Elizabeth Downs thinks the two works of art she recently brought to DuMouchelles downtown for appraisal have a connection to England, where her grandfather was born. “I was told they portray a village and the moors of West Yorkshire,” she wrote in an email and later repeated to appraiser Bob DuMouchelle while giving more information about the items she brought in. Other than that, information available is sketchy at best.

“It’s difficult to make out the artist’s name,” she added. Both watercolors, they are signed in the lower left and include a date. One is clearly a street scene, and the other a moody landscape. They were done by the same artist, although the name is hard to decipher.

Even though she knows little about them, she has always loved them. “Both were on the wall forever at my parents’ house,” she explained. “When they died I fought my brother and sister for them.”

The signature looks like “Watsam,” says DuMouchelle, but most likely actually reads “Watson.” DuMouchelle was able to do a bit of sleuthing, eventually coming to believe that the works were by an artist known as F. Watson. “I found that name in the Royal Watercolor Society in England,” he explained. “I found a lot of F. Watsons who signed pieces in a similar manner. Identification can be tricky, but that’s my best guess. It’s a very similar signature and the period is right. To be honest, that’s one of the challenges in appraising art. Without a clear signature, I’m essentially flying blind.”

Both are executed on what Downs thought was cardboard, but DuMouchelle said is actually known as artists’ board. Both are watercolors, a medium DuMouchelle said is difficult to do well and often unforgiving. “They’re hard to touch up,” he told her. He said that they can also be challenging to do conservation work on, and sometimes aren’t appreciated as they should be.

“Watercolors used to be considered a lesser medium, but it takes a very skilled person to execute them and do them well,” he told her.

For that reason and because they appear to be the work of a skilled and listed artist, he appraised them at $300-$600 each at auction, which represents a wholesale price, adding that they’d be $800-$1,000 each in a gallery.

Downs was happy to hear more but said they’re not for sale. “They’re in my living room and they’ll stay there,” she said. She’s planning a trip to England and hopes her pilgrimage will reveal more. “I intend to go there next year and see if I can find these places,” she says. “I still have distant cousins who live there.”

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: Watercolors

Owner: Elizabeth Downs

Appraised by: Bob DuMouchelle, DuMouchelles

Estimated value: $300-$600 each at auction

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