Auction Punk!

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American & European Art takes Center Stage at Skinner, May 16

Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973), Femme retenant son   peignoir, c. 1923 (Lot 601, Estimate $30,000-$50,000)

Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973), Femme retenant son peignoir, c. 1923 (Lot 601, Estimate $30,000-$50,000)

BOSTON, MA – April 29, 2014 Skinner, Inc.  is pleased to offer a tremendous selection of fine works during its May 16th auction of American & European Works of Art and American & European Prints & Photography.

The two-part auction will feature a robust offering of modern and contemporary paintings – including an institutional collection of large-scale Polish works – as well as works on paper by iconic artists from Picasso to Miró. The Prints section will spotlight quintessential examples by such artists as Mary Cassatt and Paul Cézanne. A stellar section of photography rounds out the auction highlighted by a private New England collection of daguerreotypes, as well as several photographs by Andreas Feininger.

Robin Starr, Director of American & European Works of Art at Skinner adds, “What’s really exciting about this auction is not only the strength of the offerings, but also the thrilling provenance of many of these items, having come to us from families of individuals with direct connections to the artists.”


Pablo Picasso is represented by several works, including his pencil drawing Femme retenant son peignoir, c. 1923 (Lot 601, $30,000 to $50,000). This piece also has an intriguing provenance, from the Estate of Hester M. (née Chanler) Pickman (1893-1989), a descendant of the Astor family.  Pickman and her husband had connections to the artists in Paris during the early 1920s, and it is likely that the work was acquired by the couple during their trip to Europe, circa 1923.  The drawing was since passed down through the family to its current owner.

Flush with strong examples of fine works on paper, the May 16th auction will also feature Joan Miró’s Sans Titre, 1958, a whimsical crayon on paper work dedicated and signed by the artist (Lot 610, $12,000 to $18,000). The drawing comes from the Estate of Elizabeth Allen Straus, a lifelong trustee of the Museum of Modern Art who was an acquaintance of Miró.


Bernard Buffet (French, 1928-1999), Nature morte à   l'assiette et verre (Lot 608, Estimate $30,000-$60,000)

Bernard Buffet (French, 1928-1999), Nature morte à l’assiette et verre (Lot 608, Estimate $30,000-$60,000)

Among the auction’s standout paintings are a selection of large and impactful works from a group of Polish artists, all arriving from an institutional collection. Several paintings by Tomasz Tatarczyk will be on the block, including the oil triptych Czarne Pudlo [Black Box], 1984 (Lot 639, $10,000 to $15,000). Also available are three works by Leon Tarasewicz, including his striking ink and gouache Untitled [Clustered Birds], (Lot 642, $25,000 to $35,000).

Le Pho’s beautiful Fleurs, (Lot 622, $18,000 to $22,000), long part of a private Massachusetts collection, is another exceptional offering, as well as David Burliuk’s lively House of Van Gogh, 1950 (Lot 624, $15,000 to $20,000). Also available is Bernard Buffet’s Nature morte à l’assiette et verre, an oil and graphite piece originally purchased at auction in Sao Paolo in 1971 and passed down through the family to its present owner (Lot 608, $30,000 to $60,000).

Ceramics and Sculpture

Desirable editioned ceramics by Picasso will be showcased, with three examples arriving from a private U.S. collector.  A highlight is Dove at the Dormer, 1949 (Lot 63, $5,000 to $7,000), a charming, white clay earthenware platter from an edition of 200.

Skinner is also pleased to offer a stunning bronze by Käthe Kollwitz entitled Die Klage (Lot 603, $15,000 to $25,000).  Its consignor is a descendant of Jean L. Wasserman, curator of 19th- and 20th-Century Sculpture at the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University (1969-c.1987), and author of the definitive book on Daumier, Daumier Sculpture: A Critical and Comparative Study.

Fine Prints

Mary Cassatt (American, 1844-1926) Margot Wearing a   Bonnet (No. 5), c. 1902 (Lot 25, Estimate $15,000-  $25,000)

Mary Cassatt (American, 1844-1926) Margot Wearing a Bonnet (No. 5), c. 1902 (Lot 25, Estimate $15,000- $25,000)

A stellar selection of Prints includes Mary Cassatt’s Margot Wearing a Bonnet (No. 5), c. 1902 (Lot 25, $15,000 to $25,000). Its subject, Margot Lux, was from a small village outside of Paris, and was featured in nearly fifty compositions by Cassatt. Another item with a remarkable provenance, the print descended from the sitter to her grand-niece Ellen Meigs, who subsequently gifted it to the family of the present owner.

Also sure to please is the Print auction’s cover lot: Paul Cézanne’s Les baigneurs – petite planche, alternatively titled Les Petits Baigneurs 1897, a color lithograph, second state of two (Lot 26, $10,000 to $15,000).

