From butterflies to classic Western scenes, sales at the annual Coeur d’Alene Art Auction stunned and surprised collectors.

All Images Courtesy the Coeur d’Alene Art Auction

Butterfly, a very small oil painting created by Albert Bierstadt later in his life, brought $12,000. A rather radical departure from his usual sweeping landscapes, it not only moves from the macro to the micro but also has abstracted characteristics.


The Coeur d’Alene Art Auction, held on July 23, showcased beautiful Western art by some of the best-known artists of the West. It included gems like Alfred Jacob Miller’s The Lost Greenhorn, A Peccary Hunt in Northern Mexico by Frederic Remington and Shooting the Buffalo by Charles Russell. Then there was Butterfly, a 6.5 x 9-inch oil done by Albert Bierstadt in 1890. What? Are we talking about Albert Bierstadt, 19th-century America’s best-known painter of enormous Western landscapes? Yep, he painted a butterfly. 


Executed early in his art career, Charles Russell’s Shooting the Buffalo illustrated a situation in which no hunter wants to get caught, between a raging buffalo and a sheer ravine. The hat on the ground in front of the animal accentuates the peril. The painting brought a top bid of $700,000


The Bierstadt painting illustrates one aspect of this year’s Coeur d’Alene Art Auction. Among the 330 works for sale were pieces that revealed well-known artists like Bierstadt, experimenting and creating the unexpected…at least unexpected to us today. There were several very capably executed landscape paintings by Carl Rungius, but somehow indistinct and without the bears or other wildlife usually found in his work. And, in addition to several familiar Western landscape paintings by Edgar Payne, the auction offered Tuna Boats, an out-of-focus harbor scene. None of these works, which often veered away from literal depictions toward the abstract, sold for as high at the auction as these artists’ more familiar paintings. Despite that, they reflect the artists’ efforts to develop their craft.

In addition to the aforementioned “experiments,” there were plenty of paintings depicting the more realistic images that we typically associate with Western art. Particularly popular were sporting scenes like Philip R. Goodwin’s Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, which brought the second highest sale of the day at $800,000, and William Herbert Dunton’s Treed, with the highest sale of the day at $1.2 million. Works by Dunton commanded some of the highest prices at the sale. 


Sporting themes were particularly popular at the Coeur d’Alene Art Auction. Painted with black and white oils, A Peccary Hunt in Northern Mexico (above) by Frederic Remington brought $160,000. William Herbert Dunton’s Treed (below, top) gathered the highest sale price at $1.2 million; with an $800,000 bid for Philip R. Goodwin’s Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (below, bottom) putting it at second highest.


The 2022 Coeur d’Alene Art Auction also had impressive works by living artists, bringing in a range of prices, from Jim Norton’s Splittin’  ’n Gettin’ at $15,000 to Logan Maxwell Hagege’s Where Land Meets Sky, which hammered out at $140,000. But the venue was dominated, both in terms of sheer numbers of artwork and in prices realized, by those who have passed on. It was a joy to see a catalog filled with works by Bierstadt, Russell, Payne, Sharp, Remington, Berninghaus and so many others who helped establish the genre of Western art, side by side on the auction block with the work of those who are furthering the genre today.  


Banff Country by Carl Rungius brought $9,000. While his wildlife paintings often have clearly detailed animals within less distinct backgrounds, this small (9 x 11-inch) painting presents a very indistinct landscape with no animals at all.

Alfred Jacob Miller created several different versions of his popular painting The Lost Greenhorn. The painting portrays a cook who strayed from a hunting camp and became lost in the vastness of the prairie. This version brought $400,000 at the Coeur d’Alene Art Auction.

Edward Payne’s Tuna Boats, with subject matter and a blurred appearance unlike his more familiar Western landscapes, brought $27,500.


Among the contemporary artists represented at the auction were Logan Maxwell Hagege and Jim Norton. Each frequently portrays modern-day people who continue the traditions of the West, like the Navajo riders in Hagege’s Where Land Meets Sky (above) and the modern cowboy practicing his trade in Norton’s Splittin’ ‘n Gettin’ (below, bottom).

Upcoming Auctions

September 19-24, 2022

Buffalo Bill Art Show & Sale

Rendezvous Royale (Cody, WY) • 307-587-5002 

October 5, 2022

Sporting & Collector Firearms Auction #1041

Rock Island Auction Co. (Rock Island, IL) • 309-797-1500

November 1, 2022

The Collection of G. Andrew Bjurman 

Bonhams (Los Angeles, CA) • 760-567-1744

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