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Harvey Dunn painting sets record price at auction

The Homesteaders (1942) by Harvey Dunn
Coeur d’Alene Art Auction
"The Homesteaders" (1942) by Harvey Dunn.

A painting by South Dakota-born artist Harvey Dunn has sold for $393,250 at auction, which is a new world-record price for a Dunn piece.

The Coeur d'Alene Art Auction in Idaho obtained "The Homesteaders" (1942) from a private family collection. Mike Overby is one of the auction partners and said while he knew it would sell for a high price, he didn't expect the painting to go for that much.

"We gave it a very aggressive presale estimate, which is our best guess to where a painting will sell based on past results and things," he said. "And the presale estimate on this was $150,000 to $250,000, which was somewhat aggressive, right out of the gate, because the old world-record price for a Dunn was about $130,000."

"The Homesteaders" was sold to a private collector from Wyoming.

"I think for our clients it just tells such a great story," Overby said. "I mean, they're coming west to create a new life and, hopefully, a prosperous life. And many of our buyers, they're people from the West, and many of them have ranches and things like that. And so I think it resonates with them.

"And then the other thing that makes it so rare is there really have been very few of these prairie scenes that have ever changed hands privately. And this being by far the best. So it was really a once-in-a-lifetime collecting opportunity."

Harvey Dunn was born in 1884 near Manchester, South Dakota. He later moved to New Jersey, but made many trips back to his home state and continued to paint the Dakota landscape and people until his death in 1952.

The South Dakota Art Museum in Brookings houses the largest collection of his work.

Megan hosts All Things Considered and the SDPB News podcast.