Olaf Carl Seltzer Oil & Letter, ca. 1935

Value (2013) | $17,000 Auction$28,000 Auction
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GUEST:
Well, my great-aunt Ella loved Western art, Remingtons and Russells. And she loved them but she couldn't afford those, so she sought out O.C. Seltzer and asked him to make a painting.

APPRAISER:
Nice, and a very nice job he did, too.

GUEST:
Thank you.

APPRAISER:
And of course, Remington and Russell are probably the two best known exponents of Western art, or the two most coveted and valuable. But Seltzer, he's a pretty good painter, too. And what about this letter, what's this all about?

GUEST:
She wrote him a thank-you note actually thanking him for doing such a lovely painting of the cowboy and he wrote her a letter back saying that in the future when she wants another picture done, perhaps this would be the subject matter of his painting. So it was really a cute little watercolor.

APPRAISER:
And just to be clear, the artist is Olaf Carl Seltzer.

GUEST:
I didn't know his first name or his middle name.

APPRAISER:
Olaf, and that rather betrays his origins, which were, of course, Scandinavian, because he was from Copenhagen in Denmark. But when his father passed away, he and his mother moved to Great Falls in Montana. But even when he was in Copenhagen, he'd shown great talent as a young artist, so he'd already started to learn how to paint and draw, but went to Montana, and where better to become a Western artist, really? Initially, he was a cowboy. Actually worked as a cowboy for about a year, and, funny enough, many of the other really good-- who I consider to be really good-- Western artists also were cowboys, so that gave them a better feel for the subject that they were painting, I always think. But the person who perhaps looms largest in his life, artistic life at least, was someone we just mentioned earlier, and that was Charles Russell. Russell really mentored him and taught him and encouraged him, and all those good things. So, in fact, when Russell went back to New York in the '20s, Seltzer came along and helped him finish off a lot of the commissions that he'd had.

GUEST:
I had no idea.

APPRAISER:
And here's a very typical piece. And we see the cowboy enjoying a smoke with his trusty steed there beside him. And signed down here, "O.C. Seltzer." And then interestingly, in the letter we've got a little color pencil sketch with some watercolor wash, as well. And he describes it. It's very hard to read the letter now, it's very faded.

GUEST:
It is, I'm so sorry. My mom put it right in front of the sunlight and it hung there for years.

APPRAISER:
Oh, dear Mum. Oh, well. So, really nice to have both of these pieces together. Thank you. Really cast-iron provenance, it's a great piece to have. Well, I would say at auction-- and there's a lot of demand for Western art just now-- this piece, I would estimate it probably in the $15,000 to $25,000 range.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
And I think that's probably quite a comfortable figure. I think were it a Native American Indian subject, it would be worth even more. He can make into six figures. And even this little watercolor drawing, although, as I say, it is quite faded, probably $2,000 to $3,000 at auction.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
Some of his letters are really coveted by collectors of Western art and of Seltzer's work.

GUEST:
Oh, hot dog.

APPRAISER:
And so it's a lovely little thing to have.

GUEST:
Oh, that's great, thank you so much.

APPRAISER:
Oh no, thank you.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Freeman's Auctioneers
Philadelphia, PA
Appraised value (2013)
$17,000 Auction$28,000 Auction
Event
Richmond, VA (August 17, 2013)
Period
20th Century
Form
Letter
Material
Oil, Watercolor

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