The recent Roger Tory Peterson and John James Audubon auction, as featured in the NY Times, conducted by Guernsey’s at Arader Galleries on Madison Ave., in New York this last Saturday, was an unmitigated success, and surely heralds a welcome return to a lively auction scene not often seen since the end of 2008.
Old friends and new packed the second floor at the Arader Galleries flagship store, which saw furious bidding for more than 400 lots of original gouache, watercolour and pencil drawings of birds that illustrate Peterson’s iconic Field Guides. With more than 90% sold by lot, Peterson’s place as the best known and best loved illustrator of birds in modern times is secured. “It is impossible to overestimate the role that Roger Tory Peterson played in 20th-century wildlife art and photography. Like the legendary John James Audubon before him, Peterson’s pioneering approach to the art of nature changed how everyday Americans interacted with the world around them, in particular with birds. The detailed paintings Peterson produced depicted birds in a realistic and easily recognisable way and in their natural habitat. That art, translated into his Field Guides to Birds, made modern bird-watching easily do-able by a regular person...” (Guernsey’s sale catalogue).
Audubon’s magnificent hand-coloured aquatints from the double elephant folio edition of “The Birds of America” (1827-1838), the single most important work on North American ornithology, were more than 80% sold by lot. Many, many lots by both artists achieved well over their high estimates; but by far and away the star of the auction was plate 431, Audubon’s life-size, vibrantly coloured American Flamingo at more than $125,000 inclusive. Other notable prices were achieved for Audubon’s Common American Swann at $97,600, and his Trumpeter Swann at $76,250.