Selma Burke’s Sadnessis among the most significant works by Burke to come to auction. While her sculpture is scarce, her most famous work can be seen by almost anyone: she’s best-known for the bas-relief portrait of Franklin Delano Roosevelt that came to be put on the dime. Sadness, carved in green marble, dates to 1970 and relates to a 1951 version of the figure that can be found in the Selma Burke Collection at Spelman College’s Museum of Fine Art.
Sargent Johnson’s Head of a Negro Boy has been in the same family collection since it was acquired directly from the artist by Herbert L. Rothschild, a notable patron of the arts and silent-pictures pioneer in San Francisco. It was shown at the World’s Fair Exhibition of the Chicago Art League in 1934, and is an outstanding example of Johnson’s modernist work of the 1930s. Of the small number of stylized heads created by Johnson during this period, few are known to survive today. This sculpture exemplifies the artist’s interest in modernism and African sculpture, blending elements of both, while conveying strength and dignity as a portrait—a hallmark of Johnson’s portrayal of women and children in sculpture.