The provenance behind Wendy Berry’s painting is one that many Detroiters can relate to. She explained how she came to own the landscape in an email and later in person at a Trash or Treasure event held at DuMouchelles downtown art gallery and auction house.

“I worked in downtown Detroit several times which made J.L. Hudson Co. a frequent go-to for all kinds of things,” Berry wrote. “My first visit to their "artwork" department was a visual delight.  A most beautiful gallery with exquisite works in an equally exquisite setting.  It was at Hudson's Gallery that I purchased this oil painting as a gift for my parents.  The setting of the painting revealed, to me, a sense of tranquility and coziness, the perfect descriptive in that all things cozy were favored by both my dear parents.

I don't quite remember the price except it was a lot of money to me at the time, approximately 1963.  But as it exemplified everything I knew my parents would enjoy, I happily paid the price which I very vaguely recall being in excess of $100.00.”

She purchased the landscape painting in fall tones for her parents’ anniversary and later inherited it when her parents passed away. The back of the small painting – it measures just 6 ½ by 9 in a 13 by 15 ½ gold frame – lists the W.T. Burger Co, a registry number, and title “Landscape” and the artist as Van Ruiz. It also has a small label with more information on the artist. “Van Ruiz: Born In Holland and started to paint mostly landscapes at the age of 14. Has traveled extensively throughout Europe and now paints in Rome, Italy.”

DuMouchelle appraiser Richard Fedorowicz examined the piece but ultimately couldn’t tell her much about the artist other than the fact that it appears he or she was born in Holland in 1931 and known for 20th century landscapes and other small paintings. W.T. Burger, he added, was an Indiana company that is no longer in business. “They specialized in affordable art and living artists whose work they contracted and sold,” Fedorowicz said of Burger. “They sell generally smaller works like this one. It’s very possible this was painted about the time you bought it.”

Unfortunately, neither name brought huge results at auction when the appraiser searched for comparables to help in the evaluation. “I found one that sold at auction in 2012 for $90,” he told Berry. “I found others for sale that didn’t sell.”  Maximum price for a larger Burger painting is about $500, he added.

He estimated hers would bring right about what she remember paying for it, about $90 and up. “But remember this is an auction price, which is like a wholesale value, so you’d get more retail.”

“It is a nice little painting,” he added, and said the oil on canvas is in good condition overall but could use cleaning. Berry says she may consider selling it. “It doesn’t fit my husband’s style and it brings up a lot of memories,” she explained.

Fedorowicz said it could appreciate if she kept it. “Give it 200 years and who knows how much it could bring,” he quipped.

About this item

 Item: Oil on canvas

Owned by: Wendy Berry

Appraised by: Richard Fedorowicz, DuMouchelles

Estimated value: $90 and up


Read or Share this story: