Art. Today, let’s talk about art.
I’m not a stickler for what you put on your walls. You can turn a tangible piece of memory, like a ticket, a postcard or child’s design into art. But what is art without a frame? It can be as simple or ornate as you like. Make it or buy it, but show off your art.
At the end of the day, any item can be meaningful and provide color and richness to your decor.
In another life I taught Humanities courses, and for years I badgered my students to appreciate art. You don’t have to like everything, but you should appreciate an artist’s efforts. Find pieces that evoke a feeling in you: calmness, joy, excitement, or even despair. Just feel something when you look at an artistic expression.
All of which leads me to day’s topic: getting your art appraised. If you ever have the chance, jump on it. It’s a hoot.
Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery sponsored its annual Art Appraisal Day. Henry Flood Robert Jr., former art museum director at Jacksonville Museum of Modern Art, conducted the informal sessions, in that Henry didn’t provide certificates of authenticity.
One bewildered shopper stopped at the table. In a loud, excited voice he asked, “Is this the Antiques Roadshow?”
Now, I’m sure I don’t own any artwork valued over a few hundred dollars, but I’d never had my art appraised. Our carefully selected artwork is important to us. We have collected for years, as we travel, as we share new experiences, or as I receive artistic gifts from my sister. So are appraisals really necessary?
I wanted Henry to look at unusual art that we picked up at estate sales. Pieces we could sell so that others enjoy the power of art.
Avonlea’s appraisal rules were simple enough:
- no more than 3 pieces per person — together, David and I could bring 6 pieces
- $5 per piece — that’s fantastic!
- Henry would impart info, so I took copious notes
I thought our best bet for a sensational find would be the large African King Tut painting on papyrus, pictured above. One of my son’s discoveries, its woody smell wafted through the air as we unrolled it. An indecipherable artist’s name appeared in the left corner.
Henry dispelled my hopes for something unique. He thought it probably came from the Treasures of Tutankhamun Exhibit that toured the U.S. between 1976 and 1979. The country went mad for King Tut. I, myself, flew to New Orleans, the closest location to me, and viewed the exhibit at the New Orleans Museum of Art. I remember a long line of people standing outside the museum in the cold drizzle, which gave way to astonishing golden riches inside. I experienced a one-in-a-lifetime moment.
Henry advised us to flatten the papyrus — put it under heavy books for thirty days or more — and get it framed. As is, he estimates its worth around $125. The tightrope walk here is money, as always. I already took Tut to a frame shop and was quoted $500 from scratch. But, If I provide my own frame, glass and mat with dimensions that don’t perfectly fit the piece — which I can do — it will be $95. It might make the piece pop, but there’s not a lot of room for profit.
I showed him Trilobite, by another artist with an unreadable name. A trilobite is a fossil group of extinct marine invertebrate animals. What do you see when you look at the painting? I see birds on a wire, with a few feathers fluttering from above. I definitely don’t see extinct sea life. The dark colors, however, create a somber mood.
Trilobite’s artist created it using stone lithography, a technique where the artist draws an image directly on a flat limestone or piece of marble using a waxy/oily crayon. The next step involves water and oil and placing the paper over everything. Repeat, color by color.
This print is # 25 of a run of 25. Even though this was the last lithograph printed in the run, it was a short run. That’s good. The lines are crisp and overall condition excellent. Touch up the frame, Henry advised, and find of dictionary of lithographers’ chop marks. How easy will that be? In a gallery he would expect to see a price between $150 and $250.
The unexpected and delightful discovery came with three etchings that Michael, my son, snatched up at an estate sale several months ago. He plans to keep the Hofkirche, Luzerne and sell the other two. One look and Henry got excited. It turns out that they are original. One is dated 1921. Professor Paul Geissler (1881-1965) used copperplate to make the engravings on archival paper. He signed the plate, which means every copy shows that exact signature. Ours are unique because the artist also wrote his name and descriptions in pencil.
Henry speculated that Geissler exuded confidence because his name appears twice. Small wonder. A quick search revealed that Geissler received commissions from the German Empress and a Russian Grand Duke. He possesses impressive credentials.
Estimated price for each etching, as is: between $400 and $600. Imagine them framed. Imagine the expense.
Get them framed in Old Master’s frames, Henry advised. He’s talking about these kinds of frames — and they aren’t inexpensive. Does anyone have suggestions how how I can create the effect?
Henry couldn’t help us with our final piece. It’s a watercolor of a seated Japanese man. On the back of the frame was a handwritten label Tosa Mitsunobu, founder of the Tosa School of Japanese Painting back in the 13th century. Before you get too excited, none of us believed this piece displayed that kind of age.
Two areas of foxing, which are those age-related brown spots, appear on the face. More worrisome are tiny holes in the rice paper. Henry advised getting them fixed by a paper conservator. I’d need to find an expert in Japanese paper, which isn’t going to happen in Jacksonville.
Think! Wait . . . I have one credit left with Value My Stuff, meaning I’ve prepaid for one more item to be evaluated by this online company. I’ve used them before and been pleased with the results. Henry advised me to take the image out of the frame, take at least 10 photos that emphasize the holes and the foxing and send it on to the experts at Value My Stuff.
The event was a smashing success. Henry needs to come back more than once a year. Customers who didn’t know of the Art Appraisal Day asked: Will he be back tomorrow? Does this happen every weekend? If I run home now and get a picture, will he still have time to do it? No, no, no.
He was quite popular. I, for one, will suggest that Henry’s Art Appraisal Day become a regular event for the mall. Although David and I did not expect, nor receive, any momentous surprises with our art, a few people received startling good news. More importantly, we all had a jolly good time. Come back, Henry. Very soon.
Ann Marie and David