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Lost work makes its U.S. debut

April 09, 2008|Suzanne Muchnic

"Lighthouse," a signature American Modernist painting by Marsden Hartley that has spent its entire life in Germany -- but was lost after World War II -- is making its American debut at Christie's in Beverly Hills.

Consigned to a May 21 New York auction, with an estimated price of $5 million to $7 million, the painting will be on view at Christie's West Coast showroom today and Thursday, and again next week, Tuesday through Thursday.

Hartley painted the bold abstraction in Berlin in 1915, at the end of a three-year sojourn in Europe. "Lighthouse" is part of a critically acclaimed body of work that Eric Widing, the auction house's American art specialist, deems "the first, best expression of an American trying to find a new vocabulary to describe what it is to be modern."

Hartley sold the painting soon after completing it to a Berlin couple, who later sold it to Hans Hasson Baron von Veltheim, a prominent German collector. The artwork was confiscated by Russian forces after the war and ended up in an East German museum. Von Veltheim's heirs discovered the painting's whereabouts five years ago and only recently took possession of it, Widing said.

-- Suzanne Muchnic

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