Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Rachel Davis Fine Arts
CLEVELAND, OHIO – The top lot at Rachel Davis Fine Art’s March 19 sale at $45,000 was by Roger Medearis (American, 1920-2001). “The Flower Children,” 1969, egg tempera and acrylic on canvas, came together with the preliminary sketches including the drawing, tone sketch and color sketch, all signed Medearis lower right. Framed, the pieces measured 16 by 22 inches each. A Regionalist painter, Medearis was a student of Thomas Hart Benton while at the Kansas City Art Institute in the late 1930s and took up the technique of egg tempera painting, a rediscovered medium popular with Regionalists. “The Flower Children,” a lively scene of hippies dancing in LA’s Griffith Park, was from a private Cleveland collection and had an extensive exhibition history. It was won by a Midwest gallery.
A Clyde Singer (American, 1908-1999) oil on canvas portrait of “Jim,” 1936, sold for $28,800 to a local dealer. The sitter in the painting is Jim Loby, who was a frequent model for Singer in Malvern, Ohio. Singer studied painting in New York and settled in the Youngstown area in 1940. Like Medearis, his painting style is associated with the American Regionalism movement of the 1920s through the 1950s. The 50-by-40-inch canvas was signed “Singer/Jun. 1936″ lower center and framed. Acquired directly from the artist, provenance included a North Olmstead, Ohio, private collection and an exhibition history at both the Art Institute of Chicago and Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art. Richard Robinson of Malvern acquired it from Singer. He was Singer’s dentist and would take paintings for payment.
Cat lovers were surely drawn to a couple of works offered in this sale. For starters, there was “Cats” by Leonard Tsuguharu Foujita (French/Japanese, 1886-1968), comprising 17 collotype plates from A Book of Cats, 1929, showing felines in just about every position. One was signed in pencil, and the sheets, each 10 by 13 inches, were marked “Made in France.” Estimated $5/8,000, the lot finished at $16,250. “This lot came into us right before we finished the catalog,” said Rachel Davis. “It was from an Akron, Ohio, woman who had inherited the works from her aunt. She had been laid off due to Covid and was hoping to get a couple thousand. It sold to a Japanese art dealer from the Midwest.
More colorful was Dutch artist Karel Appel’s (1921-2006) complete “Cats” portfolio comprising 17 lithographs in colors on Arches paper, which was bid to $9,500. Signed and numbered 110/125 in pencil, the total edition was 220, published by London Arts, Inc., Detroit, printed by Arts Litho-Paris, with full margins and including frontispiece and title page. One of the founders of the avant-garde movement CoBrA in 1948, Appel was a painter, sculptor and poet. He started painting at the age of 14 and studied at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam in the 1940s.
Agnes Doth of Lexington, Ky., operated a contemporary gallery in Minneapolis, Minn., in the 1960s-70s. From her estate came a 1968 etching with aquatint in colors by Zao Wou-Ki (Chinese, 1921-2013). Fetching $8,750 from a Hong Kong buyer, the untitled (Agerup 196) work was signed, dated and numbered 15/95 in pencil and measured 21 by 27 inches.
A Frank Wilcox (American, 1887-1964) watercolor handily surpassed its $600/900 estimate with competitive bidding taking it to $5,845, won by an East Coast collector originally from Cleveland. Titled ”Bonaventure Island,” the watercolor on illustration board, framed, 22 by 30 inches, was listed in the artist’s ledger books and authenticated by Wilcox’s grandson. “This was consigned to us by Baldwin Wallace University where it was headed for a dumpster until an astute art history professor noticed it and consigned it to us,” said Davis.
In the realm of sculpture, a monumental untitled work by Don Drumm (American, b 1935) brought $9,375. Created in 1969 in aluminum and resin with multiple pieces, its central piece measured 58 by 82 by 8 inches, although the size could vary depending on installation A certificate of authenticity from Drumm accompanied this piece. “Don Drumm is a longtime Akron artist,” said Davis. “Established in 1971, Don Drumm Studios & Gallery is a landmark. It is one of the earliest galleries of contemporary craft opened in the United States. He is world-renowned for pioneering the use of cast aluminum as an artistic medium. If the gifts you give must be astounding and your home accessories must be extraordinary, Drumm Studios & Gallery is the place to shop.
“This piece was initially installed in a business in Akron back in the early 1970s. Renovation is now being done on the building, and this work was headed to be scrapped until someone alerted the people what they had. It is headed to California.”
Rounding out the sale’s top highlights was a Claude Conover (American, 1907-1994) ceramic bottle that sold for $5,938. “Acanche” was signed “Claude/Conover/Acanche” on bottom and stood 11 inches high. “This pot sold to a collector in the Southwest,” said Davis. “This was another work that came in right before we wrapped up the catalog. It was discovered in a closet of the Mount Sinai Health Foundation in Cleveland.”
Davis said she was pleased with the sale’s $430,000 total and 90 percent sell-through. Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. The next sale, featuring fine and decorative arts, is set for May 14, and the next prints and drawings sale will take place on June 12. For more information, 216-939-1190 or www.racheldavisfinearts.com.