Freeman’s March 30th auction of The George D. Horst Collection of Fine Art achieved $4.3 million in sales, more than tripling the original estimate of $1.3 million. The auction drew international interest as collectors from 47 countries registered for the sale and bidders packed Freeman’s third floor gallery an hour before the auction began—those without seats lining the perimeter of the room. Once the auction commenced, spirited bidding from the room, on the phones, and online sent prices soaring above estimates. New auction records were set for 20 artists, and the 63-lot auction had a 100% percent sell-through, making it a “white glove” sale.
“I am beyond thrilled with the results for this collection,” said Vice Chairman and auctioneer Alasdair Nichol. “When Freeman’s was appointed to sell The George D. Horst Collection, I said it was an auctioneer’s perfect storm. The paintings had a fantastic provenance and were in excellent condition. Our marketing department then took the collection to the next level. From events and lectures in London, Washington, DC, and Philadelphia’s Main Line to producing high-quality videos, generating press, and reaching collectors via social media, the marketing for this sale went viral,” continued Nichol.
The top three lots from the Horst sale were sold to private collectors across the United States, and auction records were achieved for 20 artists including Katherine Newbold Birdsall, George Matthew Bruestle, Howard Russell Butler, Emil Carlsen, Mary Gray, Walter Hauschild, Louis Bertrand Ralston Keeler, Paul Bernard King, Elizabeth Annie McGillvray Knowles, Jonas Lie, Mary McClellan, George Loftus Noyes, Marie Danforth Page, Susan Gertrude Schell, Milly Steger, George Agnew Reid , Caroline Everett Risque, and Frederick R. Wagner.
The top three lots from the Horst sale were sold to private collectors across the United States, and auction records were achieved for 20 artists including Katherine Newbold Birdsall, George Matthew Bruestle, Howard Russell Butler, Emil Carlsen, Heinz Fuchs, Mary Gray, Walter Hauschild, Louis Bertrand Ralston Keeler, Paul Bernard King, Elizabeth Annie McGillvray Knowles, Jonas Lie, Mary McClellan, George Loftus Noyes, Marie Danforth Page, Susan Gertrude Schell, Milly Steger, George Agnew Reid , Caroline Everett Risque, Abba Von Wrangle, and Frederick R. Wagner.
The George D. Horst Collection had remained virtually unseen for almost a century, and the 63 paintings, many in their original frames, were amassed by Pennsylvania businessman George D. Horst from 1911-1929. Most works were purchased soon after their completion from galleries, fine art institutions, and auction houses—including Freeman’s. Horst constructed his own private gallery in 1924 and continued to purchase art until the stock market crashed in 1929. The Horsts often used this single-room gallery for entertaining friends and sharing their impressive collection with guests.
An immigrant from Germany, the American and European paintings in the collection reflect Horst’s dual identity. A major source of American art for Horst was the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the oldest art school and museum in the US. Known for producing many talented and influential American artists, PAFA’s annual exhibitions provided students and graduates with the opportunity to present the best examples of their work, which in turn, drew collectors like Horst. Daniel Garber’s painting entitled “Glen Cuttaloosa” was acquired by Horst during the 1926 exhibition, one year after it was completed. Horst was also partial to Pennsylvania Impressionists (also known as the New Hope School) such as Fred Wagner, Edward Willis Redfield, and William Lathrop as well as American artists known as “The Ten” such as Childe Hassam and Frank Weston Benson. Among the European painters in the collection, well-known predecessors of Impressionism like Barbizon artists Eugène Boudin and Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, as well as Henri Harpignies, Charles-François Daubigny and Diaz de la Pena were represented.
George Horst died in 1934, his wife in 1957. By the 1950s, the Impressionist style of the collection fell out of fashion, replaced by artistic trends which rejected the traditions of their forbearers. As a result, Horst’s paintings were forgotten by the family. They remained undisturbed in the gallery until the 1980s when his grandson, George H. Sullivan, began to re-examine the collection. His interest was triggered by an exhibition he attended in New York City, dedicated to the French Barbizon painter, Charles-François Daubigny. As he studied his grandfather’s Daubigny—and then more closely the rest of the ensemble—he discovered that this seemingly unpretentious collection was actually a trove of fine artwork by European and American nineteenth and early twentieth-century painters.