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The Michael Scharf Family Collection leads Christie's American Art Sale
Oscar Florianus Bluemner (1867-1938), Old Canal Port, New Jersey, oil on board, 15 x 20 in. Painted circa 1914, 1916-17 and 1931. Estimate: $600,000 - $800,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.

NEW YORK, NY.- Christie’s announced The Michael Scharf Family Collection will lead the American Art sale on May 22. Considered one of the finest collections of American Modernism, this impressive group of twenty-eight paintings offers a strong representation from the Stieglitz Circle with works by Georgia O’Keeffe, Marsden Hartley, and Arthur Dove, as well as exceptional early explorations into abstraction by artists including Max Weber and Charles Green Shaw.

Michael Scharf began his collection of American Modernism in 1972 when he purchased Arthur Dove’s Parabola and began to study the artist and his contemporaries. His collecting habits, however, were founded during his childhood with serial collections of stamps, porcelain pugs, early editions of Elizabethan plays and British literature, and early sixteenth-century Hebrew books printed in Constantinople.

Michael Scharf comments, “The more I studied, the more I came to believe Arthur Dove, Georgia O’Keeffe, Max Weber, Marsden Hartley, and John Marin were important artists who were responsible for instigating a transformation in the development of Modern American art. Also, the purchase of Parabola caused a bee to land in my bonnet. The bee stung me into activity, and a burning interest developed. Thus the Collection was born.”

Eric Widing, Deputy Chairman, American Art, Christie’s remarks, “Over many decades, Michael Scharf assembled an authoritative collection which represents, in depth, the emergence of modernism in America. Among its highlights are masterworks by many of the best-known American artists of the early twentieth century: Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, Georgia O’Keeffe, Max Weber and dozens of others. Some works are among the earliest American abstractions, others explore nature and still others touch upon diverse subjects such as the city, music, and mystical and symbolic imagery. It is a justly celebrated collection.”

Leading the collection is Georgia O’Keeffe’s Inside Red Canna, 1919, which is arguably the artist’s earliest depiction of a magnified flower in oil (estimate: $4,000,000-6,000,000). A triumph of American Modernism, the work is the culmination of a series of a small watercolors and oil paintings of cannas O’Keeffe created between 1918 and 1919. Of this group, Inside Red Canna is the largest in scale and is one of the most compositionally complex paintings within O’Keeffe’s early oeuvre. The painting was included in O’Keeffe’s watershed 1923 retrospective exhibition at Anderson Galleries, organized by her dealer and future husband Alfred Stieglitz, which launched the artist to her iconic status.

Arthur G. Dove’s River Bottom, Silver, Ochre, Carmine, Green, circa 1923 (estimate: $3,000,000-5,000,000), is among the most important works by the artist to come to the market and reflects Dove’s deep connection to the American landscape and his fascination with water. In this view looking down onto a riverbed, Dove creates an amorphous exploration of color, line and form, pushing representation of nature to the edge of abstraction.

Marsden Hartley’s Abstraction (estimate: $4,000,000-6,000,000) was created in 1912-13 during a pivotal period of his career in Europe and embodies one of the artist’s most experimental and boldest abstract statements of his oeuvre. Building upon his musical ‘intuitive’ works of late 1912, and anticipating the politically and personally entrenched wartime German Officer paintings, Abstraction veritably vibrates with the intellectual and spiritual energy of one of the greatest visionaries of early twentieth-century art.

The collection also features seminal artists of early abstraction including one of the first shaped canvases ever painted in America by Charles Green Shaw, Plastic Polygon, 1937 (estimate: $250,000-350,000). Other collection highlights include works by Oscar Bluemner, Max Weber and Konrad Cramer, among others.

In addition, paintings from the Michael Scharf Family Collection by Man Ray and Arshile Gorky will be offered during Christie’s 20th Century Week in the Impressionist & Modern Art and Post War & Contemporary Art Day Sales.

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