Thursday, May 26, 2011


The Western art season is heating up as people begin to travel, some of them actually visiting the West and others visiting the major institutions that exhibit Western art and artifacts, both Indian and other.  But you can also “visit” by cruising the web.  In fact, you’ll probably see more by looking at auction lists than by going onto the floor of a museum or gallery.

To become a player -- or just a gazer -- you’ll need deep pockets most of the time, but not always.  Then you’ll need a list of the auctions which appear in the Western art mags or on  Or I subscribe to Art Daily at, which provides a daily overview of all kinds of art and the related scene.  In fact, that’s where I found this story about Sandzen.  You’ll remember that when I reviewed auction offering a few days ago, I skipped Sandzen.  He’s a little TOO Fauvist for me, though one of my most cherished pictures IS Fauvist, painted by Bob’s teacher Zoe Bieler at Dickinson College in North Dakota.  The name of the category comes from the “wild colors.”

The startling news today is the sale of a Sandzen painting for $262,900 at the Heritage Fine Art Auction.  Details from their website just below.  The website makes it possible to examine the signature up close as well as the back of the painting.  This information from the website. If you were wanting to look for similar paintings, you google things like “Fauvist” or “Taos” (VERY popular now) or “American Colorist.”  The auctions are less specialized than they used to be, branching out from “Western art.”  The MOST important thing about buying art is training your eye, which can only be done by looking and looking and looking, the same as the way to learn about writing is to read and read and read.  Thicken the brain cells, broaden the mind.

FIREFOX PREVENTED ME FROM ADDING ANY IMAGES.  You can see it at the link below.
10 internet/mail/phone bidders
1,868 page views

BIRGER SANDZÉN (American, 1871-1954)
Late Moon Rising (Wild Horse Creek), 1923
Oil on canvas
36-1/4 x 48-1/4 inches (92.1 x 122.6 cm)
Signed and dated lower right: Birger Sandzén / 1923

Acquired from the artist by a former student, 1923;
Thence by descent.

This painting titled Late Moon Rising is an important motif of Wild Horse Creek, which ran through land owned by Birger Sandzén's in-laws near Bogue, Kansas. The creek provided an endless source of imagery for the artist and he once told his daughter Margaret, "Wild Horse Creek was a blessing to me and a lesson in simple construction - construction of earth, of ground itself - water, sandstone, hills and pasture."

Mr. Ron Michael
Birger Sandzén Memorial Gallery
Estimate: $80,000 - $120,000.

Sandzén, Birger: An associate member of the Taos Society of Artists, Birger Sandzén was a Swedish artist famous for his vibrant landscape paintings of the American southwest. The son of a minister, Sandzén displayed an early artistic talent which was encouraged and cultivated by well-educated parents. His formal artistic training was completed in Europe, and in 1894 he immigrated to America where he had accepted a teaching position at Bethany College. For more than 52 years Sandzén was a professor of art history, drawing and painting in the small Kansas town of Lindsborg. He was a staunch advocate of the arts and worked within his community to organize art clubs, exhibitions, and lectures. Throughout his career, however, Sandzén’s own painting was relegated to late night sessions until 1945, when he retired from teaching in order to devote himself to painting full time. Sandzén’s early artistic style was heavily influenced by tonalism and Scandinavian Romanticism, but once he began spending his summers in the American southwest his palette exploded with color. He began visiting Taos in the summer of 1918 at the height of the artist colony. Four years later Sandzén was elected an associate member of the Taos Society of Artists. That same year, 1922, he exhibited with the group in New York where he also had a one-man exhibition at the Babcock Gallery. Sandzén's Fauvist palette and strong brushwork energize the landscapes for which he is best known. His thick impasto layers are reminiscent of Impressionism but tempered by a modernist execution. As with many of the Taos artists, Sandzén painted en plein air in order to work directly from nature and there is a resulting vibrancy and purity to his canvases. .

Condition Report*:
The following condition report was prepared by Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.: This painting was removed from its original stretcher sometime in the last 25 - 30 years and mounted using a synthetic adhesive onto a fiberglass fabric, which in turn was mounted onto a stable piece of aluminum with a latticework of "honey comb" construction within. Effectively, there are two sheets of aluminum sandwiching this light weight, stable and technically reasonably appropriate surface. The paint layer is very lively and stable; the impasto is in beautiful state which for a picture of this scale is a major benefit. There do not appear to be any retouches and if desired, the painting can be hung as is.

DALLAS, TX.- Birger Sandzén's Late Moon Rising (Wild Horse Creek), 1923, brought a stunning $262,900 as the top lot in Heritage Auction's May 17 combined Signature® Fine American, European Art & Western Art sale, held May 17 at Heritage's Design District Annex at 1518 Slocum Street. The auction realized $2,597,907 total, with a sell-through rate of 71.7% by value. All prices include 19.5% Buyer's Premium.

"Prices realized across the board were solid," said Ed Beardsley, Managing Director of Heritage's Department of Fine Art. "We saw more than 750 bidders vying for 391 lots across three different categories. Interest was strong and the bids were there to back that interest up."

The $262,900 realized for Sandzén's Late Moon Rising (Wild Horse Creek) is the second highest price ever realized for the artist at auction.

"Sandzen's works are among the most highly desirable paintings on the market today, as evidenced by the fierce bidding we experienced for this breathtaking piece," said Kirsty Buchanan, Consignment Director for Heritage's Art of the American West department. "This painting is truly an iconic depiction of Wild Horse Creek, which ran through land owned by Sandzén's in-laws, near Bogue, Kansas, and provided an endless source of inspiration for the artist throughout his career."

A diverse trio of fine paintings, Eanger Irving Couse's haunting oil painting The Spirit of the Pool and Wilhlem Kuhnert's dramatic Zebras, 1912 and Guy Carleton Wiggins The Empire State Building, Winter, all booked a final price realized of $44,813.

Rounding out the auction's Top 10 are Birger Sandzén's Early Fall, Smoky River, 1927, and Lorser Feitelson's Bathers, 1923, both realizing $38,838.

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