Two oil paintings by Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis combine for CA$501,500 at Miller & Miller…

Oil painting on masonite panel by Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis (1901-1970), titled Black Truck (1967), measuring 11 inches by 14 inches, signed by the artist (CA$413,000).
Miller & Miller Auctions, Ltd.

NEW HAMBURG, Ontario, Canada – A pair of oil-on-panel paintings by Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis (1901-1970) blew their pre-sale estimates to close at a combined $501,500, and a group of letters written by Lewis to another artist and confidant fetched $82,600 at an online Canadiana and Decorative Arts auction held May 14 by Miller & Miller Auctions. ltd.

All prices listed in this report are in Canadian dollars.

The first batch of the 407-lot auction was easily Lewis’s black truck, painted in 1967, an oil on Masonite board measuring 11 inches by 14 inches. The spring painting, showing a black truck, daffodils, cherry blossoms, and a house, had an estimate of $30,000 to $35,000, but aggressive bidders eventually knocked even the high estimate figure tenfold.

“At a time of great upheaval and change, the art world lived vicariously through Maud Lewis and her art, setting three new world records with the three lots on offer, the highest of which, black truckat $413,000,” said Ethan Miller of Miller & Miller Auctions, Ltd. “It raises the stage for his works to unimaginable heights.

Lewis’ other rendering was the one titled Oxen pulling logs, also from 1967. It was an interesting work by the artist, as it was a little simpler in the amount of subject matter. It featured a snowy scene of a driver with oxen hauling logs, with prominent evergreens in the background. The dynamic 12-by-16-inch work changed hands for $88,500.

Wedged between the two paintings was Lot 336, a group of three letters from Ms. Lewis to John H. Kinnear, dated 1966-1967. Few of Lewis’s letters exist, and these offered a rare insight into his fascinating world. Kinnear, himself an artist, corresponded with Maud Lewis from her rise to fame in the mid-1960s until her death in 1970.

Oil on panel painting by Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis (1901-1970), titled Oxen Pulling Logs (1967), measuring 12 inches by 16 inches, signed by the artist (CA$88,500).
Miller & Miller Auctions, Ltd.

Kinnear would send the artist pre-primed masonite boards, brushes, and the requested paints. In return, Maud would send the finished paintings to Kinnear to sell and he would then pass the proceeds back to Maud in Marshalltown, her home. In this regard, John Kinnear acts as Maud’s agent in Ontario. The letters sold to a determined bidder for $82,600.

The rest of the sale included art, fine pottery, furniture, bronzes and sculptures, folk art, textiles, fruit pots, silverware, oil lamps and lamps and lights. “Categories such as Canadiana textiles and furniture underperformed in this sale,” Miller conceded. “In these mature collector markets, the ‘good’ is not good enough for our audience. It must be “awesome” to play.

Here are more highlights from the auction, which raised CA$948,218. Just over 500 people registered to bid on LiveAauctioneers.com and the Miller & Miller website (www.MillerandMillerAuctions.com). A total of 7,556 bids were placed, with 98% of all lots sold (19% of lots exceeded their high estimate). Calls for tenders by telephone and by correspondence were taken.

A circa 1825 powder horn made and signed by John Tansel (1800-1872) was a true slice of Americana, carved with a Federal eagle with an armored chest, arrows in one clawed foot, and a leafy vine in the other ($22,420). The 11 ½ inch long cow horn was signed “JT” on the side of the eagle. John was the eldest son of the famous Kentucky horn carver, Francis Tansel.

An equestrian themed painting, watercolor and pencil on paper rendered thoroughbred Princess Louisa at 2 years old., by Joseph Swift (Canadian, 1832-1889), c.1880, signed by the artist, commissioned $10,030. Also, an oil on canvas winter scene by Canadian artist Homer Ransford Watson (1855-1936), titled Hespeler outskirts (circa 1925), signed “Homer Watson” and measuring 12 inches by 16 inches, fetched $5,310.

Watercolor and pencil on paper rendering of Princess Louisa at age 2, by Joseph Swift (Canadian, 1832-1889), c.1880, artist signed lower right (CA$10,030).
Miller & Miller Auctions, Ltd.

The auction included a group of “naughty” cold-painted bronzes by Austrian artist Franz Xaver Bergman (1861-1935), all early 20th-century cold-painted, gilt-patinated Orientalist sculptures signed “Nam Greb”, or “Bergman” spelled backwards, its an attempt to appear anonymous to avoid possible civil conviction or penalties for obscenity or immorality.

Bergman’s “naughty” bronzes included a seated Buddha that opened to reveal the figure of a naked woman with a headdress ($9,440); a Geisha dressed in a kimono that has opened to reveal a nude, gold-patinated figure here ($8,850); a sarcophagus opening to reveal a gold-patinated nude female figure adorned with a tiara in her hair ($7,670); and an exotic dancer wearing a dress that opened to reveal her partially nude figure ($6,490).

There were two Art Deco bronze sculptures by Romanian sculptor Demetre Chiparus (1886-1947), both chryselephantine bronzes depicting dancers with outstretched arms. One, a rare cold-painted, bone-mounted (chryselephantine) figural bronze from the early 20th century, measuring 17 ¼ inches in height, fetched $8,850. The other, a gilt bronze, bone-mounted figurine, measuring 23 ¾ inches tall, fetched $5,900. Both were signed “DH Chiparus – Made in France”.

Rounding out this short list of auction highlights is a caged bird automaton, consisting of a large gilt brass cage enclosing two moving, singing songbirds on a perch (French/German, circa 1900 ), 20 inches tall, fetched $8,260; and a probably Canadian circa 1900 beehive pint fruit jar, clean and clear with a zinc band and aqua lid, came to $7,080.

Miller & Miller Auctions, Ltd. organizes several large auctions for the summer and fall. All will be online only. They include the following:

  • Watches & Jewelry (Saturday June 11)
  • Petroliana, Railroadiana & Advertising, with the Joe Byway collection (Saturday June 18)
  • Petroliana & Advertising (Saturday September 10)
  • Art & Canadiana (Saturday, October 1)

Miller & Miller Auctions, Ltd. is Canada’s trusted seller of high value collections and always accepts quality shipments. The company specializes in watches and jewelry, art, antiques and high-value collectibles. Its mission is to provide collectors with a trusted place to buy and sell.

To consign a unique piece, an estate or a collection, you can call them at (519) 573-3710; or, you can email them to [email protected] Learn more about Miller & Miller Auctions, Ltd. and their upcoming auctions, please visit www.millerandmillerauctions.com.

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