Bob Kuhn, 180 Degrees | Acrylic on Board | 26 x 44 inches | Sold: $100,000 | Courtesy of Wyoming Art Auction

Auction Block: Visions and Vistas

Traditional Western art and memorabilia are back in the saddle. Prices for works in certain sales showed buoyancy; and overall, collectors exhibited both enthusiasm and determination.

When classic Ansel Adams prints were available at Sotheby’s, bidders didn’t back away, pushing prices for several pieces far beyond expectations. And when Western memorabilia tied to legendary artisans and celebrities sparked a robust response by buyers at Brian Lebel’s Old West Show & Auction in Mesa, Arizona, some objects went for tens of thousands of dollars above estimates.

Signs suggest artists are bringing about a renaissance, Western style, if the expressive paintings that sold for tidy amounts at the American Miniatures sale at Settlers West Galleries are any example. And at the Coors Western Art Exhibit & Sale, award-winning works were imbued with a degree of emotion that has not always characterized 
the genre.

Wyoming Art Auction

February 18–19, 2022
Total: Nearly $1.3 million

John Clymer’s Buffalo Run was estimated to fetch between $70,000 and $100,000 during the Wyoming Art Auction, a two-session online auction based in Jackson. Instead, the 10-by-20-inch oil on board depicting bison chased by a Native American rider went for $230,000, considerably higher then the estimate and yet still a modest price for a painting that exhibits all the key elements of Western art: action, drama, grace, and the kind of natural beauty a purist pursues and, in this case, achieves.

Joseph Henry Sharp, The Old Arrow Tree | Oil on Canvas | 24 x 17 inches | Sold: $80,000

The sale saw 180 Degrees by celebrated wildlife artist Bob Kuhn realize $100,000. The acrylic, whose ultimate amount was within estimates, depicts a thrilling and rare moment in nature when land and sky creatures collide.

The Old Arrow Tree fell slightly short of its pre-sale expectations, garnering $80,000 instead of hitting the $100,000 mark. Still, the oil on canvas by Joseph Henry Sharp sold for a substantial sum, and any amount would have been a bargain for the artist’s lyrical take on a Native American in a woodland, with bow and arrow poised for practice.

Bestsellers also included celebrated wildlife sculptor Ken Bunn’s Sudden Engagement, a large bronze of a bull elk on alert and in mid-stride. The beautifully rendered piece achieved $50,000, its high estimate.

Joseph Henry Sharp, The Old Arrow Tree | Oil on Canvas | 24 x 17 inches | Sold: $80,000

And Winged Rapture, Dan Ostermiller’s outsized bronze of an eagle with outspread wings, realized $35,000, compared to estimates ranging from $20,000 to $30,000. The intensity of the raptor paired with bronze gives the piece a weightiness that is part physical, the rest intangible.

Sotheby’s David H. Arrington Collection of Ansel Adams Photographs

February 17, 2022
Total: $10.2 million

Ansel Adams, Aspens, Northern New Mexico | Gelatin Silver Print | 20 x 16 inches | Sold: $189,000



In addition to being credited as a galvanizing figure in America’s environmental movement, Ansel Adams was an artist whose skills in the outdoors and in the darkroom remain arguably unmatched by any other American landscape photographer. Grand Vision: The David H. Arrington Collection of Ansel Adams Photographs at Sotheby’s in New York saw mounting prices for mountainous scenes tied to the U.S. West, the artist’s professional signature and personal muse.

Ansel Adams, Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico | Gelatin Silver Print | 15 x 18.5 inches | Sold: $504,000

Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico achieved the top slot, selling for $504,000 and meeting pre-sale expectations; while Clearing Winter Storm, Yellowstone National Park climbed to $226,800, more than four times its high estimate. The selenium-toned gelatin silver print is a masterwork in value, with light peeking through forests, mountains, and mist, from valley to tree line.

