Fremont F. Ellis Oil Landscape, ca. 1935

Value (2011) | $15,000 Auction$25,000 Auction
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GUEST:
This is a painting that my grandmother had ever since I can remember. She had it on her living room wall. And after she died, I acquired it, and I've been enjoying it just like she did. She always saw the scenery and the clouds and changing lights in it, is one thing I remember about her discussion of it.

APPRAISER:
Do you know how she got it?

GUEST:
She got it from an elderly friend of hers that she helped care for. He had been a civil engineer during the Depression and worked on roads in the Southwest, is what she told me, and he acquired art in his travels.

APPRAISER:
This is a painting by Fremont Ellis and is executed in oil on canvas, which is typical of the artist.

GUEST:
Mm-hmm.

APPRAISER:
You'll noticed that it's signed, lower right, and something interesting about this signature is that it's subtle. It's in a tone that is pretty close to the background. It's readily legible, which we like as appraisers, but also aesthetically it's not distracting. It's very harmonious with the composition. Fremont Ellis is really a fascinating character. I mean, his biography is filled with quirky things. One of my favorite anecdotes about him-- and you may not know this-- is that when he was in El Paso, his first profession here was an optometrist.

GUEST:
Oh, that's fascinating.

APPRAISER:
He failed at that. It didn't last very long. And then he taught art for a bit. And then he went to Santa Fe, where he really made his mark. He was a cofounder of a group of painters called "Los Cinco Pintores," which was a group of five modernist painters, really the first modernist painting group in Santa Fe. In 1921, they had their first exhibition at the Santa Fe Museum of Art, and one of the critics who reviewed the first show said, "These men believe in color, and they're not afraid to use it."

GUEST:
Oh.

APPRAISER:
And this is exactly what he's talking about, that color is really what shapes this painting. That's really how he creates the depth of field-- look at these rolling hills-- and the plains are defined by these broad bands of color. I think this is probably from the '30s, but Ellis is a little hard to date, because there are themes that he would revisit. It's got what we would call sort of a "barn find" look to it, which is really great for the marketplace, you know, that it's untouched. I love it. A really great painting. At auction right now, I think, conservatively, this is worth $15,000 to $25,000.

GUEST:
Oh, wow, that's fantastic.

APPRAISER:
Now, that's more than a lot of works by Fremont Ellis because it does have that bold use of color.

GUEST:
Mm-hmm.

APPRAISER:
And it does have a figure in it as well, and that's a little unusual, too. A lot of them are pure landscapes. So this picture does sort of set itself apart from Ellis's body of work.

GUEST:
Oh, okay.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Bonhams, San Francisco
San Francisco, CA
Appraised value (2011)
$15,000 Auction$25,000 Auction
Event
El Paso, TX (June 18, 2011)
Period
20th Century
Material
Canvas, Oil

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