This section will spotlight several strong works by Frank Weston Benson; including his stirring 1920 etching A Cup of Water, 1920, which descended within the family of the artist (Lot 15, $1,200 to $1,800).

Fine Photography

Skinner is pleased to offer an exceptional New England collection of daguerreotype portraits of men, women, and children, including several representing the school of Southworth & Hawes, the preeminent Boston studio in the second half of the 19th century. The collection features primarily American works, although it also includes two very standout images by the British daguerreotypist William Edward Kilburn (Lot 87, $1,000 to $1,500 and Lot 150, $1,000 to $1,500).

William Edward Kilburn (British, 1818-1891) Hand-tinted Quarter-plate Daguerreotype of a Girl (Lot 87, Estimate $1,000-$1,500)

William Edward Kilburn (British, 1818-1891) Hand-tinted Quarter-plate Daguerreotype of a Girl (Lot 87, Estimate $1,000-$1,500)

Many of the daguerreotypes showcase high quality hand-tinting (Lot 132, $1,000 to $1,500) and unusual colors – for instance, the yellow used to accentuate a young girl’s dress (Lot 130, $500 to $700). Another interesting image is a daguerreotype made by the studio of Jeremiah Gurney (Lot 141, $500 to $700), a rare find due to the inscribed name at the bottom that may identify the operator who made the portrait.

Join Michelle Lamunière, Photography Specialist, for a presentation on the daguerreotype process with highlights from the New England collection on Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 6PM at the Skinner Boston Gallery. Register online.

Additional photography highlights at auction include an intriguing collection of works from the estate of György Kepes, the prominent Hungarian-born artist, designer and educator.  The collection features several of Andreas Feininger’s iconic New York City works, including The Gyro, Coney Island, 1949 (Lot 163, $3,000 to $5,000).

Prints and Photography-Online

Collectors can also bid on select prints, photography and multiples from the comfort and convenience of home during Skinner’s Prints & Photography – Online auction, taking place May 13 through May 20. Bidders also have the added value of previewing the online-only lots in person during the regular Boston preview hours.

Previews, Catalog and Bidding

Previews will be held on Wednesday, May 14, from noon to 5 P.M., Thursday, May 15, from noon to 8 P.M., and Friday, May 16, from 9 A.M. to 10 A.M.  Illustrated catalogs are available from the Subscription Department, at 508-970-3240, or from the Gallery. Prices realized will be available online, at, both during and after the sale. The Skinner website enables users to view every lot in the auctions, leave bids, order catalogs and bid live, in real-time, through SkinnerLive!

About Skinner

Skinner auctions draw international interest from buyers and consignors alike, with material regularly achieving record prices. The company’s auction and appraisal services focus on fine art, jewelry, furniture, and decorative arts from around the globe, as well as wine, fine musical instruments, rare books, clocks, Judaica, and more. Monthly Skinner Discovery auctions feature a breadth of estate material. Widely regarded as one of the most trusted names in the business, Skinner appraisers have appeared on the PBS-TV series Antiques Roadshow since the show’s inception. Skinner has galleries in Boston and Marlborough, Massachusetts, and in Coral Gables, Florida, with an international audience of bidders participating in person, by phone, and online through the SkinnerLive! online bidding platform. For more information and to read our blog, visit the website at, find us on Facebook at, or follow us on Twitter @Skinnerinc.



May 15 | Daguerreotype Lecture

William Edward Kilburn (British, 1818-1891) Hand-tinted   Quarter-plate Daguerreotype of a Girl (Lot 87, Estimate   $1,500-$2,000)

William Edward Kilburn (British, 1818-1891) Hand-tinted Quarter-plate Daguerreotype of a Girl (Lot 87, Estimate $1,000-$1,500)

Thursday, May 15, 2014


Reception 5:30PM
Lecture 6PM

Join Michelle Lamunière, Photography Specialist, for a presentation on the daguerreotype process with highlights from a New England collection. Held in conjunction with the  American & European Works of Art and the Prints & Photography preview and auctions.

Skinner Boston Gallery
63 Park Plaza
Boston, MA 02116

Daguerreotype Portraits


Daguerreotypes, Ambrotypes & Tintypes: The Rise of Early Photography

Tintypes | Early Photography

Lot 51: Quarter Plate Tintype of an Elegantly Dressed Standing Black Woman, Est. $300-500


The Early Photography collection of Rod MacKenzie has piqued the interest of everyone from experienced collectors to those interested in a glimpse of American history.

Looking at these images from our vantage point in the 21st century, we can note with fascination how average people in the second half of the 19th century actually looked and dressed. Before the development of photography, we could typically only observe the past in painted portraits, which depicted mostly upper middle-class and wealthy members of the populace.

Daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes were the first three early photographic processes to gain widespread popularity. Developed in the mid-to-late 19th century, each successive technique improved upon the others in availability, affordability, and processing speed. Despite these improvements, each process produced a unique, one-of-a kind image–the only one!


Daguerreotypes | Early Photography

Lot 100: Full Plate Daguerreotype Family Portrait, Est. $1,500-2,500

The daguerreotype, the earliest of the three photographic processes, came into use in about 1839. Daguerreotypes cost around five dollars (about a week’s wages), so they were not affordable for the majority of the people.

To make a daguerreotype, the photographer exposed an image on a sensitized silver-plated sheet of copper. This resulted in a polished silver surface that produced a shimmery image when developed.

The exposure time took anywhere from a few minutes to as long as 20-30 minutes for very large images. For portraits, in order to keep the person or persons from moving and thus blurring the picture, the photographer would place iron stands or armrests behind the sitters to help keep them still.  If you look closely at these images, you can sometimes see the base of the stands behind the feet of the subject. You might also see a blur on the image from a wiggly kid or shaky aged hands.

The daguerreotype image is almost always reversed left to right, unless a mirror was used inside the camera. That’s why the insignias on the soldier’s belt buckles are backwards!


Ambrotypes | Early Photography

Lot 35: Half Plate Ambrotype of a Gothic Cottage with a Boy and Dog Sitting on the Porch, Est. $600-800

Developed in 1851, the ambrotype took over the popularity of the daguerreotype and pretty much displaced it by 1860. It was much cheaper to produce than a daguerreotype, could be made with a shorter exposure time, and you didn’t have to tilt the plate to see the image. The ambrotype made photography more affordable for middle and working class people.

Ambrotypes were made on a glass plate coated with a wet, light sensitive substance, which when developed and dried, produced a negative image. The negative then had to be mounted against a dark background or coated with a dark varnish to give the illusion of a positive.


Tintype | Musicians | Early Photography

Lot 57: Quarter Plate Vocational Tintype of Four Musicians, Est. $400-600

The tintype was developed in 1853 using a similar technique to the ambrotype. Called a collodion process, this technique requires the photographic material to be coated, exposed, and developed on site.

The tintype image, however, was mounted against a thin sheet of black-enameled (or japanned) iron instead of glass.  Unlike earlier photographs, a tintype is unbreakable.

Interestingly, the term tintype is a misnomer. Because the iron they were mounted on was so thin, many assumed it must be tin, and the name stuck.

The entire tintype process was quick and cheap. Within a few minutes, the customer could take an image home with him at the cost of a penny or less at first.

By the 1940s, tintypes cost about 25 cents. Almost everyone could afford tintype pictures of their loved ones.

Photography has come a long way from these first three techniques. I wonder how it will continue to change and evolve over the next hundred years?

Read more about the history of the collection, or see highlights of the collection, to be auctioned on October 30th in the American Furniture & Decorative Arts auction.

Daguerreotypes Part II: Highlights of the Early Photography Collection of Rod MacKenzie


Lot 94: Half Plate Daguerreotype Portrait of a Seated Union Officer in Dress Uniform, Est. $1,500-2,500

On October 30, 2011, Skinner will offer the first part of the Early Photography collection of Rod MacKenzie in our American Furniture & Decorative Arts auction. Read Part I of this series to learn more about Rod MacKenzie’s sophisticated taste as a collector.

MacKenzie’s extensive knowledge of American history, particularly of the Civil War, is represented by dozens of extraordinary images of military officers and soldiers. The collection includes portraits of soldiers of all types:  officers, dashing men in uniform, and heart-breaking images of very young men headed off to war. In looking at these images, we feel tantalizingly close to the battlefield and to the figures taking part in military history. Notes tucked behind case liners, such as “taken at Newbern, No. Carolina 1863 WLW Private C. E. 44th Mass,” bring us in even closer.

Another focus of the collection is photography of children being children in ways we aren’t used to seeing in 19th century photographs. One highlight is an image of a class of thirty children attending “Petersham School in Miss Laura’s Day.” We must credit the photographer for keeping the kids still during the exposure, though perhaps more of the credit is due to Miss Laura herself.

Rod found a pair of photographs showing a sweet-faced boy and a girl, probably twins, seated in the same stencil-decorated chair. He has an image of a girl holding a chalkware cat, and another of a boy with his paint-decorated drum – both subjects hold their cherished possessions close.


