Framed paintings are diamonds in the rough
Some people have all the luck. At least it certainly seems that way among collectors, a few of whom regularly come across trash (or at least undervalued and underappreciated items) buried in basements and attics that later turns out to be treasure. After all, such is the stuff “American Pickers” and other hit collectible reality shows is made.
Sandy and Gerry McCarroll of Grosse Pointe Park seem to have that Midas touch.
A few months ago, Gerry picked up two oils discovered in a pile in the basement at a Grosse Pointe sale. Signed by artist Archie Palmer Wigle, the works bear labels on the back that said they were framed at the one-time “Acme Art & Frame” company on Woodward in Detroit. The McCarrolls paid $60 for the pair. Sandy brought them in for appraisal.
Bob DuMouchelle, who took a closer look at his downtown auction house of the same name, praised the couple’s picking skills and their educated eye. He was very familiar with Wigle, who lived from 1881-1963. “He had a studio on Kercheval in Detroit and also one in Indian Village on Van Dyke near the former Van Dyke Place restaurant,” said the appraiser, who added that his family had sold many of Wigle’s works through the years.
DuMouchelle’s family had a longtime relationship with the artist. “He was an active member of Detroit’s artistic community during that era,” he told McCaroll. “He had connections to the Scarab Club, and he knew my grandfather.” Further Internet research lists Wigle’s work as an example of the Ashcan School of painting, showing cityscapes that include a portrait of downtown’s Detroit Athletic Club. His works were exhibited at the Detroit Institute of Arts in the 1920s.
DuMouchelle said that Wigle worked both as an artist and as a restorer for other artists and collectors and that through the years he was a regular at downtown auctions. “He used to come sit through auctions and would make himself available as a conservationist and restorer,” he said. DuMouchelle added that the artist’s works aren’t consistently signed in the same way, which can make them a challenge to identify. Some say, “Archie Wigle,” and some, “A. Palmer Wigle,” which is the case with the McCarroll’s two pieces.
While the signatures are different, DuMouchelle did think the two were made as a pair. “I wouldn’t go so far as to say one was a right and one a left, but I do think they were done about the same time,” he told McCarroll. “They are examples of oil on Masonite, a practice that started about the 1930s, so that would make these a little later in his career.”
Adding that he’d like to go shopping with the McCarrolls, he said the two pieces were “great finds” and that they would bring at least $200-$300 at auction each.
He said that the savvy pair was right to jump on the two diamonds in the rough despite their questionable condition. “These are presentable, but they are dirty,” perhaps reflecting their time in a damp Grosse Pointe basement. The couple weren’t sure what they would do with them but were happy to know more about their finds. DuMouchelle recommended a good cleaning, whether they were keeping them or not. “Making them more presentable often increases the value,” he told McCarroll.
Do you have an object you would like to know more about? Send a photo and description that includes how you acquired the object to: The Detroit News, Trash or Treasure?, 615 W. Lafayette Blvd., Detroit, MI 48226. Include your name and daytime telephone number. You may also send your photo and description to firstname.lastname@example.org. If chosen you’ll need to bring the items to an appraisal session. Photos cannot be returned.
Item:Oils on masonite
Owner: Sandy McCarroll, Grosse Pointe Park
Appraised by: Bob DuMouchelle, DuMouchelle Art Gallery and Auction House, Detroit
Estimated value: $200-$300 each, maybe more