1953 Hughie Lee-Smith Watercolors

Value (2013) | $20,000 Auction$30,000 Auction

I was looking for some proper fine original art when I opened my first architectural office in 1957. I went to the office of a very high-performance artist, Robert Kidd, and I couldn't afford any of his works. These really caught my eye. They're onion skin watercolors.


And I had to have them. It was the best I could buy for the money I had to spend.

So each of these is an original watercolor on paper. You know the artist, Hughie Lee-Smith. He was born in 1915, died in 1999. Born in Florida, briefly studied in Cleveland, also studied in Detroit, but really a favorite son of Detroit. He was and still is quite revered. I know he had an association with the Detroit Artists Market. He first exhibited in the city in 1947. He's only the second African-American artist to be elected as an associate member of the prestigious National Academy of Design. His artworks have become in greater demand. The market in general for the African-American artists, which you could argue 20, 30 years ago was very much underappreciated, has really come into its own. He is particularly interesting because he's sort of part of a larger social realist movement, artists who depict those who are socially underprivileged, the plight of people who are in poverty, issues associated with race, and you certainly see that, but he's also got a little bit of a strange undercurrent of surrealism, a little bit of brooding, almost a feel of disquiet in his works. These are both signed and dated. His style evolved, as is the case with many artists, and when he got into the '70s and '80s, he got into a lot more surrealism, paintings with very desolate figures, some of the same themes, but a little bit more sort of charged. The '40s and the '50s, while early in his career, represent the time period that people most like to collect of his works. Do you have any idea what these are worth in today's market?

I would have no idea, but I know it will be probably dramatically more than $100 for the two of them.

In today's market, you're probably talking about auction estimates for each one of about $10,000 to $15,000. It's quite a bit.

I think that's fantastic.

Appraisal Details

Freeman's Auctioneers
Philadelphia, PA
Appraised value (2013)
$20,000 Auction$30,000 Auction
Detroit, MI (June 01, 2013)

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