by Lori Verderame
On my national tour, every year, I appraise approximately 20,000 antique and collectible objects that people bring to me at large public events and during private in-home appraisal appointments.
During my annual appraisal event hosted by the famous Seattle Home Show at the CenturyLink Center, a member of my audience brought me a tremendous work of art for appraisal. I reviewed the paper, I studied the brushstrokes, I listened to the story, I reviewed the artist’s signature, and I appraised the object. I did what I always do. I used my expertise to evaluate an object—at more than 150 event bookings every single year. I see more than my fair share of wonderful works of art and antiques. I use my years of training as a museum director and curator to, on the spot, recognize and evaluate great works of art or antiques. I knew immediately that this piece was special. Really special.
Over the years, I have appraised and authenticated the likes of stained glass Tiffany lamps, Civil War swords with iron clad provenance, and Alexander Calder mobiles, just to name a few. All of the objects that come to my events tell a story. I’ve heard too many stories to recount, alas some stories are more interesting than others. With this object, the story was pretty typical--art given in exchange for a debt--but the piece was fabulous.
On this particular and typically rainy Saturday afternoon in Seattle, WA, I discovered a work of art that had traveled far from its original home in France. This piece has not been on the books for a long, long time. It had not been exhibited or featured, not bought or sold for decades. It remained in a private collection since the 1940s. A young woman brought the French Impressionist painting in watercolor by one of French Impressionism’s stars, Eugene Boudin (1824-1898) to my appraisal event hosted by the Seattle Home Show. She told me that the painting was left to her by a relative and that her relative received the painting during World War II. The painting was exchanged in Hong Kong as payment of a debt. Her relative worked in a dry goods store and in order to pay a bill, a shopper who owned the painting traded it for his order of dry goods. That is all she knew about the painting of some figures—men and women—at the beach.
The painting was by the French artist, Eugene Boudin. Best known to art historians as one of the artists in the circle, and the sometimes teacher, of Claude Monet. He befriended the young Monet in 1858 and encouraged him to paint the landscape in the Impressionist style. Boudin was a regular at the Paris Salon exhibits, he won a gold medal at the Exposition Universelle in 1889 and was awarded the Legion d’Honneur in 1892.
The site of the newly discovered painting was one which Boudin knew well: the beach at Trouville. The piece was clearly signed and dated as “E. Boudin 1884”. It was painted during the long period of time when Boudin dedicated much of his artistic production to executing paintings of the middle class at play. He painted many works featuring figures—mainly women--enjoying a respite from their busy city lives sitting on the beach and enjoying the refreshing sea air and view. Boudin is best known as a marine painter born into a family of harbor pilots—an artist whose favorite subjects were beaches, boats, and bodies of water.
Beach scenes by Boudin are in the collections of the Musee d’Orsay and the National Gallery in Washington. Boudin’s continued interest in the subject matter is unquestioned. The beach at Trouville is a subject which Boudin addressed throughout his career dating back to the early 1860s and one which he painted intensely from circa 1883 to 1887. The women on the beach wearing their period dress and characteristic hats, the oversized umbrellas, and the wooden beach chairs positioned on the sand are forms that are masterfully repeated in the newly discovered painting as well as other documented beach landscapes by Boudin.
I appraised the watercolor by Boudin in a $17,000 to $27,000 value range on the retail market gleaning little information about its full provenance or background. The piece could sell for more money on the open market but the owner wanted to keep the painting in her family. As an honest appraiser, I don't become involved in the sale of the objects that I appraise on purpose. The owner asked me specifically to evaluate it so she could know the truth about it. The truth is the important painting is now another piece of the Boudin puzzle that will help art historians learn more about the contributions of the French Impressionists.
Celebrity Ph.D. antiques appraiser and author, Dr. Lori Verderame is the star appraiser on Discovery channel’s hit TV show, Auction Kings. Dr. Lori hosts antiques appraisal events worldwide. Visit DrLoriV.com, Facebook.com/DoctorLori or call (888) 431-1010.