Christie’s recently announced that they will present Stewards of the West: The Knobloch Collection, a dedicated live auction of Western American Art on May 18th at the galleries at Rockefeller Center in New York City. The late entrepreneur and conservationist Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. built a striking private assemblage of Western American painting and sculpture that reflects his deep commitment to the region while developing a reputation as a leading connoisseur and collector in the field.
Off the walls of the family’s Wyoming residence, the collection is notable for its exceptional quality and features the leading artists of the genre such as Thomas Moran, Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Remington, and Henry F. Farny, among others.
Proceeds of the auction will benefit The Knobloch Family Foundation which is committed to grantmaking that ensures the conservation of natural ecosystems. With approximately 75 lots, the collection is expected to realize in the region of $15 to 23 million.
Tylee Abbott, VP, Head of American Art, Christie’s comments: “Carl Knobloch’s collection embodies his profound connection to the natural world—a legacy in beauty and stewardship that continues to inspire. It is fitting that such works, which were executed by the artists that first inspired leaders of generations past to preserve our country’s natural wonders, now be distributed for the express purpose of supporting organizations that contribute to the ongoing conservation and broader appreciation of these landscapes.”
Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. (1930-2016) had a long, successful career in business across finance, real estate, and oilfield services and production. He was also devoted to protecting the environment. In 1997, the Knoblochs established the Knobloch Family Foundation, an organization dedicated to science-based conservation and economics.
The beneficiary of this sale, the Foundation has supported initiatives ranging from the acquisition of acreage for Grand Teton National Park to the conservation of Texas and Georgia land for wildlife species and habitat restoration.
Among Knobloch’s most personal causes was his alma mater Yale University, where he contributed significantly towards the construction of Kroon Hall at the Yale School of the Environment. “The preservation of our natural ecosystems is critical to the continued economic strength of our country, as well as the health of all Americans,” Knobloch noted at the time.
In his private collection of American art, Knobloch found a source of continual inspiration and insight. When created, these sublime historic depictions of the American West inspired great interest in the West and a sense of reverence for its unspoiled land, importantly shaping ideas of conservation then as they continue to do to this day.
At their residence in Wyoming, the Knoblochs could live surrounded by the beauty of the natural world, whether indoors or out, their exceptional collection encompassing great diversity, from majestic landscapes of the frontier by revered figures such as Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran; to depictions of Native American life by George Catlin and Henry F. Farny; to masterfully rendered bronzes by Frederic Remington that capture the spirit of the American cowboy.
The collection features several highlights by Thomas Moran, who first traveled West in 1871, to Yellowstone, and was awestruck by the magnificent and rugged topography. It was Moran’s watercolors from this trip that aided in the government’s decision to set aside the area as the United States’ first National Park, which celebrates its 150th Anniversary in 2022.
Executed during this important moment, The Southern Arm of the Yellowstone Lake, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming Territory of 1874 exemplifies Moran’s mastery of the watercolor medium (estimate: $400,000-600,000).
Moran is also represented by the masterwork A Passing Shower in the Yellowstone Cañon (estimate: $1,500,000-2,500,000), a composition for which the artist has become best known and a testament to his enduring love for this unique landscape. This work was created during a seminal moment for American conservation when President Theodore Roosevelt visited Yellowstone for a second time.
Perhaps the nation’s greatest conservationist, in the decade following this inspirational trip Roosevelt would establish the United States Forest Service, create several more National Parks and numerous National Monuments.
Roosevelt’s deep connection to the American West is more specifically seen in Henry F. Farny’s Theodore Roosevelt ‘Sage Grouse Shooting’, a rare example of the artist depicting a specific individual (estimate: $300,000-500,000). President Roosevelt was an acquaintance and admirer of Farny’s work and they had once hunted together.
Albert Bierstadt’s Grazing Antelope (estimate: $100,000-150,000) and William Robinson Leigh’s View of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone ($250,000-350,000) also celebrate the region immediately surrounding the Knobloch home, while numerous other examples by the leading artists of the era represent other significant natural monuments of the West, such as Moran’s Grand Canyon, Colorado River (estimate: $700,000-1,000,000).
Embracing both the land and its inhabitants, other strong points in the collection include striking renditions of Native American life ranging from works by Alfred Jacob Miller to Joseph Henry Sharp, whose Blackfeet Teepees, Glacier Park (estimate: $40,000-60,000) fittingly captures life on the edge of Montana’s most well-known park.
The Collection also captures the cultural riches of the region with iconic depictions of the American Cowboy, with strong examples by Frederic Remington, his greatest champion, including casts of the celebrated Broncho Buster (estimate: $300,000-500,000) and Rattlesnake (estimate: $200,000-300,000).