Trash or Treasure: Genre painting depicts everyday life

Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News

Genre painting, according to, can be defined as “painting of scenes from everyday life, of ordinary people in work or recreation, depicted in a generally realistic manner. Genre art contrasts with that of landscape, portraiture, still life, religious themes, historic events, or any kind of traditionally idealized subject matter.”

Ken and Cherisse Baetz with large paintings. Trash or Treasure, with writer Khristi Zimmeth, columns for Homestyle at the Michigan Design Center in Troy, Michigan on January 25, 2018.  (Image by Daniel Mears / The Detroit News).


According to appraiser Brian Thomczek, Cherisse Baetz’s amusing painting, which measures 20 ½ by 16 ½ or 32 by 30 inches framed, would fall into that category.  “This painting is by A. Winhart,” Baetz wrote to the column in her original email requesting more information. “It depicts a peasant couple eating at a train station cafe. When presented with the bill their faces convey their shock at the total,” she says of the painting’s subject matter.  

Baetz says she inherited the oil on board from her parents, who bought it in Germany.  Her father was in the army in World War II, she told the appraiser at a recent Trash or Treasure event held at the Michigan Design Center in Troy and she believes he picked it up somewhere while there. “We were all born in Germany,” she added.

Signed in the lower right hand corner, the piece is framed in ornate gold-painted wood. “Part of the signature is hard to see, but I’m confident this is the correct name since it’s also on the frame,” the appraiser said of the artist attribution. That didn’t mean the artist was easily researched. Thomczek said he spent quite a while searching for more information online but ultimately came up empty handed.

“The work is clearly quality and is definitely old,” he said. “We’re probably talking late 19th to early 20th century. It’s in a very nice frame and has some condition issues, but nothing that can't be fixed.” He added that it could use a good cleaning, recommending Ken Katz of Conservation and Museum Services in downtown Detroit (

Despite a few condition issues, Thomczek said the genre painting could bring $2,000 to $3,000 at auction. Baetz and her husband, Ken, also brought another piece, which Thomczek decided was a 19th-century copy of a work by Adriaen van Ostade and worth about $1,000 at auction. “Both of these would benefit from a good cleaning,” he added. “They are both dark interior scenes but with a little help would really pop.”

“We’d like to keep them,” Baetz said of the family heirlooms. “We just wanted to know more about them.”

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: Genre paintings

Owned by: Cherisse and Ken Baetz

Appraised by: Brian Thomczek

Estimated value: $1,000 to $3,000 each.