2019 Spring Season in Review

A season of firsts.

The 2019 spring auction season at Swann Galleries delivered an impressive range of sales, rife with auction premiers and record prices. We started our season off in January with an auction of Fine Illustrated Books & Graphics, which set a record for Sonia Delaunay’s Ses Peintures, Ses Objects, Ses Tissues Simultanés, Ses Modes, at $13,750. Our March sale of 19th & 20th Century Prints & Drawings offered Property from the Ismar Litmann Family Collection of German Expressionism and European Avant-Garde. Later that month our popular African Americana sale boasted the record price for any copy of a Green Book, at $27,500, while our African-American Fine Art sale in April brought 12 record prices for key market players.

Vernacular photography was the clear favorite in our February and April photographs & photobooks auctions with eighteenth- and twentieth-century images of India and South America commanding top prices. To follow that up, in May our Old Master Through Modern Art sale brought our first dedicated selection of Latin American Art, which established a record for any print by Diego Rivera, and our 19th & 20th Century Literature saw appearances by rare James Bond titles. Finally, we held our first ever Pride Sale in June, which delivered the top price for a photograph by Peter Hujar, at $106,250. 

Here’s a look at some of our favorite highlights from the season, and a few records:


American Art


Abstract rendering of people walking in a city by Attilio Salemme.
Attilio Salemme, Rivalry, oil on canvas, 1945. Sold June 13 for $21,250, a record for the artist.


A watercolor scene of cowbys roping and lassoing horses.
Victor Pierson, group of 10 Mexican cowboy and horse riding scenes, watercolors, circa 1870. Sold June 13 for $7,500, a record for the artist.


African-American Fine Art


A painting on fabric of a young African American couple dancing by Emma Amos.
Emma Amos, Let Me off Uptown, oil & photo transfer on canvas with metallic paint, glitter, collage and African fabric boarders, 1999-2000. Sold on April 4 for $125,000, a record for the artist.


A painting of a man looking out onto a desert landscape by Kermit Oliver.
Kermit Oliver, Dusk, acrylic on board, 1972. Sold on April 4 for $112,000, a record for the artist.


A sculpture by Sonya Clark with rows of purple, yellow and red string that forms a full picture of squares.
Sonya Clark, Albers #1, cotton thread & combs, 2013. Sold on April 4 for $9,100, an auction debut for the artist.




An autograph letter from Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant.
Joseph Brant, Mohawk Chief, ALS, writing with news after pledging support to King George III against the American rebels, 1776. Sold on March 21 for $35,000, a record for a letter from Brant.




Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books


Double-page spread in an illuminated prayer book in Latin and French with illustration from the bible.
Illuminated Prayer Book in Latin and French on vellum, with 35 miniatures, France, 1530s-40s. Sold on March 7 for $42,500.


Single page illustration of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, El Ingenioso Hildalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha … Nueva Edición, first Ibarra edition, Madrid, 1780. Sold on March 7 for $11,875.


Fine Illustrated Books & Graphics


Illustration of four women in four different dress designs from by Sonia Delaunay.
Sonia Delaunay, Ses Peintures, Ses Objets, Ses Tissues Simultanés, Ses Modes, 20 pochoir plates, Paris, 1925. Sold on January 29 for $13,750, a record for the work.


19th & 20th Century Literature


Covers of James Bond novels: The Golden Gun, Thunderball, Goldfinger and Casino Royale by Ian Fleming.
A selection of Ian Fleming first editions offered on May 14.
The Man with the Golden Gun, first edition, first state with the golden gun on the front cover, London, 1965. Sold for $11,050.
Thunderball, first edition, first issue, with dust jacket, presentation copy inscribed by Fleming to friend, C.D. Jackson, who was posthumously revealed to be a CIA agent, London, 1961. Sold for $16,250.
Goldfinger, first edition, inscribed to Sir Henry Cotton, MBE, London, 1959. Sold for $25,000.
Casino Royale, first edition, first impression, in unrestored first state dust jacket, London, 1953. Sold for $18,750.


