Friday’s fine-art auction at Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland, hosted by Barridoff Galleries, remains a highlight of the summer art season.

It’s a highly social event, offering serious buyers and curious onlookers the opportunity to look closely at a great array of artwork by old-world masters and their present-day contemporaries.

The auction, which draws hundreds of people in person and many more by phone and online, is the most public annual litmus test for art collecting in Maine. It’s a mistake, however, to think it is just for those whose passion for art is matched by a well-padded pocketbook.

Most of these works have been in private collections and will go back into private collections once they are sold. So go see them while you can.

The 300 or so works include pieces by major artists such as Fairfield Porter, Frank Stella, Giorgio de Chirico, Rockwell Kent, William Merritt Chase, Morris Graves and James Fitzgerald, to name just a few. Many of the works are being shown for the first time.

Maine’s late, great Stephen Etnier has about seven works in the auction, including two rare and quite excellent views of Portland Harbor. One is an unusually spare and gorgeously finished image looking across to the South Portland oil tanks. The other is interestingly complex with almost the opposite view.

Among my favorite works are two landscapes by Marguerite Zorach that reveal a deep understanding of Fauvism and Georges Braque, in particular. One is a 1910 modernist landscape painted in Provence. Its thick and chewy lines are handled like frosting on an indulgent cake. The other painting shows a waterfall: mesmerizing, meditative and effervescent.

Walt Kuhn is represented by an extremely strong pair of portraits. One is a strange but brilliant 1944 portrait of a man in a colorful costume. Kuhn is known for his portraits, and this is one of his best.

The other canvas is the gorgeously compelling “Girl’s Bare Shoulders.” A beautiful young woman in three-quarter pose gazes back at the viewer with limpid blue eyes. The red of her lips glistens, almost trembling.

This is a chance to see strong works by important artists that you will likely never see again. Don’t miss this opportunity.

 

Freelance writer Daniel Kany is an art historian who lives in Cumberland. He can be contacted at: [email protected]