Ten works by internationally known Kansas artist Birger Sandzen are set to go on the auction block later this month.
A prolific painter and printmaker, Sandzen lived and taught in Lindsborg from 1894 until his death in 1954. He created more than 3,000 paintings, 328 prints and countless watercolors and drawings. Inspired by the French Impressionists of the late 19th century, Sandzen brazenly used pink, purple, blue, yellow and green to mimic the light on his landscapes.
Today, his paintings and prints are in schools, churches, post offices, museums and private collections in Kansas and throughout the world.
So collectable are his works that in May, one large painting sold for $670,000. That particular painting was first shown at the Minnesota State Fair in September 1922, then at the McPherson High School annual art show in October 1921, at the Kansas City Art Institute annual exhibition in November 1921, was sent to Omaha in February 1922 and finally was shown at the Wichita Art Association in November 1922.
The 10 pieces currently for sale were owned by Emerson and Freda Moore of Wichita, who operated Wichita Sheet Metal Supply. Emerson Moore died last month.
His daughter Terry Moore said her parents had inherited the works in the 1990s from Emerson Moore’s aunt and uncle, Sadra Belle and Eugene Curtis of Hutchinson.
“They were taking care of my great-aunt,” she said. “They were pretty excited to have them. But I just thought they should go to somebody who would really appreciate them. I wasn’t going to appreciate them as much as somebody who loved Sandzen.”
The Emerson and Freda Moore estate sale is scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 18 at the Woody Auction Gallery, 120 E. Third in Douglass.
“We’ve been doing auctions for 50 years, and we personally have never sold a single oil Sandzen painting,” said Jason Woody of Woody Auction. “This will be the first time. And as you likely know, Birger Sandzen is one of the most famous Kansas artists, and the chance to find one original oil is very special.”
The Sandzen collection includes four oil paintings with a starting bid of $7,500 each, three lithographs with a starting bid at $250, one drypoint, one watercolor and one student oil.
“All of the starting bids are extremely low,” said Cori North, curator at the Birger Sandzen Memorial Gallery in Lindsborg. “We are a museum so we don’t follow all the auctions of his works although we do try to keep track. His work has become very popular with collectors in the past 10 years.”
Because of the work Sandzen and other like-minded artists did, their works are in several Kansas schools.
“They assisted schools in this area to collect art for the students’ sake – which is unique for Kansas,” North said. “Other schools in other states may have had posters. These were artists who gave schools a huge discount so that the kids could oftentimes be collecting art.”
The Wichita school district has several of Sandzen’s works, as does the Valley Center library, Salina public schools, the Salina public library and the Ponca City, Okla., public library, North said.
Sandzen and Carl Smalley of McPherson started an annual exhibit of art in 1911, and they invited other artists – even from outside the state – to participate.
Sandzen was also known for helping found the Prairie Print Makers, a group largely made up of Midwestern artists who nurtured one another’s work and encouraged laymen to collect their art. Membership at one time included people from all over the United States and Canada.
Other items in the auction include an unmarked Loetz Steifen und Flecken ruffled bowl made from iridescent amethyst with a silver punte and stripe design, a signed La Verne Francais French cameo vase with a lavender carved cameo overlay of stylized tree design and the rare “candy cane” mark and a marked Zsolnay art pottery jardiniere with an elaborate iridescent scene of ducks flying over trees and hills. There is also a Rockwood pottery pitcher dated 1889 done in a brown glaze with a decor of frogs in suits, signed “A.R.V” for Albert R. Valentein.
“Sandzen was an amazing model for getting art into the world and of having kids grow up on art,” North said. “I think he would appreciate the current auction trends. He was always selling things and was amazingly prolific.”
Woody said interest in the artwork has been high, especially from out-of-state bidders.
“We have had some contacts from out-of-state bidders, and that is always encouraging, but it is the in-state people who are really needing to be informed. It would be nice to keep some of these pieces within the state of Kansas.”
More info: http://www.woodyauction.com