Gaston Leroux, The Phantom of the Opera, first American edition, first printing, in original dust jacket, New York, 1911. Sold on May 14 for $12,500.


Contemporary Art


Franz Kline black and white print with writing.
Franz Kline, Untitled, aquatint & etching, 1957-60. Sold on May 16 for $27,500, a record for any print by the artist.


Illustration Art


Caricature illustration of Paul Robeson as Othello on Broadway in 1943 by Al Hirschfeld.
Al Hirschfeld, Paul Robeson as Othello, illustration for the 1943 revival, published in The New York Times, August 9, 1942. Sold on June 4 for $68,750.


Illustration of a woman handing laundry on a clothes line by Miriam Troop.
Miriam Troop, Rain on Laundry Day, oil on canvas, cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, published June 15, 1940. Sold on June 4 for $40,000, an auction debut for the artist.


Maps & Atlases


Lewis Evans "General Map of the Middle British Colonies in America," 1755.
Lewis Evans, A General Map of the Middle British Colonies, proof copy, annotated, signed & dated by Evans, Philadelphia, 1755. Sold on June 6 for $125,000.


Photographs & Photobooks


Image of a young Indian boy and teen sitting on the streets of India in the 1870s.
Album with 105 photographs of street scenes in Bombay, Delhi and Agra, albumen prints, 1870s. Sold on February 21 for $30,000, a record for the album.


Two black and white photos from the 1920s of native Peruvians by Martín Chambi.
Album with 118 photographs, 16 attributed to Martín Chambi, depicting different regions of South America, silver prints, 1920s. Sold on April 18 for $58,750, a record for images by Chambi.


Image of a small Korean child by Dorothea Lange.
Dorothea Lange, Korean Child, silver print, 1958, printed 1960s. Sold on April 18 for $20,000, a record for the image.


Printed & Manuscript African Americana


Cover of "The Negro Travelers' Green Book"
Victor H. Green, The Negro Travelers’ Green Book, 1958. Sold on March 28 for $27,500, a record for any edition of the Green Book.


Printed & Manuscript Americana


Title page of the 1852 Liverpool Book of Mormon.
Joseph Smith, Book of Mormon: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon, upon Plates taken from the Plates of Nephi, third European edition, Liverpool, 1852. Sold on April 16 for $41,600, a record for any European Book of Mormon.


Two page spread from a manuscript diary with a doodle of a landscape.
William Farrar Smith, manuscript diary of an expedition to blaze a trail from San Antonio to El Paso, February to May 1849. Sold on April 16 for $47,500.


Prints & Drawings

Property from the Ismar Littmann Family Collection of German Expressionism and European Avant-Garde.


A woodcut print of figures on the beach by Max Pechstein.
Max Pechstein, Sommer I, woodcut with hand watercolor, 1912. From the Ismar Littmann Family Collection. Sold on March 5 for $81,250, a record for the work.


Latin American Art


Black and white lithograph print of a soldier and a horse walking by Diego Rivera.
Diego Rivera, Zapata, lithograph, 1932. Sold on May 2 for $45,000, a record for any print by Rivera.


Vintage Posters



Poster of an illustration of an anthropomorphic can of motor oil made to look like a man wearing a driving hat.
Charles Loupot, Wanneroil / Huile du bon Chauffeur, 1926. Sold on May 23 for $22,500.


The Pride Sale


Black and white portrait photograph of David Wojnarowicz by Peter Hujar.
Peter Hujar, David Wohnarowicz: Manhattan-Night (III), silver print, 1985. Sold on June 20 for $106,250, a record for the artist.


A letter written and signed by Harvey Milk on "Office of the Mayor of San Francisco" stationary.
Harvey Milk, autograph letter signed, as acting Mayor of San Francisco, March 7, 1978. Sold on June 20 for $11,250, a record for an autograph by Milk.


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