Louis Agassiz Fuertes Watercolor, ca. 1900
Appraised Value: $8,000 - $12,000
IMAGE: 1 of 3
In this segment, appraiser Elaine Banks Stainton discusses a ca. 1900 watercolor by the Swiss naturalist Louis Agassiz Fuertes. After the episode aired, two viewers wrote in to question the authenticity of the work, based on the spelling and style of Fuertes' signature at the bottom right of the picture, in which the artist's middle name is spelled "Agassis." In responding, Banks Stainton reviewed the appraisal and stands by her judgment that the painting is by Fuertes, who was an extremely prolific painter.
Of Fuertes and this particular watercolor, she went on to say: "[T]hough the one I saw last summer [in Hartford] was clearly not a formal work intended to be published, it was of a type that can be found in the various caches of the artist's drawings. ... Fuertes used a variety of signatures on his drawings when he did sign them and often did not sign them at all. Moreover, many of his drawings and watercolors have passed through the hands of other people who may well have labeled or inscribed them — something that happens commonly to drawings and other works on paper. ... Having considered the ROADSHOW watercolor again, I still think that it is by Fuertes. That said, I do have some misgivings about my appraisal of it. Although I thought it a fresh and beautiful work, some viewers clearly hated it! So perhaps I overestimated its appeal. In any case, in the present, very conservative market, it would probably sell for $4,000-$6,000."
Appraisal Video: (2:09)
GUEST: My husband tends to go to a lot of antique sales and estate sales and auctions and usually comes home with landscapes, which I'm not as fond of. But he knows I like birds, and he picked this up. I think he said he spent, like, $75 or $100.
APPRAISER: Was that this year, or...
GUEST: I think it was within the last year or two.
APPRAISER: Do you know anything about the artist?
GUEST: My husband does some searching on the Internet. He knows that the artist is famous, I guess, for bird paintings, and that's really... that's really all I know.
APPRAISER: Well, the artist is Louis Agassiz Fuertes. I don't know if you're aware of the great Swiss naturalist Louis Agassiz, but he was a major figure in the world of natural history in the mid-19th century, and Louis Agassiz Fuertes was named after him. So the family was clearly interested in natural history. He began doing watercolors of birds when he was quite young. He was an undergraduate at Cornell when he began working on commission already, so he was kind of a prodigy. He studied ornithology and became a professional bird illustrator. And, in the service of this calling, traveled all over the world. He had wonderful watercolors and this is a mixed media watercolor and gouache. His best watercolors are actually from the 1890s and the first decade of the 20th century. This looks to me as if it would be in that time period.
GUEST: Oh, okay.
APPRAISER: He's always been known to people in this field,but it's only recently that he's become better known and his watercolors have begun to appear at auction. And a few years ago they would sell for maybe a couple thousand dollars. In the last year or so, though, they've been selling for very good prices. Now, this one, not only is it a nice one by him-- it's an interesting, exotic bird-- but it's in perfect condition. The paper is in great shape; the colors are clear, there's no fading. I would expect something like this to sell at auction for about $8,000
GUEST: Ooh, wow.
APPRAISER: Now, it's such a particularly beautiful one and so interesting, that it might do better than that. Sometimes auctions are not predictable.
GUEST: That's so exciting. I guess I won't give my husband a really hard time anymore for going to the auctions. He did a good job. I was hoping it would be worth enough to buy like, a double stroller and a couple car seats. We're expecting twins, so that's pretty exciting.
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