1929 Sydney Laurence Painting, “The Northern Lights”

Value (2007) | $20,000 Retail$30,000 Retail

GUEST:
Now, my aunt had purchased it in 1929 when she was on a cruise to Alaska with her brother, my Uncle Harold. And she loved this painting, loved it. And so did I. I was an executrix on my great-aunt's estate in California, and in her will, she wanted things to go to the schools and to relatives and so forth. I then put everything I could into certain galleries to sell, and I went over at the auction, and I bought it back, and I paid $3,200 for it.

APPRAISER:
Right.

GUEST:
And the ladies asked me today whether I thought that was a lot of money, and I said, I really didn't care. I wanted that painting because it meant a lot to my aunt, and she liked Sydney Laurence, even though he was a scoundrel, as we all know.

APPRAISER:
Uh-huh. How long ago was this?

GUEST:
1991.

APPRAISER:
I wanted to look at the back just for a moment. When you brought it in, you showed me the label on the reverse. And it is dated 1929.

GUEST:
Mm-hmm.

APPRAISER:
And titled, “The Northern Lights.” This is a label that is Sydney Laurence's label. You know something about Sydney Laurence's life.

GUEST:
Oh! Well, I was... That's why I was surprised that my aunt really liked him so much. He was a gentleman that left his family-- his wife and children-- in England with nothing, and moved to Alaska and became (clears throat) quite a gentleman of the... (laughing) Whatever you want to call him.

APPRAISER:
Right.

GUEST:
You'll forgive me. I'm trying not to say anything nasty, but he wasn't that good of a husband or a father.

APPRAISER:
Yeah. No. Well, he was born in Brooklyn in 1865, went to a military academy, trained at the National Academy of Design, and married in 1889-- I believe it was. And they went right off to England, to St. Ives in Cornwall, where he studied with the St. Ives group there. I believe his son was born there.

GUEST:
Yup.

APPRAISER:
And then off he went in--

GUEST:
Leaving them behind.

APPRAISER:
--1903.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
And he is known as one of Alaska's great painters. There's not many people who painted up there at this time, and he really loved the north. In a gallery today, I would probably price it at about $20,000 to $30,000, so it certainly... There's been tremendous growth in the interest in these Alaskan paintings, particularly...

GUEST:
Did you say $20,000 to $30,000?

APPRAISER:
I said $20,000 to $30,000.

GUEST:
Then I made a very good investment, didn't I?

APPRAISER:
You did.

GUEST:
You bet I did.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Montgomery Gallery
San Francisco, CA
Appraised value (2007)
$20,000 Retail$30,000 Retail
Event
Las Vegas, NV (August 18, 2007)
Period
20th Century

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