Ansel Adams, Yosemite Valley From Inspiration Point, Winter, Yosemite National Park | Sepia-Toned Gelatin Silver Print | 15 x 18.5 inches | Sold: $176,400

Likewise, the third of the best-selling lots, The Teton Range & the Snake River, far exceeded expectations. The masterwork hammered for $201,600, compared to estimates ranging from $50,000 to $70,000.

Aspens, Northern New Mexico fell slightly short of its estimate, going for $189,000, but Yosemite Valley from Inspiration Point, Winter, Yosemite National Park topped its high estimate by tens of thousands, achieving $176,400 rather than the estimated $70,000 to $100,000.

Ansel Adams, The Grand Tetons and the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming | Gelatin Silver Print | 15.0625 x 19.0625 inches | Sold: $201,600

And there was little sign of the upward trend flattening. Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada, from Lone Pine California rose to $176,400, roughly five times its top expectation.

Ansel Adams, Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada, from Lone Pine, California | Gelatin Silver Print | 19 x 34.375 inches | Sold: $176,400

The sale generated the sort of excitement that is both contagious and competitive. Fifteen bidders vied for Forest Floor, Yosemite Valley, California, which ultimately brought $27,720, compared to estimates of $5,000 to $7,000.

American Miniatures at Settlers West

February 12, 2022
Total: $300,000+

Small sizes underscored the enormous talent and skill at play in the annual American Miniatures exhibition at Settlers West in Tucson, Arizona. The event, which brought more than $300,000, features original, petite-sized paintings by the nation’s top Western artists.

William Acheff, New Mexico Sunset | Oil | 6.5 x 11.75 inches | Sold: $6,700

The sale was led by Martin Grelle, whose 12-by-12-inch acrylic, Cheyenne Shade, went for $10,500. The portrait of a Native American woman on horseback shows Grelle’s flair for painterly landscapes that frame his almost architectural arrangement of a figure, horse, and umbrella, the source of shade in an otherwise open sky. The woman’s features are displayed in three-quarter view while the umbrella’s curve recalls the horse’s haunches and a hardly hidden pack cloaked in red.

Robert Griffing, A Good Place to Camp | Oil | 9 x 13 inches | Sold: $7,500

Robert Griffing’s A Good Place to Camp garnered $7,500, a sweet price amid an annual event that was created to coincide with Valentine’s Day. The little painting features a trio of tribal members, two in a canoe, in a serene setting where nature and man are all but inseparable.

New Mexico Sunset, artist William Acheff’s homage in oil to still life and a setting sun, brought $6,700 to become yet another top-seller at the February 12 evening reception, which concluded with an intent-to-purchase draw for admirers of the works of more than 160 artists.

Martin Grelle, Cheyenne Shade | Acrylic | 12 x 12 inches | Sold: $10,500

Other pieces that achieved top sums include the charming Florista by George Hallmark and an evocative portrait, After the Dance, by Harley Brown.

Santa Fe Art Auction, Native American Art

February 5, 2022
Total: $850,000

A redware plate with a feather design realized the top amount during the Santa Fe Art Auction’s sale of Native American works in early February. The event in New Mexico’s capital city totaled $850,000.

Maria Martinez and Popovi Da (San Ildefonso), Redware Plate with Feather Designs | Fired Clay, Pigment | 2.75 x 13.125 inches | Sold: $24,600

The plate, by ceramicists Maria Martinez and Popovi Da, is made of fired clay and decorated with pigment. It sold for $24,600, easily above estimates of $10,000 to $15,000.

Carl and Irene Clark (Diné), Yellow Gold and Micro-Mosaic Inlay Belt Buckle | 22K Yellow Gold, Turquoise, Lapis, Jet, Mother of Pearl, Sugilite, Coral, and Opal | 2 x 2.125 x .75 inches | Sold: $13,200

Martinez also collaborated with artist Santana Martinez to make a blackware vase, which earned the second-highest bid during the auction. It sold for $20,910, exceeding estimates of $5,000 to $7,000. The clay vase’s appealing curves exhibit the simplicity of design that’s a hallmark of modern art.

