What you see: El Capitan in a Gathering Storm, by Gilbert Munger, painted in 1876. Bonhams estimates it at $40,000 to $60,000.
Who was Gilbert Munger? He was an American 19th century artist who taught himself to paint. While he wasn’t the first to immortalize El Capitan and other landscape landmarks of what is now Yosemite National Park, he was among the wave of artists who followed in the wake of photographer Carleton Watkins and his stereoscopic camera. In 1869, Munger served as a guest artist on a survey expedition, capturing the West’s natural splendor without giving short shrift to accuracy. Munger continued to travel the West periodically until 1875, and he helped increase Yosemite’s legend by showing his breathtaking Western images in Europe. Munger died in 1903.
What makes El Capitan in a Gathering Storm special? Munger canvases don’t come to auction all that often–archives note just 45 sales of his works between 1988 and now. The auction record for a Munger belongs to another El Capitan scene painted in the same year. In 2006, Bonhams sold A Small Encampment, El Capitan, in Yosemite Valley for $172,500.
What else makes the Munger oil on canvas stand out? “The quality is that outstanding,” says Scot Levitt, vice president of Bonhams and director of fine arts. “It catches your attention when you see it. It’s rare. And it’s exciting to see something that’s not your average scene.”
How to bid: El Capitan in a Gathering Storm is lot 6 in Bonhams’s California and Western Paintings and Sculpture auction on April 11 in Los Angeles.
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Image is courtesy of Bonhams.