Bonhams marks 40 Years of California & Western Art Sales with Spectacular Mathews Landscape

This year marks the 40th anniversary of California and Western Art sales at Bonhams, and the auction house has pulled out all the stops to celebrate with a sale reflecting the rich heritage of the genre, including Monterey, an archetypal work by Arthur Mathews estimated at $300,000-500,000.

It was in 1980, that Bonhams (then Butterfields) began a new series of sales dedicated to California and Western art. The demand for California Impressionism, which reached its peak in the late 1920s, had never recovered from the Great Crash of 1929 and the shifts in public taste after World War II, so it was a bold and pioneering move to offer these works in dedicated sales.

But Bonhams found a market for these exquisite paintings, and for 40 years now, the auction house has consistently led the market for California and Western art, promoting it beyond a regional collecting category and establishing its place within the larger context of American art history.

As Bonhams Director of California and Western Art, Scot Levitt, says; "We are immensely proud to be celebrating our Ruby Anniversary. Over the years we have sold some amazing works for stellar prices including Late Afternoon, Monterey by E. Charlton Fortune ($1,830,000 in 2007); Old Coast Road by William Wendt ($1,565,000 in 2015) and Coffee Coolers Meet the Hostiles by Howard Terpning ($1,392,000 in 2019).

"I'm often asked why the art of California and the West has such wide appeal. Part of it is the continuity it offers in a region that is defined by the dizzying pace of change. Whatever the vagaries of time and fashion, the allure and sheer magnificence of the landscape persists, undimmed. As the world faces its current challenges, these qualities are perhaps needed now more than ever."

Arthur Mathews (1860-1945) played a pivotal role in the development of California Art. Based at the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art, he trained many of the artists who would come to define California art in the early 20th century – Granville Redmond, E. Charlton Fortune, Clarence Hinkle, Ralph Stackpole, Maynard Dixon and Armin Hansen. These California Impressionists depicted the landscape around them in a style that was increasingly subjective and contemplative, and which attracted widespread popular acclaim.

Mathew's brooding style is perfectly captured in Monterey. Scot Levitt comments: "It is the artist at his finest, working in one of his favorite locations, on an afternoon of exquisite light and beauty. Mathews' large paintings of the Monterey coast are quite rare today and give us a glimpse into what a new generation of plein air painters was soon to emulate and draw inspiration from. It is no wonder that Arthur Mathews carries the mantle of one of California's greatest painters."

Other highlights include:

Problematicus by Joseph Kleitsch (1882-1931). Problematicus is one of the exceptional portraits Kleitsch painted in Chicago, in 1918. Typical of several paintings of this period, Kleitsch has used backlighting that flows through the amber-colored window shade to create a mood and cast highlights on the sitter's body, recalling the influence of Vermeer and other Dutch artists. Estmate: US$700,000-1,200,000.

View of Wood's Cove, Rockledge by Guy Rose (1867-1925). In View of Wood's Cove, Rockledge the California artist brings the skills acquired during his stay in France to bear on a classic subject. (Before World War I, Rose lived and worked In Giverny 80 kms northwest of Paris where he became friends with Claude Monet). Estimate: US$400,000-600,000.

Hunters in the Canyon by Ernest Hennings (1886-1956). This work from the 1930s is a classic example of Henning's interpretation of the Indians of Taos and their way of life. Estimate: US$350,000-550,000.

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