Follow the Stories | Raleigh, North Carolina (2010)
What Was Behind the Wyeth Watercolor?
Slideshow by Luke Crafton | Posted 1.11.2010
Walter and his prized painting
At the Raleigh ROADSHOW in June 2009, a guest named Walter brought in a watercolor entitled "The Trammel," by famed American realist Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009).
"The Trammel" by Andrew Wyeth
An avid collector of Wyeth's signed prints, Walter said he'd always wanted an original painting and he saved up to buy one. He purchased "The Trammel" for $75,000 from an art dealer in 1985, the same year it was painted.
A trammel is a hook used in a fireplace to hang a kettle or pot on. In Wyeth's still life, as appraiser Nan Chisholm pointed out, the trammel is being used as a hat and boot rack instead.
The fur hat
Despite the subdued palette of the overall painting, an up-close look at the fur hat reveals how masterfully Wyeth used both color and brushstroke to achieve such realistic textures.
Chisholm also pointed out the way that Wyeth used the "negative space" of the paper itself and a very subtle wash of paint to depict sunlight casting a shadow on the wall as it shines through a window.
Behind "The Trammel"
What added a little mystery to this Wyeth watercolor was the fact that Walter always knew another painting lay on the reverse side of the paper, beneath the backing of the frame. Though a photocopy of the hidden image made it all the more tantalizing, Walter had been hesitant to disturb the frame, which the dealer told him was put on by Wyeth himself. During his ROADSHOW appraisal in June, however, Chisholm encouraged him to be brave, take the work home and have a real look for himself.
The hidden landscape
Finally, Walter did just that. What he found was a more abstract, moody, and quickly executed landscape painting. Chisholm points out that Wyeth often used both sides of his paper, in this case framing "The Trammel" to display the better, more important work. She added that the landscape, now that Walter has revealed it, makes "The Trammel" even more interesting — though not necessarily more valuable. Still, at a current value of around $450,000, it represents a sizable appreciation on Walter's original investment.