Paintings Attributed to Albert Bierstadt, ca. 1865

Value (2008) | $2,000 Retail$65,000 Retail

GUEST:
These were wedding gifts to my parents, 1948.

APPRAISER:
Oh, wow.

GUEST:
And my parents were from New York and both working in Manhattan at the time.

APPRAISER:
Mm-hmm.

GUEST:
We've always had them in our homes. I've moved them several times, but I didn't know this was a famous artist till I watched Antiques Roadshow and they showed a Bierstadt painting and I have two of those downstairs in a box.

APPRAISER:
And do you have them hanging now?

GUEST:
This one has been hanging; this one not.

APPRAISER:
Both of these are signed "A. Bierstadt." Bierstadt was German-born. He lived from 1830 to 1902. He's probably best known for his Western subjects, his magnificent views of the Rockies and so on. Of course, he's represented in almost every major institution in America. He also painted, however, in Europe, where he was from, as well as the East Coast and even the Caribbean. Date-wise, these are probably 1860s to 1870. The painting on the left is quite characteristic of what we expect of the artist, the way the trees are done as well as the great luminous quality of the sky. You also notice there's a lot of nice texture in the sky. The one closest to me is much more unusual. Bierstadt rarely did seascapes, and this probably is an East Coast scene, and we're not sure about the other one. They might both be East Coast subjects. Now, what's very interesting about this artist is that often his paintings were signed by other people-- sometimes family members after he died. And in terms of your pieces, both of them are signed "A. Bierstadt." The A and B are conjoined, which is very typical of what he did.

GUEST:
Ah.

APPRAISER:
However, the signatures on both are really rather large for the overall composition and a little bit stilted in terms of the way they're done. So it's my feeling that there's a possibility that these might have been signed by a family member as opposed to by Bierstadt himself. And when we run across paintings like this, we often like to have them researched by the experts. And there is a catalogue raisonné project, which is being put together by a gallery in Santa Fe, and then there are also two major scholars who have been working on the artist for quite a long time. And so if we were going to sell these or place an insurance value on them, we would want to show them to those experts. And they both are really in nice condition. I think they're somewhat dirty. And especially in the seascape, you'll note here in the upper left there's a bright blue color. If this were cleaned, the sky would be that color. These are frames that are characteristic of the late 1940s and '50s.

GUEST:
...the period, yeah.

APPRAISER:
They're not original to the paintings, but they would've been from around the time your parents got them. Now, in terms of value, have you had any thoughts?

GUEST:
When I discovered that this was a noted artist, I tried to search for them online. Similar sizes ranged anywhere from $2,000 to $6,000 or $7,000.

APPRAISER:
`Well, Bierstadt was fairly prolific, and especially for these oil sketches, but Bierstadt is extremely popular as an artist, and almost no matter what the subject. Of course, the Western ones tend to bring the most money. But if you were going to a gallery in New York to acquire these today, if in fact they are Bierstadt, the piece on the left, because of the luminosity and the size and also the landscape feature, a gallery would probably ask somewhere in the neighborhood of $50,000.

GUEST:
No kidding.

APPRAISER:
The seascape...

GUEST:
That's surprising.

APPRAISER:
The seascape is more unusual and it's probably more in the perhaps $15,000 range.

GUEST:
Yeah, wow.

APPRAISER:
But, really, they would be quite saleable, certainly. And we also would be interested to see if we could identify the exact scenes because that would also enhance the value. If we find out for any reason that they are not by Bierstadt, then the value would be very minimal. Each of them would be under $1,000. So it's quite a difference and well worth doing the research to verify the authenticity and also to verify the subject.

GUEST:
Quite a difference from the $125 price tag on the back, huh?

APPRAISER:
Yes, exactly. (both laughing)

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Debra Force Fine Art, Inc.
Debra Force Fine Art, Inc.
New York, NY
Appraised value (2008)
$2,000 Retail$65,000 Retail
Event
Grand Rapids, MI (August 09, 2008)
Period
19th Century
Material
Oil

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