Auctions | January 13, 2022

Artists of the WPA Opens the Winter 2022 Season at Swann

Courtesy of Swann Galleries

Dorothea Lange, Matriarch, South Dakota, silver print, 1939, printed 1950s. Estimate $4,000-6,000

New York—Continuing a tradition of offering specialized auctions, Swann Galleries will offer its second edition of The Artists of the WPA on Thursday, January 27 which aims to call attention to the generation of artists that contributed to the Federal Arts Project and the varying “alphabet agencies” and helped form a new American identity in the twentieth century.

Leading the sale is People’s Follies #2, tempera on board, 1938, by one of the leading elders of American art during the New Deal, Reginald Marsh ($30,000–50,000). Further works that embody the social realism movement of the era include Daniel Celentano’s Pelham Bay, oil on canvas ($8,000-12,000), and Aaron Bohrod’s Getting Ready for Auction, oil on Masonite, 1942 ($5,000–7,000).

Additional artworks of note include Blanche Lazzell’s Cape Cod Cottage; The Coffee Pot, an original, double-sided carved color woodblock, 1936, painted in color inks ($20,000–30,000); and John Steuart Curry’s Heart Ranch, Barber County Kansas, a 1929 oil-on-canvas plein air painting of a rural field ($10,000–15,000); as well as exceptional prints by Marsh, Louis Lozowick, Grant Wood, Milton Avery, Thomas Hart Benton, and John Sloan, among others.

Murals were among a core part of the Federal Arts Projects; featured in the sale are a number of studies and maquettes for these efforts. Most notable is James Daugherty’s 1936 maquette for the social room of Fairfield Court Housing Project in Stamford, Connecticut ($5,000–7,000); as well as two additional studies for additional projects throughout the 1930s—Daugherty completed a number of murals throughout the state under the Public Works Art Project. Michael Loew is present with Project for Mural, Agriculture, tempera on black illustration board ($1,500–2,500)—Loew was awarded mural projects funded by the Treasury Section of Fine Arts. Studies from Lois North, Jean Swiggett and Robert L. Lambdin also feature.

The Farm Security Administration tasked many photographers with capturing the lives of Americans affected by the Great Depression across the country. The most recognizable image from this agency is Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother; set to cross the block in a portfolio of 10 FSA photographs with images by Lange, Walker Evans, Arthur Rothstein and Ben Shahn ($4,000–6,000). Also of note from Lange is Matriarch, South Dakota, silver print, 1939, printed 1950s ($4,000–6,000), as well as Oklahoma Mother of Five Children, Now Picking Cotton in California, Near Fresno, 1936, and Wife and Child of Migrant Worker, Near Winters, California, 1936 ($4,000–6,000, together). Images by Peter Sekaer, Margaret Bourke-White, Arthur Rothstein, Berenice Abbott, Marion Post Wolcott and Russell Lee complete the section.

A selection of posters rounds out the sale with New York World’s Fair advertisements from Joseph Binder ($3,000–4,000), a brochure mailer promoting a student poster competition for the fair, designed by an unknown artist ($300–400), John Atherton ($500–750), Albert Staehle ($500–750), and Leslie Ragan, with an incredible original watercolor featuring a delicately-detailed view of the Trylon and Perisphere, flanked by contrasting vignettes of lower Manhattan in 1789 and 1939 ($6,000–9,000).

Exhibition hours are 12 p.m to 5 p.m. on weekdays from January 24 through January 26. Swann Galleries staff will prepare condition reports and provide additional photographs of material on request. Advance order bids can be placed with a specialist for the sale or on Swann’s website, and phone bidding will be available. Live online bidding platforms will be the Swann Galleries App, Invaluable, and Live Auctioneers. The complete catalogue and bidding information is available at and on the Swann Galleries App.
Additional highlights can be found here.