Swann Opens 2022 with Whirlwind Auction Celebrating the Artists of the WPA

The house opened 2022 with The Artists of the WPA on Thursday, January 27. The follow-up to an inaugural 2021 sale proved the staying power of this special offering with the auction bringing $647,891, compared to last year’s total of $478,990.

“Six of our departments contributed to make this an informative, diverse, and curatorial assessment of an important part of American art history. The New Deal was groundbreaking in its scale and vision, giving employment to many who in turn gave us lasting riches in art, architecture, and engineering that has endured.”

Harold Porcher, Director, Modern & Post-War Art

Paintings of America

Daniel Celentano, Pelham Bay, oil on canvas. Sold for $55,000, a record for the artist.

With themes showcasing both urban and rural Americans, paintings of the era saw rapid-fire bidding drive prices past their high estimates with eager collectors vying for the works. Leading the sale was Daniel Celentano’s scene of a crowded subway car—Pelham Bay, oil on canvas, which brought $55,000, a record for the artist. Additional highlights included commissions from the American Tobacco Company: Aaron Bohrod’s Getting Ready for Auction, oil on Masonite, 1942, at $21,250; and Arnold Blanch’s A Stick of Tobacco After Curing, oil on canvas, 1942, at $12,500. Also of note was Isaac Soyer, The Refugee, oil on canvas, which realized $7,250.

Related Reading: The Artists of the WPA: The Promise of a New Deal
Artists of the WPA & the Dawn of a New American Identity

American Printmakers

Blanche Lazzell’s 1936 double-sided carved woodblock Cape Cod Cottage and The Coffee Pot brought $23,750—Lazzell only created two impressions of Cape Cod Cottage and three of Coffee Pot, which have not been seen at auction in the past 30 years. Among the print offerings American stalwarts shined: Stacking Hay, an early Jackson Pollock lithograph, circa 1935, sold for $16,250; a run of works by Martin Lewis found buyers, most notably R.F.D., a 1933 drypoint of a view in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, at $12,500; and Louis Lozowick’s 57th Street, a 1929 lithograph of New York City at night, at $11,250. Also of note were prints by Peggy Bacon, Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood.

Related Reading: Etched in History: Printmakers of the Federal Art Project

FSA Photography

Documentary photography from FSA favorites was on offer with a portfolio of 10 iconic images printed under the supervision of Arthur Rothstein, including those by Rothstein, Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans and Ben Shahn, earned $8,125; Carl Mydans’ Manhattan From Brooklyn Heights, silver print, 1937, brought $9,375, a record for the artist; and Marion Post Wolcott’s 1939 silver prints Barn and Silos, York County, Pennsylvania, and City Jail, Mississippi Delta, sold together for $6,000. Works by Peter Sekaer, Jack Delano, Berenice Abbott and Russell Lee rounded out the offering.

Related Reading: Beyond Migrant Mother: Five FSA Photographers to Know