Romare Bearden Collages Lead African American Art at Swann

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Kerry James Marshall, Wadsworth Jarrell, Augusta Savage, Alma Thomas & Kara Walker feature

Romare Bearden, Woman and Child, collage, 1968. Estimate $150,000 to $250,000.
Romare Bearden, Woman and Child, collage, 1968. Estimate $150,000 to $250,000.

New York—Swann Galleries’ fall offering of African American Art comes across the block on Thursday, December 10. The auction will present a strong offering of works by notable artists, including Romare Bearden, Charles Alston, Wadsworth Jarrell and artists from the AfriCOBRA collective, as well as sculptors Simone Leigh and Elizabeth Catlett.

Romare Bearden leads the sale with Woman and Child—an impressive collage inspired by Renaissance paintings and imagery of the Madonna and Child, and a significant work from an important 1968 series of collaged figures ($150,000-250,000). Additional collages by Bearden include The Last of the Blue Devils, 1979, originally commissioned as a poster for a film of the same name about the Jazz scene in Kansas City ($35,000-50,000); and Ritual Bayou, a scarce complete set of six 1971 editioned collages ($30,000-50,000). The run of Bearden prints that feature in the sale, as well as the collage The Last of the Blue Devils, come from the estate of Bruce Teleky, a forerunner in the African American poster and print publishing world. Teleky published several posthumous Bearden prints, including several with the Romare Bearden Foundation, as well as the Faith Ringgold print Groovin High, 1996, also available in the sale from the estate ($3,000-5,000).

Significant abstract works include Charles Alston’s 1961 Black and White #8, the largest and most important work to come to auction from a series of eight abstract paintings created between 1959 and 1961 ($100,000-150,000). Ed Clark is available with a 1978 color pastel abstraction from the Louisiana Series ($20,000-30,000). New Born, a 1958 oil-on-canvas painting by Thomas Sills, embodies the important mid-century transition from Abstract Expressionism to color field painting ($50,000-75,000). Color field is represented by Sam Gilliam with Toyopet I, a 1966–1997 acrylic-on-canvas work ($60,000-90,000), and Alma Thomas with Untitled (Composition in Dark Blue Black and Deep Pink), a 1972 acrylic-on-wove paper ($15,000-25,000). Sir Frank Bowling is present with Repose for SO, an excellent example of the artist’s mid-1970s series of “poured paintings” ($75,000-100,000).

Wadsworth Jarrell, Subway, acrylic on canvas, 1970. Estimate $100,000 to $150,000.
Wadsworth Jarrell, Subway, acrylic on canvas, 1970. Estimate $100,000 to $150,000.

A run of AfriCOBRA artists is headed off by the earliest and largest of Wadsworth Jarrell’s significant 1970s paintings to come to across the block. Subway, a brightly colored 1970 acrylic-on-canvas scene of commuters waiting for the subway, exemplifies the goals of political and social consciousness of the movement ($100,000-150,000). Other works include a 1972 color screenprint Revolutionary by Jarrell, after the painting of the same name ($7,000-10,000), and Unite, a 1969 color screenprint by Barbara Jones-Hogu ($6,000-9,000).

Sculpture includes a fine example of Gamin, an iconic sculpture of the Harlem Renaissance, by Augusta Savage, acquired directory from the artist ($20,000-30,000), as well as Sargent Johnson’s charming terra cotta bust Untitled (Sammy), also from the Harlem Renaissance ($50,000-75,000). For the first time Faith Ringgold’s soft sculpture works will come to auction with Tut and Betty, a fabulous disco couple from 1979 ($80,000-120,000). Head, a dynamic 2004 stoneware sculpture by Simone Leigh ($75,000-100,000), Head of Man (Portrait), a 1992 cast bronze work by Elizabeth Catlett ($20,000-30,000), and a pair of Julius sculptures, one painted plater and one cast bronze, by Richmond Barthé ($12,000-18,000) also feature. 

Emma Amos, Water Baby, acrylic and fabric collage, with Kente cloth border, 1987. Estimate $35,000 to $50,000.
Emma Amos, Water Baby, acrylic and fabric collage, with Kente cloth border, 1987. Estimate $35,000 to $50,000. 

A strong showing of Contemporary art features Water Baby, 1987, an excellent example of Emma Amos’s late 1980’s series of paintings of women bathers ($35,000-50,000), as well as Beauty, 2001, from Amos’s series of images depicting female figures in silhouette on a non-Western support of hanging fabric ($20,000-30,000). Several prints and multiples by Kara Walker include I’ll Be a Monkey’s Uncle, a large 1996 lithograph ($7,000-10,000), Canisters, a set of six etched glass canisters from 1997, and a set of four etchings and aquatints from 1997 ($12,000-18,000). Photographs by Carrie Mae Weems are available with Untitled (Listening Devices), a 2014 photo-etching, and I Took a Tip from Frida who from her Bed Painted Incessantly-Beautifully…, a 1997 gelatin silver print and the fifth and final image in her Not Manet’s Type series ($5,000-7,000). Donnamaria Bruton, Kerry James Marshall and Kenneth Victor Young round out the contemporary offering with the first of Bruton’s work to come to auction with Prayers for the Innocent, Prayers for the Guilty, a 2003–04 oil-and-collage ($25,000-35,000); Marshall’s 2010 color aquatint Vignette (Wishing Well) ($30,000-40,000); and a striking 2000 color field painting in blues and pinks by Young ($40,000-60,000).

Limited previewing (by appointment only) will be available through December 9, to be scheduled directly with a specialist in advance and conforming to strict safety guidelines. 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.


Lot 83: Romare Bearden, Woman and Child, collage, 1968. Estimate $150,000 to $250,000.

Lot 73: Wadsworth Jarrell, Subway, acrylic on canvas, 1970. Estimate $100,000 to $150,000.

Lot 151: Emma Amos, Water Baby, acrylic and fabric collage, with Kente cloth border, 1987. Estimate $35,000 to $50,000. 

Auction date: Thursday, December 10, at 12:00 pm

Specialist: Nigel Freeman • [email protected] • 212-254-4710 x 33

Chief Marketing Officer: Alexandra Nelson • [email protected] • 212-254-4710 x 19

Public Relations Associate: Kelsie Jankowski • [email protected] • 212-254-4710 x 23

Social Media: @swanngalleries 

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Swann Auction Galleries is a third-generation family business as well as the world’s largest auction house for works on paper. In the last 75 years, Swann has repeatedly revolutionized the trade with such innovations as the first U.S. auction dedicated to photographs and the world’s only department of African-American Fine Art. More than 30 auctions and previews are held annually in Swann Galleries’ two-floor exhibition space in Midtown Manhattan, and online worldwide. Visit for more information.

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