John Singer Sargent's Marionettes sells for $5.2m

John Singer Sargent's Marionettes has seen the highest sale price in Sotheby's American Art Auction, which was held May 22 in New York.

John Singer Sargent Marionettes
Marionettes is said to be inspired by the US' large Italian-American population, who brought marionettes over with them from Europe

The work, inspired by Sargent's trip to the US from his home in London in 1903, sold for $5.2m. Prior to the sale, it had been valued at $5m-7m.

The work is said to be a highly personal painting for Sargent, who had established himself as a portrait artist, but then grew tired of the medium and made the brave move to paint subjects of his choice.

Retaining its original frame, Marionettes remained in the artist's personal collection for more than 20 years. It then passed through his family by descent before ending up with the vendor.

Milton Avery Music Makers
The forms in Avery's Music Makers are clearly inspired by Picasso's 1903 work The Old Guitarist

However, despite Sargent's work selling at the top of the auction, Milton Avery's Music Makers saw the most exciting sale of the day, setting a new world record for the artist at $2.9m - a 97.6% increase on its $1.5m high estimate.

The 1947 piece represents a change in Avery's style, as he began a new partnership with Paul Rosenberg, the New York art dealer who represented artists such as Braque, Matisse and Picasso.

Avery began to emulate the colour palettes and simplification of form in Picasso's work, while never actually abandoning his figurative representations. The work was consigned from the estate of actor Gregory Peck and his wife Veronique.

Normal Rockell He's Going to be Taller than Dad
Rockwell's work almost always sees strong results, as the very definition of American Art in the 20th century

Also selling were six works from the perennially popular Norman Rockwell, which more than doubled their combined estimated of $3m to sell for $6.5m.  

Leading the collection was He's Going to be Taller than Dad, which sold for $2.6m, making an outstanding 275.5% increase on its $500,000-700,000 valuation.

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