eBay Talk (4) – Eakins on eBay

It is rare for one to find paintings by top American artists. Only less than one year ago, “Gross Clinic” by Thomas Eakins was tagged with a label of 68 million dollars, now there is one (possibly) by him on eBay. It would be interesting to see how much money it fetches through the internet. On the other hand, with eBay live more and more quality art works can be found in auction houses which allow internet bidding. If such works do appear on eBay alone, they are usually unsold items from a recent auction house.

The current Eakins is possibly from this case. The painting does bear a label on the back with “NO/15 T.Eakins”. Since the seller stated that the work was only on eBay due to an unsuccessful payment from a recent auction, it is easy to track in which auction house it was sold before. Simply going through ARTFACT.COM gave me the answer.

The seller, unfortunately, might not have told the whole story. It was in Ivey-Selkirk Auction house one month ago, as lot 160. The estimation was $35,000.00 – 45,000.00, but the final price only reached $22,000. Even with 18% buyer premium, it was not sold at this auction for what the seller had claimed as 30 grand. Although it may be the sellers’ wish that the final price could match his own estimation of $100,000, judging from the pictures taken by the auction house (not included in the eBay listing), the condition of the painting is poor and a full restoration may be needed.

Thomas Eakins was one of the most undervalued artists of his time. If the painting is authentic, the condition tells that the painting has not been treasured as it should be. The label on the back of the wood panel even shows the original price: $47.50. For a quick comparison, in 1895, Henry Clay Frick paid to William Bouguereau $5,000 for a painting named “A mischievous girl”. Eakins’s price tag here seems meager. Unlike his contemporary John Singer Sargent, a painter of high society, Eakins painted who he knew, not who he knew had deep pockets. And Eakins did not paint idealism as did Bouguereau, instead he painted beautiful minds under the normal flesh. It was such a delight to see his “Concert singer” one year ago in Frick Art & Historic Center: besides the fabulous light and shade on the gawn, Weda Cook’looking is as melancholy as Whitman’s song that she is singing. At Butler’s Museum of Art, his painting of Beatrice Fenton who is in deep self-absorbed meditations, like his other works, is almost characteristically narrative under the calm surface. Glamour in style or richness in color is rare for Eakins, behind the darkness of the background is something psychological, a distinctive feature of Eakins, sometimes almost nerve rattling.

No matter in whose hands the current eBay listing ends, a mystery which will be disclosed within 3 days, with the current starting bid price ($30,000), it will for sure that the painting would be better preserved, possibly through some professional conservator. That would be a happy ending.

eBay number: 120141916511

About Hui

Wang Hui lived from 1632 - 1717 and followed in the footprints of his great grandfathers, grandfather, father and uncles and learned painting at a very early age. He was later taught by two contemporary masters, Zhang Ke and Wang Shimin, who taught him to work in the tradition of copying famous Chinese paintings. This is most likely the reason why critics claim that his work is conservative and reflects the Yuan and Song traditions. One critic claimed that "his landscape paintings reflect his nostalgic attachment to classical Chinese aesthetics. Along with the other Wangs, Wang Hui helped to perpetuate the tradition of copying the ancient masters rather than creating original work.

1 comments

I am the seller of the Eakins on ebay. I want to clear a few things up . As stated above the author of the post states that the painting only sold for $22,000 at Selkirks. This is not a correct statement , the painting did sell for $30,000 the day AFTER the auction. I wanted to make that clear because I am a TRUTH based person. Ebay has stopped the auction due to me not owning the painting and me selling it for the owner. I did not know you could not sell for others on ebay. The painting is still for sale and anyone is welcome to contact me at 314 504-7515 for all the information and a full story on the painting.

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