Treasure: Artist’s painting would shine with cleaning

Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News

Joy Murray has always loved art and grew up as the daughter of a local contemporary artist. She strengthened that love at the Detroit Institute of Arts, where she worked as director of Food Services and Special Events from 1989-1994.

Despite a working knowledge of art and how to research it, she hit roadblocks when she and her husband, Tom, tried to find out the current value of a work that they inherited from Tom’s family. They brought the piece in for inspection at a recent appraisal session held downtown at DuMouchelles.

There, the Murrays filled appraiser Bob DuMouchelle in on their landscape painting. “This painting, “Fall in the Valley of the Moon” is by Tilden Dakin from his studio in Mill Valley, CA,” Joy wrote in an email. “Judging from the research I’ve done on the artist, I would estimate this was painted around 1910-1920. This is based on what’s written on the back of the painting, as well as a number of subtle spelling changes in the artist’s name and signature,” adding that additional information was found at the website

The site also chronicled his career, describing how he “gained recognition as the “Painter of the Valley of the Moon,” developed a passion for painting in the California redwoods, and resumed his friendship with Jack London.”

The painting came from the home of Tom’s grandparents, Dorothy and Louis Paine of Ohio. When the Paines moved out of their home in the mid-1980s, the painting moved to their daughter Barbara’s home in Farmington Hills, and eventually to Tom and Joy’s dining room.

Curious about the artist and the notes made on the back of the frame, they began to research more about the creator of the painting, discovering that Dakin was part of the California “plein air” movement of the early 1900s.

DuMouchelle was familiar with the artist and called the painting “a really beautiful scene,” adding that “Dakin did a lot with this color palette.” He pointed out the artist’s signature in the lower left and said he would date the piece to the 1920s because of the style and the name, which the artist changed from Daken to Dakin in 1918. “No one knows why he changed it, but it makes it easier to date a piece,” he told the Murrays.

He added that artist died in 1935, and estimated their painting’s current value at $600-$900 at auction; $1,500-$2,000 if in a retail gallery. “California artists are hot right now,” he added. He recommended that they consider cleaning, and recommended Ken Katz of Conservation and Museum Services (conservationand downtown, who also worked at the DIA while Murray was there. The Murrays hope to work with Katz to reveal additional details and beauty in their family heirloom. “You’ll be surprised at what it will do…a good cleaning with really spark this up,” said DuMouchelle.

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 St., 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. Letters are edited for style and clarity. Photos cannot be returned.

About this item

Item : Oil on canvas

Owner : Joy and Tom Murray

Appraised by : Bob DuMouchelle, DuMouchelles

Estimated value : $600-900 at auction; $1,500-$2,000 retail