1888 Joseph Nawahi Painting, Hilo Harbor

Value (2006) | $100,000 Auction$150,000 Auction

GUEST:
The painting is by Joseph Nawahi, and it's an 1888 painting.

APPRAISER:
Right.

GUEST:
It's signed down here "J. Nawahi, 1888."

APPRAISER:
Now, Joseph Nawahi, he wasn't primarily a painter, was he?

GUEST:
No, that's probably the least of his known attributes. He was a lawyer, he was a legislator, he was an educator, and he was a publisher of a newspaper. He was in the legislature for 20 years, he produced a newspaper critical of the rebellion, of the overthrow of the government, and actually was landed in jail from around 1893, '95, and subsequently caught tuberculosis and died in '96.

APPRAISER:
Yes.

GUEST:
But he was a native-born Hawaiian.

APPRAISER:
Mm-hmm. And he went to some of the missionary schools there, and at the Hilo Boarding School.

GUEST:
Uh-huh.

APPRAISER:
Clearly, we see these two snow-capped peaks here.

GUEST:
: Uh-huh.

APPRAISER:
And those are...?

GUEST:
They're the two mountains on the Big Island.

APPRAISER:
Right.

GUEST:
They're Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa.

APPRAISER:
Right, volcanoes there.

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
And then this bay here is probably where?

GUEST:
It's the Hilo Bay. On the Big Island.

APPRAISER:
Right. And then this island there?

GUEST:
It's called Coconut Island.

APPRAISER:
He was an amateur painter, and if you look at the figures here. That's one of the things you look at-- sometimes the anatomy and the perspective isn't always right. And the figures, they're a little bit stiff.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
And you can see he's a good artist, but not a great artist. He has a good sense of the landscape, but he's not an academically trained artist.

GUEST:
Yeah.

APPRAISER:
He had some training, but not much. But it's important because he's the first Hawaiian-born to paint in this Western style. He was known for doing volcanoes much like Jules Tavernier and others who came here. There aren't many paintings by him. I think he...

GUEST:
How many are there?

APPRAISER:
We only know of five.

GUEST:
About five, yeah.

APPRAISER:
Right. And from what we understand, this is either the largest or one of the two largest ones. Where'd you get it?

GUEST:
Well, we were on our way from our property up in Volcano.

APPRAISER:
Uh-huh.

GUEST:
Down to Hilo Town to go to a museum. And we stopped on the way at our favorite antiques gallery, and saw this in the little display area. Couldn't quite make out the artist's name, but got a fix on it. And we had to rush off, so we went down to the museum, and as we were looking through some things, we saw his name there. My husband Bruce and I, we looked at each other, and we said, "The painting!" And we got on the telephone, called the antique shop, and asked them to hold it. And so, we zoomed back up there and we got the painting.

APPRAISER:
That's great. How much did you pay for it?

GUEST:
I'm not positive, but I think we paid about $400 for it.

APPRAISER:
About $400.

GUEST:
That was in the '70s.

APPRAISER:
Okay, now, was it in this condition when you got it?

GUEST:
No. It was very dark, and it was grazed. The old painting had cracked and everything. And so a friend of ours, he sent it to his restorer in San Francisco, I think it was. Somewhere in California. And so we did have him do that.

APPRAISER:
That has an effect on value on anything. But when you're talking about five or six pieces that are known,

GUEST:
Uh-huh.

APPRAISER:
we sort of forgive some of the condition issues.

GUEST:
Uh-huh.

APPRAISER:
Because they're so rare. Do you remember what you paid for the restoration?

GUEST:
Probably between $600 and $900.

APPRAISER:
I consulted with one of my colleagues here who's from the islands, and because you have the Hilo Bay, you have Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea... he called it "Hawaiian Gold"--

GUEST:
: Mm.

APPRAISER:
--in the art market. Recently, works by him have sold as much as $70,000. I think if this were to be up at auction today, I would probably put an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000 for it.

GUEST:
Are you kidding?

APPRAISER:
No, it's a great thing.

GUEST:
Wow. (laughing) Wow.

APPRAISER:
It's really important. This is a national treasure. It's an amazing thing to have here.

GUEST:
Yeah. Well, I'm native Hawaiian, so it's one of the reasons we bought it.

APPRAISER:
No, it's great.

GUEST:
Oh, gosh. (laughing) I've got goose-skins.

APPRAISER:
Well, take good care of it, you know, and put it in a very safe place, and keep it under lock and key.

GUEST:
We're very proud to have this picture.

APPRAISER:
Yeah.

GUEST:
Thank you so much.

APPRAISER:
All right. Well, thanks for bringing it in. Made my day.

GUEST:
Thank you.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Bonhams, NY
New York, New York
Appraised value (2006)
$100,000 Auction$150,000 Auction
Event
Honolulu, HI (August 26, 2006)
Period
19th Century
Form
Painting
Material
Canvas

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