art, American and Latin American art will be auctioned by Christie’s in a series of sales in May followed in June by the sale of his African art in Paris.
The large group of postwar and contemporary works to be sold in New York on May 15-16 is expected to bring in excess of $30 million and will be followed by the sale of additional postwar and contemporary works in London on June 25-26.
Among the works in the New York sale are Willem de Kooning’s 1964 “Untitled XVII,” a masterpiece of his final years of painting; Ed Ruscha’s “Mint,” an evocative picture from his 1967-69 “liquid word” paintings; and “Berkeley,” Richard Diebenkorn’s 1955 translation of abstract expressionist methods through vivid saturated color.
Other highlights include Hans Hofmann’s “Beatae Memoriae” (1964), a color-filled canvas from Hofmann’s most celebrated period, and Kenneth Noland’s circa 1960 “Circle” and “Untitled,” painted in 1958 and 1959, which are from his early breakthrough series of circles (sometimes referred to as “targets”), one of the seminal icons of postwar American painting.
The Impressionist and Modern Art Auction on May 8-9 includes works by Paul Klee, Henry Moore, Alexander Archipenko, Egon Schiele, and Pablo Picasso.
Six works are included in the May 23 American Art Auction highlighted by two paintings by Milton Avery, “The “Musicians” (1949) and “Pale Flower” (1951). The May 30 Latin American Art Auction includes “Untitled,” a 1937 abstract by the Cuban-born artist Wifredo Lam.
A selection of African sculpture led by an extremely rare Igbo couple from Nigeria will be sold by Christie’s at its June 12 African and Oceanic Art Auction in Paris.
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The Andy Williams Collection of Navajo Blankets to be auctioned by Sotheby’s on May 21 is described as “one of the finest collections of its type remaining in private hands.” It is expected to bring in excess of $1 million.
The collection is led by a first- phase chief’s wearing blanket, the rarest type of Navajo blanket and one of the great icons of American Indian art. It has a $200,000-$300,000 estimate.
While it is thought that Navajo blankets were woven from the late 1600s, very few dating before 1850 have survived. By that time the blankets were well established as a trade item throughout large areas of the West. A Navajo chief’s blanket was expensive, with the going rate 100 buffalo hides, 20 horses, 10 rifles, or five ounces of gold.
Only 50 Navajo men’s wearing blankets in a chief’s first-phase design are known to exist in museum and private collections. The blanket being auctioned is distinguished by a series of thin red stripes overlaying a classic banded ground of ivory, brown, and indigo blue, making it a bayeta first phase, the rarest type of Navajo blanket, with only 10 known to exist.Virginia Bohlin can be reached at globe