Popular Poppies

One day after California Poppy Day, on April 7, California’s oldest and largest auction house broke a record for artist Granville Redmond.

His oil painting of poppies and lupine in a lake with mountains hammered in at Bonhams & Butterfields as the top lot at $450,000.

Redmond’s poppy paintings call to mind another famous Impressionist’s paintings of poppies, in Giverny, Claude Monet. That artist’s work sells at auction for as high as $71 million, not surprisingly, since he is credited as the painter who inspired the name of the art movement with his painting Impression, Sunrise.

The American Impressionist painter Theodore Steele foresaw the Monet in California when he visited in 1892: “I do not think … that these subjects are unpaintable is correct, but they will be painted by artists of the Monet type, for one can see Monets everywhere. The same color charged air, the same scintillating radiance that Monet finds in the south of France, though with nobler forms and greater compositions than one usually finds in his pictures.”

Redmond’s record is close to surpassing that of another California Impressionist, known as the “Dean of Southern California Artists,” William Wendt. He also painted the state flower, especially in the critic favorite, 1897’s A Poppy Field in California. Wendt’s record is $10,000 higher than Redmond’s, for 1929’s In the Valley, which sold at Christie’s in 1998.

Redmond may have a good chance to beat out Wendt, especially if more of his poppy paintings come up for sale. Of his top five auction lots, all of them are paintings of poppies. Those paintings are just as popular today as they were when he painted them, after 1910, when he began spending more time in northern California. In 1931, critic Arthur Millier stated, “Redmond likes best of all to paint pictures of solitude and silence. ‘Alas,’ he wrote, ‘people will not buy them. They all seem to want poppies.’”

The auction closed at nearly $3.7 million.

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