Appraisal Video: (3:28)
Paintings & Drawings
GUEST: I believe it was purchased by my great-grandfather, my guess is in the early 1900s.
APPRAISER: I wonder whether he bought it when it was still contemporary art, because I notice it's signed and dated down here, "Adam Emory Albright," and the date down there appears to be 1902, so possibly your great-grandfather would have bought it then?
GUEST: Well, I know that it was hanging in their cabin in Wisconsin on the lake, and he built that for my great-grandmother in 1914 for their 25th wedding anniversary, so I'm assuming he bought it sometime before then.
APPRAISER: Well, that all fits. Albright was actually born in Wisconsin...
GUEST: Oh, okay.
APPRAISER: But then went on in the early 1880s, he was one of the first students at the Art Institute in Chicago. And then critically for him, he went to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, the oldest art school in the nation, in Philadelphia, and he studied with Thomas Eakins, who in my book is the great American realist painter. And Albright very much became a realist. Following that, he studied also in Paris and he went to Munich, which is a well-trodden path by many American artists, but he came back and settled in Chicago. But he mixed up his realism with impressionism as well. This painting is a nice example of both those things. When he returned to Chicago, he found a subject there, and his subject was children. Now, it's interesting to me, I understand that his own childhood was not the happiest. I think it was a pretty hardscrabble existence with the farm, and so the children that he depicts are usually in a very idealized, bucolic setting. One could make the leap and assume that he was trying to recapture some kind of childhood that he never had. Now, the children here, he had three boys.
GUEST: Oh, he did? Okay.
APPRAISER: And they're known to have modeled for him. They were twins, in fact.
GUEST: The two smaller ones?
APPAISER: I guess so, and then the taller one here. One of them is Ivan Albright, who in fact became famous in his own right as an artist in Chicago, and very famously did the portrait in the movie The Portrait of Dorian Gray. His realism was slightly more disturbing than his father's.
APPRAISER: This is very typical of his father's work, and I do like the composition here, the three little boys with their bows and arrows, the archers, and even the line here of light picks up the shape of the bows.
GUEST: Oh, it does, I never noticed that.
APPRAISER: Compositionally, it's a nice arrangement, I think. Now, an interesting chap for an artist; he was quite canny, and in his later years, what he did was when people bought paintings from him, rather than being paid in one lump sum, he arranged for them to pay him on a monthly basis.
APPRAISER: Now, he was quite elderly, and a lot of people thought, "Well, he's probably not going to last that long," and this was his kind of retirement fund, but in fact, he lasted until he was 95 years old, so it worked out pretty well for him. So speaking of all things monetary, have you ever had any thoughts about what the value of the painting might be?
GUEST: I have no idea. To me, the painting was just something that I knew hung over the fireplace at the cabin and hung over the fireplace at my dad's house and the boy in the middle reminds me of my dad, so I'd always said, "When you're gone, Dad, I'd like to have the picture."
APPRAISER: At auction, I would expect this to fetch somewhere in the $8,000 to $12,000 range. Wow. That's good.