Trash or Treasure: Estate sale find from 'listed artist'

Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News


Susan Vince was rummaging through a collection of frames in a Rochester Hills basement when she noticed a piece of art depicting purple and pink blooms in a vase with nearby fruit. The piece was pretty and the price was right, so she bought it.

Susan Vince with her still life oil painting by G.H. Williams at the DuMochelles Art Galleries in Detroit.
(Max Ortiz/The Detroit News)2018


“They were tearing the house down and having an estate sale,” she explained more fully to expert Jim Flannery at a recent appraisal session held at DuMouchelles downtown. She provided more background in her original email to the column. “I loved the still life and had no idea about the artist. I assumed it was painted by the owner of the house and paid $15 for it. I was surprised when I looked up the name GH Williams and found she was an artist from Texas.”

Internet searches can be both revealing and incorrect, said Flannery. While there was indeed an artist named Grace Hall Williams from Texas who lived from 1909 to 2001 and was known for pastoral works, still lifes and portraits, Flannery didn’t think the work Vince bought was painted by that artist. 

Instead, further research into the signature and type of work led him to an Australian artist known as G.H. Williams, who lived from 1878 to 1964 and signed other canvases, mostly florals, with a similar-looking signature. “I found a number of other works that looked a lot like this one,” Flannery said. “They have sold at auction and online. I really think this is a work by that artist.” Despite being fairly sure that it was painted by that artist, Flannery couldn’t offer any more specifics about the artist’s name or other biographical information. “It is a listed artist with auction records, but that’s about all I can tell you, unfortunately,” he said.

In fact, DuMouchelles has sold works by the same artist in the past, including a floral they sold in 2016 for $250, he said.

Online works have sold for anywhere from $100-$300, prompting him to value her piece in the same range.

“It has a few condition issues,” he cautioned her while doing the appraisal. “I’d value it starting at $150 and up to about $300, but if you go to have it restored you’d spend about the same amount. Either way, it was definitely a good $15 purchase.”

Vince said she had originally considered selling but changed her mind after the appraisal. “I think I’ll just keep it and enjoy it.”

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: Floral still life

Appraised by: Jim Flannery, DuMouchelles

Owned by: Susan Vince

Estimated value:  $150 and up.