19th-Cenury Thomas Hill Indian Encampment Oil

Value (2009) | $60,000 Auction$80,000 Auction

GUEST:
This is Thomas Hill, turn of the century. And I think maybe it might be Yosemite Valley. He's done a painting titled "Indian Encampment in Yosemite Valley." His studio was there, so we think, you know, it's a good possibility that's what it is. We found it in a church rummage sale in Moreno Valley, California, tucked away against the wall behind clothes. And I peeked at it, and I got my wife and said, "Wow, look at this." She said, "Let's get it." So I brought the lady over, asked her what they would want for it, and her comment was, "Nobody wants that ugly old thing." And so, I said, "Then, how much do you want for it?" She said, "$25."

APPRAISER:
When was that?

GUEST:
This was approximately 1984, give or take a year.

APPRAISER:
This does appear to be a work by Thomas Hill.

GUEST:
Mm-hmm.

APPRAISER:
He's a famous California painter known for painting his views of Yosemite Valley.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
I've had a look at this, and it's a bit of a mixed bag. Let's start with the down sides first. Because it hasn't properly been stored and whatnot, probably in basements and all, it's suffered a bit, and there's a lot of craquelure. And that's not good. It's also pretty dirty. And these whites would be much, much brighter. All the colors in here would come out if it would be cleaned.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
Other thing about it, it's probably Sierra Nevada mountains.

GUEST:
Mm-hmm.

APPRAISER:
But it's not an identifiable scene.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
It's not like Bridalveil Falls or Yosemite Falls or the Vernal Falls, which Thomas Hill does a lot of. It's, I think, sort of a generic, Sierra Nevada kind of look.

GUEST:
Yes, okay.

APPRAISER:
And the last thing-- it's a little troubling-- is the signature. There's a T. Hill signature right down here.

GUEST:
Yes. And it's a little wonky. It's not the best signature. That doesn't necessarily mean it's wrong. It may have been added at a later date. It just doesn't... it doesn't sit well with me, but it doesn't ruin the painting.

GUEST:
Uh-huh.

APPRAISER:
Now, on the positive side, there's a number of things going on. One, it's massive, you know? It's a great big painting.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
It has its original frame here, old Victorian frame, which goes with it. We talked about it having some condition issues.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
But it hasn't been restored, so it's in its original condition. It just needs to be cleaned, perhaps relined to lay down that craquelure. Many paintings I've seen have been ruined by bad restoration. And by a good, sensitive conservator, it could be brought back to life again.

GUEST:
Uh-huh.

APPRAISER:
The best thing about this painting is the amount of figures. One of the premiums on making a good Thomas Hill is having, especially, Native American figures. We have these figures here with the teepees. We see some here.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
And then we go across, we have these canoes here, going across the lake. And then a whole encampment and fire on the other side. So these sorts of things are a real plus in a Thomas Hill painting.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
Now, the market for Thomas Hill paintings, it's a little bit down. The 19th century is not as strong as the 20th century in California paintings these days. I've discussed it with a couple of my colleagues, and some are a little more bearish and some a little more bullish, depending on the market right now. But given that it's a fresh piece and it hasn't been touched, we'd probably put an auction estimate on this of somewhere around $50,000 to $70,000.

GUEST:
Oh, my gosh!

APPRAISER:
And could even make more, maybe $60,000 to $80,000.

GUEST:
I had no idea. Wow! That's astounding. Thank you very much.

APPRAISER:
It's my pleasure, really.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Bonhams, NY
New York, NY
Appraised value (2009)
$60,000 Auction$80,000 Auction
Event
Madison, WI (July 11, 2009)
Period
19th Century
Form
Frame, Painting
Material
Oil

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