Feb 17, 2011 - Sale 2237

Sale 2237 - Lot 32

Price Realized: $ 7,800
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 5,000 - $ 7,000
Untitled (Three Women).

Oil and pencil on masonite board, 1949. 508x406 mm; 20x16 inches. Signed and dated in oil, lower right recto. Signed in pencil on the frame back.

Provenance: Rowena W. and Thomas J. Tobias, inscribed "November 12, 1949 from Rowena W. Tobias" and "30 W. 57" in pencil on the frame back; private collection. Rowena W. and Thomas J. Tobias were Savannah writers from a prominent Jewish family. He was a Jewish historian whose family in Savannah can be traced back to 1790--his family papers are in the collection of the College of Charleston. She was a Savannah and Charleston newspaper woman and wrote for The Nation in 1948.

Merton Simpson was also from Charleston and in 1949 was an aspiring 21-year old artist. This striking modernist work was painted the year of the artist's first exhibition, which his mentor, the painter William Halsey, helped him orgainze--it was likely purchased there by the Tobiases. Later that year, Simpson moved to New York, where he studied at New York University with Hale Woodruff, and at Cooper Union.

This is the earliest Merton Simpson painting to come to auction. A retrospective of his paintings, Merton Simpson: Confrontations, is currently on exhibition through March 13, 2011 at the Greenville County Museum of Art, SC.