Hirshhorn Sells 2 Thomas Eakins Paintings Through Christie's, Raising $461,000

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden gained $461,000 from the sale of two paintings by Thomas Eakins yesterday at a public auction conducted by Christie's in New York.

The museum had placed three works by the 19th-century American artist up for auction to build up cash in its acquisition fund. The third painting, a study for "Portrait of Mrs. Charles L. Leonard," did not sell.

A portrait of Robert C. Ogden sold for $338,500, below the estimate set by Christie's of $400,000 to $600,000. A study for "William Rush and His Model" garnered $122,500, above the high estimate of $120,000.

"We are pleased with the successful sale of works," said Gabriel Riera, a spokesman for the museum. "We are considering our options with regard to the work that did not sell."

The Hirshhorn has 220 pieces by Eakins in its collection. The three selected were considered surplus in tone or subject matter and had not been exhibited at the museum since a survey of the artist's work in 1977.

The will of Joseph Hirshhorn, the American industrialist and philanthropist who gave his vast collection to the Smithsonian Institution, stipulated that works could be sold if the funds went to buy new pieces. The museum opened in 1974.

Yesterday's auction of American art at Christie's tallied $16.8 million, with Milton Avery's "Sketching by the Sea" bringing $2.2 million.

-- Jacqueline Trescott

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