A Celebration of Women’s Art Throughout History: Results From Neal Auction Company’s Inaugural Sale
Long neglected and often misattributed, women artists are finally getting their due. The upward trend for women artists can be seen across all levels of the art market, with increasing enthusiasm for contemporary artists and renewed interest in artists from the past. In keeping with a growing focus on this category, Neal Auction Company celebrated works by women artists throughout art history in an inaugural annual auction on March 30, 2023. The sale paid homage to the female voice while encouraging new dialogue and scholarship on how women influence art history.
The sale kicked off with Semiotic 86-4, a 1986 mixed-media on canvas by Ida Rittenberg Kohlmeyer (lot #64; sold for USD 29,000). Kohlmeyer’s paintings are abstract yet linguistic, and they hint at the deep personal emotion behind them. In this vibrant 1986 painting, the artist’s signature vocabulary of glyphs has broken free of the grid system she originally employed to float across the canvas in a cacophony of shapes and colors. The glyphs hint at familiar shapes, each undergoing a dimensional distortion that further adds to the overall feeling of movement and vitality.
A native of New Orleans, Ida Kohlmeyer (American, 1912 – 1997) achieved international acclaim as an artist and developed her unique perspective on abstract art. Kohlmeyer’s interest in non-objective matters was, to a certain extent, influenced by Hans Hofmann and Mark Rothko. Abstraction appealed to Kohlmeyer, and she likened her sudden shift from representation to being freed from prison. Kohlmeyer is considered a matriarch among American artists, as she broke the mold for Southern artists and women artists alike during her lifetime. She is widely considered one of the most influential artists from Louisiana and the American South. Her legacy is one of joyful, colorful paintings and a generation of creators who follow in her footsteps.
Boy and Girl, a 1974 oil on canvas, signed and dated lower right by Theora Hamblett, was another notable lot in the auction (lot #35; sold for $29,000). Hamblett’s paintings have two main hallmarks that set them apart– pattern and color. Almost obsessively flat areas of color, off-set by the equally flat subjects, are in dramatic contrast to her distinctive and highly patterned trees. The effect of the foliage evokes movement, as each leaf was individually painted. Many of Hamblett’s paintings concentrated on her childhood memories, especially of the chicken farm in Paris, Mississippi where she spent her childhood. In nearly all her landscape paintings, Hamblett included animals or people to give life to the scenes.
Theora Hamblett (American, 1895 – 1977) was one of Mississippi’s most celebrated and distinguished artists. After an accident that broke her hip and required surgery in 1954, Hamblett began to paint her dreams and visions. Her painting was exhibited in a 1955 show of new acquisitions at the Museum of Modern Art. Hamblett willed most of her collection of paintings to the University of Mississippi, making them rare to find in the private market today.
A polished and painted aluminum kinetic sculpture titled Coryphée (Tree Spirit) by Lin Emery was another lot that demanded attention in Neal Auction Company’s recent sale (lot #63; sold for $26,000). In 1952, Emery (American, 1926 – 2021) attended the Sculpture Center in New York and learned to weld and cast metal. She was influenced by Seymour Lipton and his textured welded forms. With metal being her newfound medium of choice, Emery focused on making it move. It was her 1977 discovery and subsequent usage of ball bearings in her works that would transform the way her iconic sculptures moved, giving them a freedom and autonomy that was unattainable previously.
Neal Auction Company of New Orleans presented its inaugural sale of women’s art to mark Women’s History Month in March. The sale offered a curated selection with unique perspectives from well-established names and gifted emerging creators. Visit Neal Auction Company’s website to find the complete results.
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