Treasure: Oil painting was once shown at DIA

Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News

‘Tell me about my picture,” requested the subject line in the email Cynthia Earles Blasses wrote requesting help solving a family mystery. “We understand this picture was on display at the DIA through our late uncle Jerry Earles. We are interested in having this picture restored.”

Unfortunately, even pieces with solid information and attribution can sometimes be a challenge for appraisers such as Jim Flannery, who looked at the oil on canvas at a recent Trash or Treasure appraisal session held at DuMouchelles Art Gallery and Auction House in downtown Detroit.

Signed Julia G. Moore on the lower left and dated 1946, the piece is titled “Orchids.” “We inherited this along with some others,” Blasses told the appraiser as he took a closer look.

“Unfortunately, the work is a rather dark style of painting and could really stand with a good cleaning,” said Flannery, which can make it even more difficult to examine and decipher. “I do believe this is the original frame.”

“It was displayed at the DIA,” Blasses added, a fact that is supported by a Detroit Institute of Arts label on the back saying the piece had been part of an annual exhibition of Michigan artists held at the museum. Also on the back is an address reading “Detroit 2, Michigan.”

Maria Ketcham, the director of the DIA’s research library and archives, supplied background about the Michigan artists’ exhibition. “The exhibitions started early on in conjunction with the Scarab Club in 1915 and were subsequently held here every year until 1973,” she explained in an email. “The annual exhibition for Michigan artists was revived in 1980 and lasted through 1990 with our OMAP series,” an abbreviation that stood for Ongoing Michigan Artists Program.

Flannery found little information on the artist in Internet-based art sources, adding that made it more difficult to accurately value the painting. Because of its quality and ties to the DIA, he appraised it at $500-$800; $600-$900 if Blasses had it cleaned and some conservation work done. “With conservation, it would be quite a bit more vibrant and even more appealing,” he said.

Blasses continued to research the work after the appraisal. In the special collections of the Detroit Public Library, she found Julia Gatlin Moore papers and information relating to a 1956 book she wrote about Dearborn. According to the papers, Moore was born in 1875 in Tarboor, North Carolina, and was a nationally known poetess and scholar of American history. She was one of the first female graduates of the University of North Carolina. A noted artist, she had paintings exhibited at the DIA and served as past president of the Detroit Society of Women Painters and Sculptors. She died in 1962 at the age of 83.

Blasses also took Flannery’s advice and had the piece restored. “It's absolutely gorgeous now,” she says.

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?, 160 W. Fort, Detroit, MI 48226. Include your name and daytime telephone number. You may also send your photo and description to If chosen you’ll need to bring the items to an appraisal session. Photos cannot be returned.

About this item

Item : Oil on canvas

Owner : Cynthia Earles Blasses

Appraised by : Jim Flannery, DuMouchelles Auction House and Gallery, Detroit

Estimated value : $500-$800 at auction