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Oil painting by James McNeil Whistler will headline Woodshed Art Auctions sale
Rare oil on board painting by James McNeill Whistler (American, 1834-1903), titled Peasant Woman, done during Whistler’s time spent in Venice, circa 1880 (est. $200,000-$300,000).

FRANKLIN, MASS.- An exclusive selection of antique and modern paintings and drawings, to include a rare figural oil painting by the renowned American artist James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), titled Peasant Woman (1880), will be offered in a 51st Anniversary Art Auction planned for Thursday, April 4th, by Woodshed Art Auctions, starting at 5:30 pm Eastern time.

The auction commemorates Woodshed Art Auctions’ 51st year in business (Woodshed Gallery was founded in 1968). It will be held online and live in the 500 Gallery, at 475 Franklin Village Drive in Franklin. People can register and bid now, at Previews will be held Wednesdays-thru-Fridays from 10-5, and Saturdays from 10-3, on up to auction day.

“Our 51st anniversary catalogue reflects a range of styles and art movements that dominated American and European tastes in the 19th and 20th centuries, and continue to inform our visual cultural experience,” said Bruce Wood, the owner of Woodshed Art Auctions. “Many of these works may enrich the imaginations of new generations as we head into our next demi-century.”

The figural oil painting by Whistler is the sale’s undisputed headliner but also featured will be a wide selection of paintings by, and attributed to, artists such as Andy Warhol, Philip Guston, Cy Twombly, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Franz Kline, Mark Rothko, Stuart Davis, Man Ray, Serge Poliakoff, Miguel Covarrubias and even Dr. Seuss. Phone and absentee bids will be accepted.

Whistler’s Peasant Woman is unsigned, but comes with impeccable provenance. The piece was gifted to a Mr. Ritter, an acquaintance of Whistler’s in Venice, by the artist in 1880. Ritter sold it to Robert Day Andrews around 1892 and Day then donated it to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. It was later deaccessioned by the museum and acquired by the current owners in 1994.

What makes the piece so attractive to collectors (aside from the fact that any original work by Whistler is bound to attract attention) is that it was painted in Venice, during a time when the vast majority of the artist’s work consisted of etchings and pastel and chalk drawings. This was by necessity, as Whistler was nearly destitute. An oil painting by him from the era is very rare.

After the publication of John Riskin’s acclaimed book, Stones of Venice, many notable artists – to include Whistler – flocked to the Italian city to capture the splendor of which Ruskin wrote. But Whistler eschewed the city’s Gothic architecture that his contemporaries captured on canvas in favor of the city’s poverty-stricken areas, which he referred to as “the Venice of Venetians.”

Many of Whistler’s subjects were women at work – almost always placed within their familiar, local environment, engaged in mundane activities like doing the wash or stringing beads. He sought to depict the true aesthetic nature of the city (and in doing so he gained many pupils). Portrait of a Girl is a fine representation of this time. It’s estimated to bring $200,000-$300,000.

Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987) will make multiple appearances in the auction. Works attributed to the Pop Art icon will include a crayon sketch on thin tan paper of Chinese leader Chairman Mao (1975), signed and dated under the unframed image (est. $80,000-$120,000); and a mixed media painting, Siberian Tiger (1983), verso signed and framed (est. $25,000-$35,000).

Another painting with the potential to soar to six figures is the oil on canvas attributed to New York School artist Philip Guston (American, 1912-1980), titled Smoking Head with Plant, signed lower right (est. $80,000-$100,000). Also, an oil on illustration board attributed to Stuart Davis (American, 1892-1964), titled Champion, artist signed and framed, should hit $20,000-$30,000.

A 1958 Color Field Painting by Mark Rothko (1903-1970), an American artist of Russian Jewish descent, housed in a frame measuring 41 ½ inches by 53 ½ inches, should command $60,000-$80,000. Also, an acrylic and ink on canvas attributed to Cy Twombly (American, 1928-2011), titled West Germany, signed and dated (’89) and in a frame, should hammer for $8,000-$12,000.

An acrylic on canvas attributed to Jean-Michel Basquiat (American, 1960-1988), titled Beast, with the artist’s trademark crown signature verso and in a 33 inch by 48 ½ inch frame, has an estimate of $20,000-$30,000; while an oil on two-ply illustration board attributed to Miguel Covarrubias (Mexican, 1904-1957), titled Jazz Scene, is expected to realize $30,000-$35,000.

Two abstract compositions are certain to attract keen bidder interest. One is done in the manner of the Russian-French artist Serge Poliakoff (1900-1969) and is artist signed and in a 15 ¾ inch by 19 ¾ inch frame (est. $8,000-$12,000). The other is attributed to Franz Kline (American, 1910-1962) and is also signed and framed (est. $6,000-$8,000). Both are oil on canvas works.

A whimsical mixed media on paper attributed to Theodor Seuss Geisel (also known as American artist Dr. Seuss, 1904-1991), titled A Plethora of Fish, signed bottom right and unframed, carries an estimate of $10,000-$12,000. Also, a black ink on paper drawing attributed to Man Ray (American, 1890-1976), titled Surreal Woman/Hand (1917), signed, should make $3,000-$5,000.

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