The Preeminent Gallery for American Art

For more than fifty years, Spanierman Gallery cultivated a reputation as one of the country’s preeminent galleries dedicated to American Art. Founded by Ira Spanierman in 1961, the gallery initially offered a wide selection of material, including silver, arms and armor, Old Master, European and American art. Over time, Spanierman chose to focus exclusively on American art, a move that would establish the gallery as a tour-de-force in the field. Well-known for his outstanding ‘eye’ and dedication to connoisseurship, Spanierman was trusted by institutions and private collectors alike. The gallery was known to have sold to hundreds of museums across the United States and abroad while fostering the development of some of the country’s most prestigious private collections. 

In addition to its reputation as a dealer, Spanierman Gallery was esteemed in the industry for its dedication and support of art scholarship. As a young man starting off in the business, Ira Spanierman recalled researching and identifying paintings through tedious research at the Frick Art Reference Library. These hours of study left an indelible mark on Spanierman who would go on to publish catalogue raisonnés for artists such as Theodore Robinson, John Henry Twachtman, Willard Metcalf, and co-sponsor the catalogue on the work of Winslow Homer. 

When Spanierman Gallery closed in 2014 an impressive inventory remained. We are pleased to offer a selection of these works from the estates acquired by the gallery including those of Dora Maar, Solomon Ethe, Vaclav Vytlacil, John F. Carlson, Joseph Amar, James and Myron Lechay, Martha Walter, Mercedes Matter, Lamar Briggs, Sumiye Okoshi and Robert Emmett Owen.

James Lechay 1907–2001

James Lechay was a painter of figures, landscapes, cityscapes and still lifes who played a notable role in the tradition of avant-garde painting in New York and in the Midwest. An artist who defied categorization, he assimilated the precepts of modern European and American art, evolving a spare, semi-abstract style with expressionist overtones; as Lechay himself put it, he was an "abstract impressionist" who followed his own artistic agenda throughout the course of his career.

James Lechay was born in New York on July 5, 1907. He spent his childhood in Brooklyn; when he was thirteen his mother died, and he was sent to live with an uncle in Illinois. Lechay went on to attend the University of Illinois, where he received a B.A. in psychology in 1928. In 1929 he dropped out of graduate school to study with his brother, the painter Myron Lechay (1898-1972). He then traveled through Canada and the United States before settling in New York, where he became friendly with painters such as William Zorach, Milton Avery, Mark Rothko, Arshile Gorky and Raphael and Moses Soyer. In the 1930s, he was a leader of the Artists Union and worked for the government's Works Progress Administration, during which time he was sent to Las Vegas, New Mexico, to organize exhibitions of W.P.A. paintings by artists such as Milton Avery and Max Weber.

After his first one-man show in 1936, Lechay went on to have many solo exhibitions in New York and the Midwest. He participated in many group exhibitions and many of the major national annuals. In 1945, James Lechay joined the art faculty at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, working out of a studio that had once been used by Grant Wood. In the ensuing years, he also conducted summer workshops at institutions, including Stanford University, the Skowhegan School of Painting, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Studio Art School of the Aegean. After retiring from his position at the University of Iowa in 1972, Lechay moved to Wellfleet, Massachusetts, where he continued to paint and teach privately. Lechay continued to paint up until a few days before his death in Wellfleet on August 11, 2001.

Auction Results James Lechay