Appraisal Video: (3:49)
Prints & Posters
Swann Auction Galleries
APPRAISER: You brought a really interesting collection with you to the ROADSHOW today. What can you tell me about it?
GUEST: Well, it's by an artist by the name of Lucian Bernhard. When I graduated art school-- I'm from Manhattan-- I worked for his son, Carl Bernhard. Towards the end of working for him, I had done some personal favors for Lucian Bernhard, and who wanted to pay me monetarily, and I did not want to accept that. In turn, he said, "Here, take this portfolio of things and enjoy." He also wanted to give me some of his paintings, and foolishly, I did not accept that, but I accepted this.
APPRAISER: Are you aware of the role that Lucian Bernhard has played in the development of 20th-century graphics?
GUEST: In some extent, yes, because I am in the arts field. I know that he's a tremendous type designer. I've tried to look this up various times on the Internet to try to find prices of what this is worth. I've also tried to contact MOMA when they had his one-man show, but I was unsuccessful at that point. So that's what brings me to the ROADSHOW, to find out if this is really worth anything, or what it is.
APPRAISER: Well, it doesn't surprise me that you had trouble finding references to these, because they all are unique artworks. These are the original artworks. His influence on graphic design and on typography is almost undefinable. He personally designed 36 different typefaces.
GUEST: I didn't know that.
APPRAISER: And he began his poster career in Germany in 1906.
APPRAISER: And he created something called the object poster, where when he was making an advertisement, he chose only to illustrate that object. And in fact, we have a copy of his first poster here. This is only a copy, but it's for Priester matches.
GUEST: That's his first?
APPRAISER: It's his first poster, done in 1906, and it seems so obvious to us that on an advertisement for matches, you illustrate the matches. But in 1906, which was at the hear of the Art Nouveau movement, to do something so simply, so plainly, so without ornament, was absolutely unheard of and revolutionary. In 1923, he came to America, and you began working for his son in what year?
GUEST: In the '60s when I graduated art school.
APPRAISER: And he gave you these original works of art, some of which are maquettes for posters. They're the studies for posters. We have here Excelsior Tires,
APPRAISER: which is a gouache. You can see his signature in the lower left-hand corner. We also have close to you a study for a poster for Bleichert Conveyors. Again, his signature is visible in the upper left-hand corner here. You also have a watercolor here for Manoli Cigarettes, which is another one of his big clients, and then we have... This would probably be from his German era, because it's a German company Rahn Biscottes. And what I find very interesting about this is, not only is it a gouache, but if you look very closely, you will see that it's also a collage, that he cut and pasted certain elements onto the background.
GUEST: I never noticed that.
APPRAISER: The top here of the coffee pitcher has been pasted on, and from my point of view, in examining how a designer creates a poster, that is really important information to see-- that it's not just a drawing, but he also made some mistakes, which he had to cover up, and he went back, and he cut out, and he pasted the material on it. Now, his original artwork rarely comes on the market at all. His posters come on the market every now and again and sell for a fairly pricey sum, but the posters are obviously much larger. The worst-case scenario, an auction estimate for the group that I would be very comfortable thinking they would sell...
APPRAISER: ...would be $15,000 to $20,000.
GUEST: Whoa. Okay.
APPRAISER: Now, that's the worst-case scenario. The best-case scenario, which is if they are as rare and as exciting and as important as I believe them to be, I can see $20,000 to $30,000. Now, when you said you made a mistake not taking his paintings, you don't realize what a big mistake you made.
GUEST: Now I do. (laughs)