Treasure: Advertising art smart investment
Like many across metro Detroit this weekend, Christine Skoglund’s thoughts are on back-to-school. The special educator and former Detroit Public Schools employee comes from a long line of teachers, including her great aunt, Ann Elizabeth Gibbons. Born in Bay City, Gibbons graduated from Michigan State Normal College (now Eastern Michigan University) and was a teacher for the Detroit Public Schools from approximately 1910 through the 1930s.
Skoglund filled appraiser Bob DuMouchelle in on the provenance behind three works of art that she inherited from her great aunt that she believed once hung in her classroom at Bishop School, which was near downtown, she said, and torn down in the 1930s.
More information was included in her original email to the column. “She taught at the Old Bishop School which was for unruly children and, per family lore, among her challenging middle school students were members of the later-to-become Purple Gang (Detroit’s Prohibition gang),” she wrote. “The pictures were from her classroom at Old Bishop and are signed C. E. Pugh ‘16. Internet searches yield no results for this artist. Any information would be most appreciated,”
Skoglund inherited them from her mother, who had them framed. “I’ve always thought they were cool but don’t know much about them,” she continued. “I’m not even sure what the medium is.”
DuMouchelle was able to solve that mystery. “They are hand done of watercolor and gouache,” he told her. “They are essentially illustrator art usually done for advertising purposes, so I don’t know how they would have ended up in a Detroit Public School classroom at the turn of the century.”
He had little luck finding out more about the artist. “I found a C.E. Pugh but he was born in 1924 and was Australian,” he told Skoglund. “His work didn’t look anything like these.”
Luckily for Skoglund, he says, the works and their artistic merit stand on their own. “They are all signed in the lower left and are of good quality,” he told her. He suggested she continue her search for the artist by trying to do additional research at the Burton Historical Collection, part of the Detroit Public Library, or through the Scarab Club. “There is no shortage of unknown artists and some of them are quite good,” he said. Because hers are considered advertising art, they possess an inherent worth and appeal. He valued the collection at $500-$700 at auction. “It’s telling of its time and visually appealing,” he continued. “They’re fun and there would be people interested if you wanted to sell.”
She doesn’t. Skoglund says she’ll be keeping them in the family. “They’re not going anywhere.”
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About this item:
Item: Illustrator Art
Owned by: Christine Skoglund
Appraised by: Bob DuMouchelle
Estimated value: $500-$700