Lot 23: Two Sixth Plate Daguerreotype Portraits of A Boy and a Girl, probably twins, Est. $300-500

Rod made an effort to collect images of leisure activity, too, giving us even more opportunity to peer through a window into the 19th century. There’s an image of two men playing checkers housed in a Union case appropriately called “The Chess Players.” An ambrotype of four men, one wearing a military cap, holding mugs of beer, allows us to view a moment of revelry. A half-plate daguerreotype of hunters posing with game and their hunting dog represents the type of artistic composition that daguerrians often practiced. In another, a gentleman hunter with a stovepipe hat and a frock coat poses with his long gun against a painted backdrop representing a rural landscape, all housed in a case called “The Hunter.”


Lot 137: Half Plate Ambrotype Depicting a Whitehall, New York, Street Parade with Band, Est. $800-1,200

City- and townscapes, another category in the collection, are represented by some rare early photographs of mid-19th century houses including a gothic cottage, a Greek revival farmhouse, and a three-story Federal mansion. Perhaps rarest of that group is an image showing a street parade in Whitehall, New York.

Many of these sometimes haunting photographs are housed in rare thermoplastic or “Union” cases, each collectible in their own right for their unique designs. To create these cases, a specific mix of shellac, pulverized wood fibers and dyes would be heated to create a thick plastic liquid. That semi-solid was rolled out into a sheet, then individually pressed into any one of dozens of patterns which hardened when cooled. Half-plate examples of these thermoplastic cases in the collection are titled “Washington Monument, Richmond, Virginia,” “American Country Life – Summer Evening,” and “The Wedding Procession.” Others show firefighters, military trophies, and more.

In all of Skinner’s years in the business, we’ve crossed paths with and offered hundreds of early photographs. Rarely have those images equaled the quality and beauty of the pictures Rod found, or given us such insight into the people they show.

Daguerreotypes Part I: Haunting, Beautiful, and Storied Pictures in the Early Photography Collection of Rod MacKenzie

daguerreotype hunters

Lot 113: Half Plate Daguerreotype Portrait of Two Hunters with Game and Sleeping Dog, Est. $1,500-2,500

Daguerreotypes are a reminder of a time when photography was very different from the “point-and-shoot” instant pictures of today. Now, you carry a camera in the cell phone in your back pocket everywhere you go. Then, as now, photographers were purveyors of state-of-the-art technology.

In fact, the 19th century photographers who made these long-exposure images were referred to as daguerrean artists, and quickly supplanted the portrait painters of the day. The artists’ “images,” particularly daguerreotypes, were valued for their clarity and honesty in representation.

Other than the careful arrangement of a composition, the daguerrean photographer almost never altered an image in any way, except for portraits with pink-tinted cheeks, or gold-highlighted jewelry and buttons.

ambrotype lot 103

Lot 103: Ninth Plate Ambrotype Portrait of Man Pouring a Milk Can, Est. $100-150

Daguerrean artists did, however, use interesting means to achieve compositional effects that would otherwise be limited by long exposure times. In the ambrotype pictured here, depicting a man pouring milk from a pitcher, the “milk” is actually a white cloth.

The long exposure times needed for daguerreotypes and other forms of early photography also cause families, soldiers, children, and laborers to look out from stiff, unsmiling poses. It could be a long and strenuous task to sit for one of these images.  Yet, if you look closely, the lives and loves of the subjects become clear, and the 19th century doesn’t feel quite so distant.

On October 30, 2011, the American Furniture & Decorative Arts auction will open with 150 lots of daguerreotypes, ambrotypes and tintypes from the Early Photography collection of Rod MacKenzie.

As a collector, Rod MacKenzie has a sophisticated taste for images that speak to him – and now to us – emotionally, historically, and artistically. He understands well the limitations of early photography, and carefully collects images which, though mainly portraits, show us more than just what the sitter looked like.


Lot 17: Sixth Plate Ambrotype of a Boy with His Drum, Est. $600-800

There are signs of life throughout the images in his collection – children holding toys close, workmen demonstrating tools of their trade, and soldiers exuding confidence and swagger.

In addition to the portraits, MacKenzie collects images that tell stories. Among the best of these is a set of so-called “occupationals.” There are dozens of images that convey a strong sense of narrative: portraits of beautiful, elegantly dressed women give us a window into the day’s style; prosperous young couples exude airs of optimism; and men show their skill at their daily occupations. This group includes some of the rarest examples  MacKenzie  gathered: an architect seen in his office at a desk with his drafting tools and elevation drawings of Italianate houses on the walls behind him, a blacksmith at his anvil, a mailman, farmers, a banjo player, a string quartet, a bugle player, carpenters, buggy drivers, and firemen.

In Part II of this series, we’ll take a look at some of the highlights of this truly astounding collection. Every time I turn a page in the catalogue, I seem to find something new in one of these images that I hadn’t seen before. Which images speak most strongly to you?