1944 Thomas Hart Benton Lithograph

Value (2012) | $20,000 Auction$30,000 Auction

Well, I know it's by Thomas Hart Benton. This is an original lithograph of a Wreck of the Old 97. Originally, my dad bought it in 1946 in Dallas.

Well, Thomas Hart Benton, from Missouri, was born in 1889, lived a very full life, a very colorful life before he passed in 1975. He studied in Paris, originally became acquainted with and fond of some of the modernist styles like synchronism. At a certain point, though, he became very much interested in everyday, common people and depicting common scenes, particularly focusing on his native Midwest. Benton has signed the work in pencil. On the back of the work, you've got the original label. Having the original label on the back does add value to the piece. Now, the original label was from the AAA, or the Associated American Artists.


And that was an outfit that started in New York in 1934, and the message for AAA was getting these things sent out essentially by mail for very little money to the everyman. Some of the artists, like Thomas Hart Benton, have really gone sky high in value relative to what they cost. This is a lithograph that was executed in 1944 in an edition of 250, which is generally the edition size that Benton used for his lithographs. We do notice that along the edges, there is some mat burn. And overall, you also have a little bit of toning. Some light staining where the light has come in and permeated the lithograph. So it used to be a little bit lighter and brighter. These are, in the scheme of things, relatively minor issues, and any good print restorer can easily remedy this. Otherwise, terrific image and classic Thomas Hart Benton. You know the story behind the Wreck of the Old 97?

The day of the wreck, it was an hour behind schedule, and so the engineer was ordered to take it as fast as he could take it. And I think it was supposed to go something like 38 miles an hour. And at the time of the wreck, it was doing something like 50 or 51 and it derailed.

And this was in 1903, and the train was going from Virginia down to North Carolina. And so obviously, this is Benton's take on the crash, his impression. Do you have a sense today how much the print is worth?

I was told that if it's in really, really good condition it would be around... probably around $10,000.

Well, within the last few years, this print, The Wreck of the Old 97, has consistently been selling at auction for around $8,000 to $10,000. But this year, the print has sold on two occasions for in excess of $30,000 at auction.

That must have been a really good one.

Well, I think we have a trend in the making here. So I think in terms of if it were offered today, probably say more like $20,000 to $30,000. So it's really quite a valuable print when you think about it.

Well, that's all right.

Appraisal Details

Freeman's Auctioneers
Philadelphia, PA
Appraised value (2012)
$20,000 Auction$30,000 Auction
Corpus Christi, TX (August 04, 2012)
Ink , Paper

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