1938 H.J. Ward Oil Painting

Value (2014) | $10,000 Auction$15,000 Auction
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APPRAISER:
So I understand you've done a little bit of research on both the artist and this painting, and I'd like you to tell me what you know about this painting.

GUEST:
H.J. Ward, an artist that did magazine covers in the '30s, mostly. This one is from Western Romantics, in the September issue, 1938. And my understanding is that he used his wife for his model on all of his covers or most of them.

APPRAISER:
So it's hardly anything but romantic.

GUEST:
(laughing): I know.

APPRAISER:
Tell me how you came by it.

GUEST:
I bought it at an auction. This one, I don't know, it just kind of spoke to me.

APPRAISER:
Well, I wanted to know what was it that appealed to you about it?

GUEST:
You know, I don't know, I think the first thing that caught my eye was actually the background. I mean because it makes it really pop out. (laughing): You know, I don't know after that.

APPRAISER:
I have to ask.

GUEST:
I have a little bit of a hard time with a man punching a woman, of course.

APPRAISER:
I was going to say, how about the subject matter?

GUEST:
Yes, she does have a gun, and so I reasoned that. Although it's been a little bit harder to explain as the years have gone by. I think it's drawn a few comments today.

APPRAISER:
It certainly has. I mean anything from politically incorrect to luridly misogynistic, I think, really. But this is rather what he specialized in.

GUEST:
It is, it is.

APPRAISER:
He was known for doing pulp magazines.

GUEST:
Pulp magazines, yes.

APPRAISER:
For Trojan Publications, I think. Originally from Philadelphia, he actually worked as a cartoonist at the Philadelphia Inquirer, and then graduated to doing his own freelance work and working up in New York with the magazine business when pulp magazines were extremely popular during the Depression, back in the '30s. And he was, I think, possibly the most sensationalist of all the pulp magazine illustrators. And this is like a classic case of that. It has troubling subject matter, I have to say, but very much in keeping with what he was doing.

GUEST:
Exactly.

APPRAISER:
This one was called... was it Western Romantic or Romantic Western?

GUEST:
The Romantic Westerns.

APPRAISER:
Right. Because a lot of the magazines he did seemed to have the title "spicy."

GUEST:
Exactly, yeah.

APPRAISER:
So Spicy Western, Spicy Detective. And so you paid...?

GUEST:
I don't exactly remember the exact amount, but it was under $100.

APPRAISER:
Have you been following the market for illustration art at all?

GUEST:
I just every once in a while, I go online. I've only seen one auction a few years ago, and he had an unsigned item that was $6,000, and then he had one piece that went over $100,000. Prints I've seen for around $300.

APPRAISER:
Right, right. This of course is an original artwork, an oil on canvas by him. And as you say, there was one that sold for over $100,000 for the really classic ones. He depicted the Lone Ranger, he depicted Superman, the Green Hornet, so a lot of those classic characters. And on the other hand he was doing all the spicy stuff, including this kind of thing.

GUEST:
(chuckling): Yes.

APPRAISER:
The illustration market is really red hot at the moment, great demand. And the kitschier and more over the top these pulp covers are, the more they tend to make. This one I think is, you know, sort of in the middle there. But I would expect this at auction should comfortably make between $10,000 and $15,000.

GUEST:
Nice, nice.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Freeman's Auctioneers
Philadelphia, PA
Appraised value (2014)
$10,000 Auction$15,000 Auction
Event
Bismarck, ND (May 31, 2014)
February 23, 2015: The original oil on canvas by H.J. Ward was created for the September, 1938 edition of Romantic Western, a pulp publication whose content touches on dramatic frontier justice and confrontation. In this particular issue, Ward's painting was loosely based on the story Devil's Fishbowl by E. Hoffman Price. Check out the painting as it appeared on the cover.

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