Trash or Treasure: Mystery artist hard to appraise
“My aunt and uncle purchased this painting when they built their retirement home in Florida,” Judith Bueno wrote recently to the column about a painting she inherited.
“The painting was done by the painter G. den Hollander. He was born on Nov. 1, 1917. He finished his education at the Academy of Arts in Amsterdam in the first year of World War I. His history states he was an active member of the Underground until he was forced into hiding at the end of 1944. He remained in Amsterdam. My aunt’s notes on the painting state it was purchased in 1971. I believe it was painted in 1956 and is titled ‘In late afternoon Snugboro’,” she continued, adding that she is not sure Snugboro is correct.
Her belief stems from the hard-to-decipher writing on the back of the oil on canvas, which depicts a charming landscape scene. Framed in gold, it also has MB70013 written on the back as well as “Painted in Holland.” But otherwise it came with few clues to its history or maker, something which appraiser Richard Fedorowicz of DuMouchelles found frustrating but not surprising.
Unfortunately, said the appraiser, Bueno had had better luck finding information than he did when he searched the artist’s name online. “There is no mention of this artist anywhere that I could find,” he told her. Bueno said she found the information she had shared on a certificate from her aunt that she inherited with the painting.
Fedorowicz explained that there were companies such as the Indiana-based W.T. Burger & Co., now out of business, that contracted professional artists, many in Europe, to create works for them. Some are quite skilled, but they are generally lesser-known names. “Not everyone is Rembrandt, Durer or Picasso,” he added.
An online search revealed a contemporary photographer with the same last name but no painter. Works by unknown artists such as Bueno’s bring approximately $200 to $400 depending on size and skill, the appraiser said, adding that he would expect hers to bring closer to $200 if she put it up for auction.
There is less demand for lesser-known artists at auction, he said, which makes them harder to appraise and to sell, since there are few auction records. “Our clients are mainly interested in known or listed artists,” he explained. “There’s someone out there somewhere who knows more about this artist but we’d have to take a conservative approach if we sold it and a lack of information on the artist or sales records for him doesn’t help.”
Bueno said she’d probably keep it anyway.
Fedorowicz said he appreciated that she had so much background information. “It’s a great story and sounds like he lived a very interesting life if the information you had about the artist is true,” the appraiser added. “It’s a very nice painting and if it were 200 years old I might be giving you a different appraisal. That said, even works by well-known artists don’t always sell for big bucks.”
About this item
Item: Dutch landscape
Owned by: Judith Bueno
Appraised by: Richard Fedorowiz, DuMouchelles
Estimated value: $200 and up