Artist Unknown, Plains Double-Sided Ledger Drawing, ca. 1880-1900 | Ink on Lined Paper | 5.625 x 7.125 inches | Sold: $10,455

Also of note, painter John Nieto’s Warrior at Trujillo brought $15,600 against pre-sale expectations of $10,000 to $15,000. The strongly horizontal acrylic is a mesmerizing mix of peace and peril. The late artist is known for his use of color and the spiritual significance of his images.

John Nieto, Warrior at Trujillo | Acrylic on Canvas | 30.125 x 24 inches | Sold: $15,600

Filling out the top five slots were a gold and micro-mosaic inlay belt buckle by Carl and Irene Clark and a Plains double-sided ledger drawing whose creator is unidentified; they went for $13,200 and $10,055.

Brian Lebel’s Mesa Old West Show & Auction

January 21–22, 2022
Total: $2.1 million

The Old West Show & Auction in Mesa, Arizona, couldn’t have offered a more enticing draw than the one that ultimately brought the highest price and the most satisfaction to the winning bidder. The object of desire was the parade spurs made by master craftsman Edward H. Bohlin and worn by the legendary artisan himself. The spurs sold for $210,000, against estimates ranging from $100,000 to $125,000, in an auction whose highlights were solidly in the Western memorabilia category.

John Wayne’s 26 Bar Ranch Belt Buckle | Sold: $56,050

A gold nugget from the Granville Stuart Estate went for $94,400, compared to the high, pre-sale expectation of $5,000, while documents from the Joe De Yong Archive brought $59,000 instead of estimates ranging from $10,000 to $20,000.

Edward H. Bohlin, Parade Spurs | Sold: $210,000

Screen legend John Wayne’s 26 Bar Ranch Belt Buckle, given to him as a gift by President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy, sold for $56,050, almost twice its top estimate. And the movie star’s hat from “The Undefeated” achieved $53,500, with estimates ranging from $35,000 to $40,000, while Bohlin’s filigree gold belt buckle realized $47,200, more than twice the predicted high.

Joe Beeler, Lord of the Southern Plains (Quanah Parker) | Bronze | 35 x 18 x 19 inches | Sold: $26,550

A Joe Beeler bronze bust of a Native American was last but not least among the 10 best-selling items, with Lord of the Southern Plains (Quanah Parker) going for $26,550 against estimates of $10,000 to $14,000.

Coors Western Art Exhibit & Sale

January 4, 2022
Total: $900,000+

Andrew Beckham, Premonition | Charcoal | 48 x 72 inches | Best of Show

Premonition, a striking charcoal by artist Andrew Beckham, was awarded Best of Show at the Coors Western Art Exhibit & Sale in early January. The event — proceeds from which support the National Western Scholarship Trust — takes place during the National Western Stock Show in Denver, Colorado, each year.

Louis Escobedo, Wild and Cautious | Oil on Canvas | 36 x 36 inches | Southwest Art Award

Denver painter Karen Roehl was awarded Artist’s Choice for Take a Bow, an expressive portrait of a horse. The acrylic and latex on canvas, which sold for $3,600, is a happy mix of emotion and realism, with whimsical symbols underscoring the animal’s arched neck and bent foreleg.

Sophy Brown, Colorado Heat | Acrylic on Board | 48 x 93.5 inches | People’s Choice Award

Wild and Cautious by Louis Escobedo gained the Southwest Art Award, while People’s Choice went to Sophy Brown for Colorado Heat. Escobedo and Brown both portrayed horses in action, but that’s where the resemblance ends. Escobedo’s creatures trot down a lane, on apparent alert for danger, while Brown’s horse flies through the air in an effort to buck off its rider.

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