Trash or Treasure: Local artist better known for commercial work

Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News

“My mom’s family was good friends with the artist,” Marie Mullin Boussie explained to Brian Thomczek at a recent appraisal session about the two signed oils she brought to the Michigan Design Center that had been in her family since the 1940s.

Marie Boussie  poses with an oil painting on canvass, possibly from the 1940s, by local Detroit artist E.A. Gates.

Her original email included additional information. “Our family has owned oil paintings by Edwin A. Gates, a local Detroit and nationally known commercial artist for many years and we would like them to be considered for your next appraisal event,” she wrote originally asking for advice and an appraisal for two paintings, one of a windmill, the other a mountain scene.

 “The paintings have been in our parents’ home but both are now deceased. We would like to know if the paintings are worth anything before we decide to part with them. Attached are the framed paintings with the dimensions,” going on to say that the mountain image was 41.5 inches wide and 30 inches tall, while the windmill was 29 inches wide and 24 inches tall.

Brian Thomczek examined both during the recent appraisal session, mentioning first that both paintings were in need of a good cleaning. “Everyone was a smoker back then,” Marie commented.

Edwin Allsaints Gates was a commercial artist who lived from 1875 to 1950, Thomczek explained. “He was a commercial artist and wasn’t known for work like this,” he added. Further information found online at confirmed this. Gates, it explained, “a locally (Detroit area) and nationally known commercial artist, devoted practically his whole life to art, painting actively for 60 years. His mediums were oils, watercolors and pastels. Gates was a self-taught artist who began his career as a framer-joiner for the Willis Art Shop in Detroit. He became interested in art as a boy and studied the great masters in museums without the aid of teacher or art school lessons. In his spare time, as a youth, Gates did oil pastels and began selling them through local merchants such as Crowleys, Hudsons and various galleries and frame shops in the Detroit area."

Boussie ended up bringing three paintings to Troy, adding a pastoral scene that measured 36 inches wide by 28 inches high. “They were just always on the wall,” she reminisced.

Thomczek said that two are oil on canvas, and the windmill scene is oil on masonite board. “I like them because they’ve been in the family but I really don’t know what we will do with them going forward,” Boussie said.

Gates’ work has sold at auction, but condition issues would hurt their possibilities, Thomczek said. “If you want to keep and restore them, you should talk to Ken Katz at Conservation and Museum Services downtown.”

Thomczek appraised them at $200 to $400 for the smallest, $300 to $500 for the medium sized and $500 to $700 for the largest image. “The landscape is my favorite and the nicest image,” Thomczek commented. “It’s possible that the lake is Lake St. Clair but we just don’t know.”

Boussie said the information and appraisal will help them decide what steps to take next. “Looks like I will have to discuss this with my sister.”

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: Paintings

Owned by: Marie Mullin Boussie

Appraised by: Brian Thomczek

Estimated value: $200 to $700 each