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Treasure: Painter captured changing U.S. landscape

Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News

Landscape paintings have long been among the most popular genres in American art, as I recently learned during a surprising visit to the Butler Museum of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio.

Beginning in the 18th century, itinerant artists, many unschooled, traveled that country documenting the awesome wonders of the new world they saw in paint and pastels. A few years ago, Sue Shogan inherited a painting that belongs to this long tradition. She recently brought it down to an appraisal session at DuMouchelles auction house and art gallery in downtown Detroit hoping to learn more about it, including its current value.

“I inherited this oil painting from my parents seven years ago and would love to know more about it,” she wrote in her original email. “It was painted by Robert Wood and the back says it is a painting of Mount Olympus, Olympic Range in Washington. It is about 34 x 38 inches, framed.”

Bob DuMouchelle was very familiar with the artist, who lived from 1889 to 1979 and is among the country’s well-known landscape painters. “We have sold his work before,” he told Shogan. “He is best known for painting the American wilderness.”

He said that there are many reproductions of Wood’s work, but he definitely believes hers to be an original. “This is an oil on canvas, and there usually weren’t reproductions done in that medium,” he added.

The website robertwood.net reveals additional information about artist, including that he was actually born in England, near the white cliffs of Dover, despite being known for his American natural scenes. “For more than sixty years, Robert W. Wood had his finger on the pulse of American landscape painting,” the informative website explains in his biography.

He initially settled in Illinois and worked on a farm before becoming an itinerant painter much like those of the country’s early days, hopping trains, working odd jobs and selling or trading small paintings to support himself along the way. “From his many trips crisscrossing the American continent, he presented us with a record of the unspoiled American landscape,” writes appraiser and dealer Jeffrey Morseburg in the website’s biography.

DuMouchelle said that Shogan’s painting probably dates from Wood’s later period, possibly 1950s-1960s. “Based on the frame, the style and the condition, that would be my opinion,” he told her while examining it. He estimated its value at $3,000-$5,000, maybe more. “It could hit $4,000-$6,000 on a good day,” he told her.

Shogan says she’ll probably keep it – at least for now. DuMouchelle said if she does decide to sell, he feels it would do well at auction. “It’s a very popular subject matter. This is the type of thing we would market nationally.”

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 trashortreas@aol.com. 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: Landscape painting

Owner: Sue Shogan

Appraised by: Bob DuMouchelle, DuMouchelles

Estimated value: $3,000-$6,000 at auction