A Piece of History for Sale

Published on February 26th, 2013 | Posted in Art Market Analysis, Art News

The Seward House Museum in Auburn, New York has announced that it will sell a valuable Thomas Cole painting that has been in the Seward collection for over 150 years. Every Hudson River School collector is sure to have their eye on this magnificent painting entering the market for the first time in its history.

Painted by Hudson River School master Thomas Cole in 1842, Portage Falls on the Genesee was given as a gift to Secretary of State and former New York State Governor William Henry Seward (1801–1872) while he served under President Lincoln; David Strathairn played him in this year’s Oscar-nominated film Lincoln. This vibrant and dramatic autumnal landscape portrays Hornby Lodge on the Genessee River in what is now Letchworth State Park in western New York. The painting will be sold to support preservation of the collections of the Seward House Museum and the Fred L. Emerson Foundation, which first opened the house to the public in 1955.

There is no timetable for the sale, and while the Museum would like to see the piece go to another museum so that it can still be available to the public, they will certainly consider private offers. An asking price for the painting has not been released to the public, but if Christie’s 2009 sale of View in Kaaterskill Clove, 1826 (hammer price: $1,022,500) and 2003 sale of Catskill Mountain House (hammer price: $1,463,500) are any indication, we can expect this detailed painting’s final sale price to reflect its finish and rarity. While this news has resurrected discussions about how museums balance their mission of preservation with securing the massive funds necessary to do so, this sale will none-the-less be one to watch.

Thomas Cole, Portage Falls on the Genesee, 1839

Thomas Cole, “Portage Falls on the Genesee,” 1839; Collection Seward House Museum, Auburn, New York

Nina Sangimino is Senior Researcher at Questroyal Fine Art. Nina discovered her love of art in high school drawing and painting classes. She went on to study art history at the University at Albany and earned an MS in the same field from Pratt Institute. Prior to joining Questroyal, Nina was a curatorial apprentice at the Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport, New York.
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