Jessie Willcox Smith Oil Painting with Charcoal, ca. 1890

Value (2010) | $125,000 Retail

This painting belonged to my grandmother. And she had a big, old house that was kind of magical to us kids growing up. And this painting was on the second floor landing of a spiral staircase that she had in the house. So when my grandmother passed away in the early '80s, I said, "Could I have this painting to remember her by?" And so I've had the painting ever since. Hand written on the back it says who the artist is, the name of the painting, the original cost that she paid, which, it's hard to read, but it looks like it's maybe either $20 or $200.

Jessie Willcox Smith is one of the great American illustrators. She was born in 1863, and she studied with Howard Pyle, who was one of the master illustrators of the Brandywine School of Philadelphia. Jessie Willcox Smith was a very popular illustrator at the turn of the century. She did a lot of work for Scribners magazine. And she never married, but she used children as her subjects in almost every picture. This is a wonderful example of her work. The date is probably about 1890. She uses several techniques that are very interesting. One is that you have these dynamic diagonals with all these wonderful kind of pencil-point brushstrokes, which also add energy. And then you have this, the rhythm of the leaves also creating more energy. But it's a very tranquil picture. It is. She also uses quite a number of different medium. She uses oil here; she uses charcoal in the boat and all through here. She outlines in charcoal and then paints on top. And it's a wonderful way for her to have built the design of the painting without a whole lot of heavy paint layers. It's really a more modern technique for the time period. Her work is very interesting in several marketplaces. Not only is it the collector of American art, but also the collector of illustrative art and of the Arts & Crafts movement. She was closely linked with several other women artists of the time, all illustrators-- Violet Oakley and Elizabeth Shippen Green, with whom she lived in the Philadelphia area. They were called the "Red Rose Girls." Now, as to the value, do you have any idea at all?

I have no idea. I didn't even know if it was a real painting. I mean, I didn't even know if it was real.

Right, well, it's real. And in a New York gallery, the retail price would be in the $125,000 range.

(voice quivering): Are you serious?

I'm serious.

Wow. I had no idea. Sorry. (both laughing)

So, I will also mention that this is called a Whistler style frame. And it's very much of that Arts & Crafts movement.

Wow, okay. Oh, my goodness. I'd better handle it carefully going home.

Appraisal Details

Betty Krulik Fine Art Limited
New York, NY
Appraised value (2010)
$125,000 Retail
San Diego, CA (June 12, 2010)
19th Century
Charcoal, Oil

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