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Press Release - May 6, 2021
Deep in the Heart of Heritage Auctions’ May 22 Texas Art Sale, Something for EveryoneIntimate works from David Bates and folk favorite Velox Benjamin Ward join stunning landscapes by Lone Star legends
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His Burning Leaves from 1983, a decidedly Lone Star scene set among the swirling smoke and chopped wood and burnt-orange of late autumn, serves as one of the centerpieces in Heritage's May 22 Texas Art event. 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.
Burning Leaves is a decidedly Batesian work: As ArtForum wrote in November 1984, his "bucolic subjects are not the loaded or melodramatic stuff typical of current painting." His works might hint at his art education at Southern Methodist University and the Whitney in the 1970s; there might be some nods to Picasso in there, some hints of American Regionalism.
But as Ed Hill and Suzanne Bloom wrote in their '84 love letter, "Fundamental to the identity of the work is Bates' long-standing affinity for the forthrightness and populist motifs of folk art; but he also possesses an esthetic astuteness, an art-smartness we associate with survival in the streets and alleys of an urbane art world, which potentially contradicts the homey thematics and plainspoken forms of ingenuous art. To link rough innocence with acquired sophistication is not unknown, of course, especially in America."
Burning Leaves, once in the collection of Phillip Morris Companies, Inc. and exhibited in several museums, ranks among his finest works. Its estimate is $60,000-$80,000.
But as Atlee Phillips, director of Texas Art at Heritage Auctions, notes, this auction is a thrillingly diverse one — "from rare early Texas paintings and field sketches to important mid-century sculptures and the best in Texas contemporary," as she says. "Our Texas Art auction really does offer something for every collector."
Bates is joined in this event by an estimable lineup of Texas artists, chief among them Robert Jenkins Onderdonk, represented here by The Afternoon Walk (estimate: $25,000-$35,000) from the late 1800s.
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. And so he would remain a 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. The work, undated, is a "tour-de-force of American Arts and Crafts tile painting," per the online catalog listing, by the man the Dallas Museum of Art calls "one of Early Texas's most important artists."
Another San Antonio legend, José Arpa, is also represented in this auction with the stunning Grand Canyon, Arizona, circa 1925. Its estimate is $20,000-$30,000.
Shortly before the landscape was painted, Arpa had been splitting his time between his native Spain, Mexico and San Antonio, where he had opened a studio (and, later, a painting school), befriended the Onderdonks, garnered major acclaim and eventually collected, among others honors, the Texas Prize at the Edgar B. Davis Wildflower Competition. His murals were even displayed in the lobby of the San Antonio Express, so adored was his work in his adopted home.
Grand Canyon is a piece in which he shows off all that he picked up and soaked in during his myriad sojourns; it's a love letter to America painted in the plein air style he learned in Rome and perfected in Spain. Its colors, too, speak to the Native American and Mexican influences. He actually painted a number of Grand Canyon scenes, many of which were exhibited at New York's Babcock Galleries in 1925. This work is a slightly smaller, more loosely painted version of a piece titled Grand Canyon that resides in the permanent collection at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon.
Another sweeping landscape appears in the Texas Art Signature Auction: Porfirio Salinas's Looking 'em Over, which comes to auction 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.
The opportunity to own a Salinas is not to be taken lightly, especially a piece as sweeping and yet as intimate as this undated work estimated between $30,000-$40,000. After all, as our catalog notes, Salinas was the favorite artist of another Texan, President Lyndon B. Johnson, who featured his works in the White House and spoke often of his affection for the son of Bastrop.
Robert William Wood, one of the most reproduced American painters of the last 100 years, provides for this event his stunning Hill Country. This oil on canvas, estimated between $15,000-$30,000, might as well serve as postcard and advertisement for this coveted, adored slice of Texas, seen here covered in bluebonnets and draped in those cotton-ball clouds that hang in the springtime sky. Like Arpa Wood was an outsider (in this case, from England) whose depictions of his adopted state would become some of the most iconic and representative.
From Franklin County in East Texas comes the late Velox Benjamin Ward, a self-taught painter who didn't even put brush to canvas until he was 59 years old. His work reflected his surroundings — life in rural Texas, out among the weathered clapboard and the tall grass and the big sky and hardscrabble folk. Jimmy Clay, the name of the 1969 painting featuring the man in overalls astride his horse, is so representative of Ward's work is has been exhibited from the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth to the Longview Museum & Arts Center.
Ward has long been a favorite of Heritage clients, who seemingly set records for the artist each time his work is offered. Jimmy Clay, estimated at $12,000-$18,000, is extraordinarily special, too: It was a gift from the artist's wife to a private Texas collector in 1985, and has never before been to auction. A special piece from a special place.
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, HA.com, 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.
Robert Wilonsky, Director, Corporate Communications
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