Trash or Treasure: Asian-inspired print by French artist

By Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News

Larry Bassin didn’t know much about the signed woodblock print he recently brought to the Michigan Design Center for appraisal, but he did know one thing – he had always loved it. “I think it is beautiful,” he enthused in his original email asking for an appraisal for the piece he had owned for more than a half-century.

“I have a signed woodblock print by Paul Jacoulet called “Les Perles,” he explained in the email. “I got it when I was 19 years old for $15. It’s on handmade rice paper. I am 73 years old now. I don’t know how to send a photo of it over the internet (I guess my age is showing!) but I would love some information on it.”

Bassin gave appraiser Brian Thomczek a little more information in person at the event, where he took a closer look at the piece. Bassin said he bought the piece years ago when he was working in downtown Detroit. “I couldn’t afford much then,” he reminisced. “It is pencil signed, and I’ve had it on my walls for years,” he said, pointing out the signature in the print’s lower left corner.

Larry Bassin poses with a framed, woodblock print  called 'Les Perles.'

Thomczek identified the artist as Paul Jacoulet, a French-born artist who lived from 1902 to 1960. More information was found online at the, which supplied additional information. “Jacoulet was born in Paris before moving to Japan to establish himself as one of the best recognized Western woodblock print artists in the country. He was most productive from 1939 to 1960 when he produced exceptional studies of Japanese nationals in indigenous dress. His work stood out for its strikingly original style which combined traditional woodblock printing methods with techniques he developed himself. Prints by Jacoulet are relatively rare and greatly sought after.”

A Google search of the image revealed a few other prints of the same name, including one dating to 1951 currently on sale at auction site 1st dibs ( for $2,200. Other works by the artist from $500 to $700 each were also found on and other sites.

Thomczek said he had no doubts that Bassin’s work was authentic, and that everything about the print “checked out,” according to the appraiser. “This is on handmade paper and nicely framed,” he explained. “I’m confident it’s the real deal. It’s really great and 100 percent right.” Thomczek added that the Asian market “is very hot and quite desirable,” and that if Bassin was interested in selling the piece he would have no trouble doing so.

“The colors are beautiful and just so rich,” the appraiser raved, adding that even as a 19-year-old Bassin had a remarkably good eye.  “For $15 you did really, really well,” Thomczek said, estimated its current value at “at least $500 to $700, at auction.” He added that while the market has been steady for a while, it has the potential to go up. “Maybe you should have bought a few more,” he added.  

About this item

Item: Woodblock print

Owned by: Larry Bassin

Appraised by: Brian Thomczek

Estimated value: $500 to $700 at auction

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 a free appraisal session and be willing to be featured with your item in the column. Letters are edited for style and clarity. Photos cannot be returned.