20th-Century Charles Harper Illustrations

Value (2013) | $16,000 Auction$24,000 Auction
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APPRAISER:
You brought in a number of works by the artist Charles Harper, two of which we've displayed here, and some of his publications. Did you happen to know the man at all?

GUEST:
I don't know the man. He knew my father, and he worked for my father for his magazine that my dad worked for, Ford Times. He served as the art director and he hired a number of artists to do illustrations for the magazine.

APPRAISER:
That's how you came by these, through your dad?

GUEST:
That's correct.

APPRAISER:
About how many works do you have?

GUEST:
I have about ten: eight of the paintings and about three prints.

APPRAISER:
Well, it's interesting. Do you know much about his history at all?

GUEST:
I don't really know that much about his history.

APPRAISER:
The interesting thing about him, he was an artist who was born in 1922 and he served in World War II. He was one of the few artists hired by the government during World War II, which is a story for another day. After the war, he got a job as an illustrator. He developed an entirely different style. He was doing illustration, which is work for books and magazines, but he felt he was too realistic, and he deliberately developed a different style.

GUEST:
Interesting.

APPRAISER:
And what he wanted to do was three things. He wanted to basically simplify his designs, to caricature them a bit, and also to flatten them. I love what he's done with this Carolina parakeet and how he's put these different positions for the wings to emulate the flight.

GUEST:
Amazing.

APPRAISER:
Very graphically interesting. A lot of artists, their works haven't come up. His haven't come up in the art world that much until recently.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
And sometimes it's because of the fact that they were part of the company owned them, and they would get thrown away, and much like your father had them, that's how you got them and that's how they're now coming out and seeing the light of day. But oftentimes, they ended up just in the dumpsters of the company's property, so it's nice to have them come out. The bottom one here is obviously a robin, and it was for this issue of Ford Times, your dad's publication, which came out in March 1955. And then this booklet here, is his own book, Charles Harper: Birds and Words from 1974. This talks about a Carolina parakeet that has gone extinct. Another thing that's interesting about him is that he sort of embodies this mid-century modernism.

GUEST:
Right, that's the term that I've used to describe him, too.

APPRAISER:
Yeah, that's what's really hot these days. In the last ten years or so, there's been a sea change in the art world towards this furniture and in art. So what you've done here is you've captured a sort of perfect storm. You have an illustration, which is very exciting right now, and you have mid-century modernism. So what happens is that has an effect on value.

GUEST:
Well, that's great.

APPRAISER:
Now, you had these appraised at one time?

GUEST:
We had them appraised at a gallery in Ohio in '87, and they were appraised for about $700, I think.

APPRAISER:
What we have is this guy whose paintings about ten years ago probably would have been in the neighborhood of $3,000.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
I think at this point, if these were to go into auction, I would probably suggest an estimate of $8,000 to $12,000 apiece.

GUEST:
Apiece? Oh, my gosh! That's amazing to me. I think my dad would be thrilled at this too, so... It brings back great memories of my father. Thank you so much; I appreciate it. I'm stunned.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Bonhams, NY
New York, NY
Appraised value (2013)
$16,000 Auction$24,000 Auction
Event
Boise, ID (June 29, 2013)

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