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Press Release - May 26, 2021

David Bates’ ‘Waterfall’ Leads Heritage Texas Art Auction Above $774K

'Burning Leaves' gives Dallas artist a sweep of event's top two lots


David Bates Texas artist auction prices
DALLAS, Texas (May 26, 2019) — A pair of paintings by Dallas artist David Bates finished atop the Texas Art Auction at his hometown Heritage Auctions.

Bates' Waterfall, 2010 took top-lot honors in the sale when it reached $137,500, while Burning Leaves, 1983 brought a winning bid of $106,250. The auction's top two lots boosted the total for the sale to $774,094, nearly $200,000 above the event's high estimate.

"Demand for paintings by David Bates have soared in recent years, so it is no surprise that the top two results in the auction came from him," Heritage Auctions Texas Art Director Atlee Phillips said. "He is arguably the most important living Texas artist, with gallery showings in New York and artwork that regularly has sold for six figures, which is rare for a living, working artist. It is only fitting that an elite artist born and raised in Dallas should enjoy such continuous success at Heritage Auctions, which is based in his hometown."

From Property sold to benefit the Stephen M. Seay Charitable Foundation, Waterfall soared to more than five times its high pre-auction estimate. In his signature thick-brush style, Bates captures water spilling over rocks, almost off the board toward viewers.

Burning Leaves is a decidedly Lone Star scene set among the swirling smoke and chopped wood and burnt-orange of late autumn. It features a man at rest, on break, his back bent against the barren tree upon which he has propped his rake. He is clad in green plaid and khaki work pants, his hat slightly titled away from his brow. You can almost hear the crackle of the flame; you can almost smell the wisps of smoke rising toward the gray sky.

The six-figure results came seven months after Bates' painting Crab Legs set a world record for the Dallas artist.

Another lot that elevated well past its pre-auction estimate was Octavio Medellin's The Angel, which brought a winning bid of $87,500 against a pre-auction estimate of $3,000-5,000. The wood figure, standing 65-1/2 inches high, comes from the Mexican-American sculptor, one of the influential Dallas Nine Artists, whose art focused on the elemental and natural world. Medellin evolved into an influencer of future generations of artists through teaching roles at the Witte Museum, Southern Methodist University, the University of North Texas, The Dallas Museum of Fine Arts and the Medellin School of Sculpture, which opened in Dallas in 1966. The Dallas Museum of Art will mount the first major retrospective of his work since his death.

Robert Jenkins Onderdonk's The Afternoon Walk nearly doubled its high estimate when it finished at $65,625. Onderdonk, of course, wasn't a native Texan; he was born in Maryland and studied at the National Academy of Design in New York, and moved to San Antonio when he was 27 in 1879 — "reportedly to paint portraits of prominent citizens so he could save enough money in a year's time to study art in Europe," according to the Texas State Historical Association's Handbook of Texas. Instead, the father of Julian Onderdonk taught classes and moved to Dallas a decade later to open an art school downtown, remaining a de facto Texan for the rest of life, save for a year spent in St. Louis as a commercial tile painter, work very much on display in the idyllic The Afternoon Walk.

One of the sweeping landscapes in the auction, Porfirio Salinas Looking 'em Over, drew a winning bid of $37,500. Consigned from a private collection in Dallas, this work by the Bastrop native, and son of tenant farmers, likewise possesses the fresh gust of a plein air piece, appropriate for an artist who founded a painting school near Bandera.

Other highlights in the auction included, but were not limited to:

José Arpa Grand Canyon, Arizonia, circa 1925: $27,500

Porfirio Salinas Bluebonnet Beauty: $22,500

Joseph Havel How to Form a Sphere, 2015: $21,250

Bill Wiman Secret Surveillance of Three Foreign Pilots, 1974: $15,000

Julian Onderdonk Late Afternoon Autumn, Staten Island, c. 1904: $13,750

For images and information on all lots in the auction, visit

Heritage Auctions is the largest fine art and collectibles auction house founded in the United States, and the world's largest collectibles auctioneer. Heritage maintains offices in New York, Dallas, Beverly Hills, San Francisco, Chicago, Palm Beach, London, Paris, Geneva, Amsterdam and Hong Kong.

Heritage also enjoys the highest online traffic and dollar volume of any auction house on earth (source: SimilarWeb and Hiscox Report). The Internet's most popular auction-house website,, has more than 1,400,000 registered bidder-members and searchable free archives of five million past auction records with prices realized, descriptions and enlargeable photos. Reproduction rights routinely granted to media for photo credit.

Steve Lansdale, Public Relations Specialist

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