This is a true story about a thrift-store painting that found its way home. But let me start at the beginning. First you should know that I always look at the paintings and prints at yard sales and thrift stores even though 80% of them are cheaply made, generic, mass-produced pieces—Walmart art. Of the 20% remainder, a large portion is amateur art. Some lack appeal of any kind but others are well executed or at least interesting. This still-life painting was one of my first thrifted art pieces. I suspect it is a student piece, but I think it’s kinda cool.
I found this Copenhagen canal painting at a very dusty, down-at-the-heels estate sale. Liked everything about it: the colors, style and subject matter.
Sometimes I buy a painting and afterwards I have a moment of regret. Here’s a partial shot of a watercolor featuring ill-defined strawberries. One minute I like it, the next I’m “what the heck was I thinking!!”
Once in a blue moon I find pieces by known or listed artists. One of my favorite finds is a 1960s/70s McCaine dock painting. He was a prolific California artist who painted many versions of his work. This one is on display in our living room till it sells. 🙂
My best thrift-store find to date has been a scarce 1926 Kerr Eby etching, “Snow in Surrey.” This etching can be viewed in the collections at Yale Art Gallery, Wake Forest University and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. (Mine does have a slight discoloration in the lower left corner.)
But you may be wondering…do I ever sell any of this art? Yes, yes, yes…though it’s definitely long tail!
And here’s where we catch up with the story. About a year ago I published a post about a thrifted painting I’d bought–a large watercolor of a dock with a fishing shanty and lobster traps by W.G. Evans. Here it is sans frame.
After hours of research I couldn’t find anything about the artist or his work. And the painting was big and would be pricey to ship which I knew would turn off buyers. So instead of listing it in my store, I hung it up in our family room to enjoy.
Now fast forward 11 months and I was contacted by Mike*. Mike had seen my post about the watercolor and asked if I would be willing to sell it. Like most things in my house, I thought sure, why not.
Turns out the watercolor was painted by his wife’s grandfather! Here’s what Mike wrote:
Mr. Evans was mostly an interior designer for a living, but he and his wife, were both painters as well. My daughter, who just graduated from high school, is now an artist, and my wife (Mr. Evans’ granddaughter) is an art writer – so we’re always on the hunt to try to find his paintings. Most he sold or gave away during his lifetime, so it’s always a big thrill when we find one out there in the world!
The painting would be a surprise birthday gift for Mike’s wife.
Well, I couldn’t say no to this! It just tickled me to think the painting would be going back to the family to be appreciated in a much deeper way.
So the next step was to figure out the details. Mike offered me a fair price, I figured out the postage, and he sent me a check to cover both.
I will say my family was a bit dubious about this transaction. Who was this guy? Was the check real? Or was this some elaborate scam? I’ll be honest I did google the guy early on. If the name I was given was correct, Mike’s an executive at a major corporation and he wrote an article for his church’s website. All seemed above board.
The end of the story is also the beginning…the painting arrived safe and sound (after a 3000 mile journey) and Mike immediately took it to a framer to be reframed. This fall, it will be given to his wife…who I know is going to flip at receiving one of her grandfather’s paintings! (Gold star to Mike for being such a thoughtful husband.)
Love these kinds of sales. Don’t you??