Jack Cowan Work on Paper, ca. 1950

Value (2012) | $8,000 Auction$12,000 Auction

This is a painting that my father-in-law received from his father as gift from the artist. It shows Howard Hughes Sr. going to do some work at a oil site with a new piece of equipment called a rotary drill back in 1912.

And what do you know about the artist?

Well, he was originally from Bristol, Tennessee, which was where my stepfather grew up. And my mother lived there many years as well. He was a very famous wildlife artist in Texas, where he spent most of his life. I think he did it as some promotional artwork for an oil company is what I have read.

Well, his name is Jack Pemberton Cowan, or John Pemberton Cowan. He often went by Jack. You are right, he mostly is known for wildlife, hunting, fishing scenes. And so this is a little bit different than what we usually see by this artist. Cowan wrote a little note about it being Howard Hughes Sr., and it gives a date of 1912. Now, we can assume that that date of 1912 is the date that relates to the image. But the painting, of course, was not painted in 1912 because the artist, Jack Cowan, wasn't born until 1920. Under that inscription we have another inscription that mentions that this drawing was given to your relative in 1954. So, presumably, it was actually painted some time in the early 1950s and just a few years after maybe gifted to your relative. What we have here is a work on paper, and I call it a work on paper because it's a combination of more than one media. We certainly have watercolor, which we can see in the sky area. But we definitely have gouache layering on top, which gives that thicker, opaque paint. Howard Hughes Sr. invented the 64-tooth drill bit, which was created to drill through rock, and it's actually still used today. And this depicts a scene where he's out testing this new product. It probably was commissioned by an oil company, as you mentioned. Putting a value on it is a little bit subjective because it's atypical of his work. A current auction estimate is $8,000 to $12,000.

Okay. Thank you, Mom.

Appraisal Details

Rago Arts & Auction Center
Lambertville, NJ
Appraised value (2012)
$8,000 Auction$12,000 Auction
Cincinnati, OH (July 21, 2012)

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