Jelly, jelly so fine

Saturday, May 8, 2021



I obtained this 
pencil study from my friend Ken in Palm Springs a few weeks ago to put in my auction. He bought it years ago in Atlanta but did not know the artist. I didn't either but it had a great look so I took it.

I had decided to only put 200 lots in on this inaugural auction. I could put a thousand lots in with all my inventory, believe me, but you have to stop somewhere.

On a whim, I sent this picture to four art dealer friends and an auction house to see if anybody recognized the signature.

Three did immediately. Steve Stoops was first.

It is the work of Peterpaul Ott (1895-1982.)

You can see a bio for Ott on Spencer Helfen's excellent website. And this from Artprice.

So I saw that Ott was a sculptor and this confirmed my initial feeling that it was a study drawing for a sculpture. So dimensional. But initial feelings are often wrong. And I was on this occasion.

It is actually the study for a 1935 WPA print called Tension.  
I love the WPA era, one of my very favorites. I found the print online while searching for Ott imagery. Prints are reversed on the block so that is why you see the image flipped.

The print is referenced behind a paywall of the December 8, 1935 Indianapolis Star newspaper. 

People don't believe me but honestly the research and sleuthing is the most rewarding part of my job. Intellectually rewarding, in any case.

I broke my self imposed limit of 200 lots. It will be interesting to see what it does in my auction. Lot #300.

Postscript: Thom Gianetto from Edenhurst Gallery informs me that Tension was shown at least twice. 

New York, Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Sculpture, Watercolors, Drawings and
> Prints, Whitney Museum of American Art, March 8 - April 10, 1938, no. 31 in catalogue

> Laguna Beach, California, Pageant of The Masters, Irvine Bowl, July 30 - August 14, 1949, program A - no. 15 and program c - no. 12 

Thanks Thom!


Wilbur Norman said...

Yes! The WPA period with all that working man, social realism stuff is endlessly fascinating in every area of the arts (as well as life.)

Nice piece. I bought a load of great drawings when I lived 22 months in Atlanta for a consulting firm job where I traveled with responsibility for the 8 states in the southeast, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Good luck at the auction!

Ken Seals said...


Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Sommers,

Unfortunately this does not ring any bells with our picture specialists nor can they decipher the signature, so I am afraid it is of decorative value only – less than $500 at auction.

Many thanks nonetheless,

Matthew Haley
Head of Books and Manuscripts