In this series, the UAA team will list some of the interesting items that we have found in auctions, antique shops or eBay. We neither own the items or have the capability of examining the items in person in most cases. It mainly serves as an inventory record of what interests us (not necessarily in terms of value or investment opportunities) and possibly how much it fetches (if the result can be obtained). If you are serious about some lots, please contact the auction houses, dealers or eBay sellers directly.
1. Austin Auction Gallery, Dec 13, 2009. Lot 32, (26) Daguerreotypes, Ambrotypes, Minstrel Players
This lot comes with 26 photos in tintype, ambrotype or daguerreotype. Some with interior settings, a few are group portraits. Interestingly, the auction house has identified one sitter as a drowning victim in 1878. Photos of important figures usually add the values. (Note: National Portrait Gallery is now exhibiting a dozen daguerreotype photos of famous people.) Otherwise, opulent interiors, additional tools, instruments provide not only additional visual information but also market values. The ambrotype photo with two minstrel players wearing blackface makeup seems missing its glass cover and the case, but it is, in my opinion, the most intriguing photo in the group. Another great one is the three female posed with artist pallets. The backdrop features a forest scene possibly painted on the wall. I don’t see often male artists in group portraiture; but female group photos are common. This photo may reflect either their amateur status or the non-professional nature of their hobbies.
2. Austin Auction Gallery, Dec 13, 2009. Lot 18, Framed Oil Painting, Portrait of A Gentleman
It is sad to see 19th century unsigned portraiture in the market fetch little money. Once such portraits fall out of the original families, the sentimental values and personal links are thus lost and perhaps can seldom be recovered.
This painting must be done by a professional artist with great skills. The light gives a sharp contrast to enliven the face, but such light is also fairly even and soft, rendering the tender flesh and pink cheek with a convincing juvenile beauty. He shuns away from the viewer and looks to the left. Although the propped left hand holding a strap balances the composition and suggests a determined mind, his expression is far from being assured. What is he carrying? Is he a military official? Such questions are up to the hands of the future owner of this portrait.
3. Dawson and Nye, Dec 9, 2009. Lot 198, A French Town on A River by Charles Daubigny
A typical painting by Daubigny from boating perspective, the painting will be a substantial addition to art collectors of French Barbizon School or French impressionism since Daubigny championed Impressionism from early on. Unlike Rousseau, Daubigny’s nature is more tamed, cultivated, and almost exclusively horizontal. To some extent his view of humanized nature is more or less echoed by the American tonalism school who favored cabins and wood stumps although only Dwight William Tryon officially took instruction under him. I would check the catalogue raisonne by Hellebranth published in 1976 to see whether the painting is listed in the book, although no raisonne publication can guarantee complete coverage.
4. Works by Arthur B. Davies from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Brill, 1979, exhibition catalogue published by The Pennsylvania State University
It is hard to believe that a university museum in central Pennsylvania can have such a substantial art collection. In particular, the American art at the Palmer Art Museum at Penn State covers the timeline from the Colonial period to contemporary with important painters. Then at the museum store, we spotted a whole shelf of catalogues, all marked as “1 Dollar”.
The Brills focused on three artists: Arthur B. Davies, J. Francis Murphy, and Robert Kulicke. Interestingly, these three artists, whose careers together span the past one hundred years, differ greatly in their subjects and styles. The Brills contributed a substantial amount of painting to the Hudson River Museum when an exhibition of John Francis Murphy was mounted there in 1982. Their relationship with the Palmer Art Museum at the Penn State started with loaning a painting by Kulicke. In the early stage of the museum when there was no encyclopedic collection of American art, the curator organized exhibition based on the availability of artworks from collectors, as shown from other cataglogues of the same period. This exhibition catalogue features an essay by John Paul Driscoll and description of 60 paintings in the exhibition. Roughly fifteen pictures are included and a few are in color. The book is listed on Amazon for $30. If you are interested, make a phone call to the store or simply make a trip to the museum. It is well worth it.
5. Marx Toy Train at Antiques Depot, 1401 2nd Ave, Duncansville, PA
Once shunned by collectors of American Flyer, Lionel, Ives and other companies, Marx trains have become more collectible in recent years. This Marx set is in a display case in Antique Depot, Duncansville, Pa. It seems to be in very good condition and priced reasonably at $110. Unlike other antiques, the values of toy trains are pretty standard and guided by Greenberg’s price guides. I don’t have a price book for Marx products, however. It’s available through Amazon.com here. Generally I find toy trains in antique malls are priced without the guide of a book and often higher than the listed values. I have found exceptions, and gotten some good deals. There are two types of toy trains, ones for the toy value and ones for the scale model value. Many of the products straddle the two extremes. Marx trains, which began production in 1919, were made for their toy value. They were cheap and sturdy.