Fine Art

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Andy Warhol screenprint, "Heart", inscribed "Happy Birthday / Tommy P / love Andy Warhol / May 1979"

Andy Warhol screenprint, “Heart”, inscribed “Happy Birthday / Tommy P / love Andy Warhol / May 1979″

As Heraclitus said, you never step in the same river twice. I wonder if he had a child, because while you never step in the same river twice, in many areas of life you can sort of, sometimes, “wade” into the same river twice, and at least attempt to recreate situations that have passed – reconnect with high school friends, try for a more peaceful start to the day tomorrow, make a different choice from the restaurant menu next time, etc. But that’s the bittersweetness of children – once it’s gone, it’s gone, and every day they become another version of themselves and yesterday’s version vanishes forever. To my unending delight, there are, of course, all those versions to come, but to my unending sadness, the Nora I had at three days and at three months are gone. In just a few weeks, I will have 365 versions of her behind me – she’ll be a whole year old! And so, in honor of Baby Girl’s first birthday, I thought I’d take a look through the database at all the things that have been birthday gifts at some point.

I was surprised by how many birthday-related items we have in the database! Some of them were originally made as birthday gifts, while others have had the role of birthday gift added to their legacy after becoming antiques. For instance, this little traveling desk with all its cubbyholes and a tiny engraving of George Washington in the center was a gift to researcher Nina Fletcher Little from her husband, Bertram, one-time director the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (now Historic New England). This paint-decorated box, on the other hand, started life as a birthday present. The inscription on the back indicates that it was a gift to a little girl on her sixth birthday. And then there are legions of artworks that have been gifted, often by the artist. Andy Warhol, for example, gave a number of screenprints as gifts, including the heart pictured above. Other gifts, well, they make you wonder. While Warhol’s gifts convey a sense of warmth and affection, I’m still trying to determine what the giver of this was trying to say….

-Hollie Davis, Senior Editor,

To search the Prices4Antiques antiques reference database for valuation information on hundreds of thousands of antiques and fine art visit our homepage

On June 25, 2011 Arader Galleries will hold it’s 3rd Charity Auction at Neal Auction in New Orleans. Included in the sale are 65 of John James Audubon elephant folio aquatints from Birds Of America published in London by Robert Havell between 1826 and 1838. For each lot sold Arader Galleries will donate 20% of the hammer price to a charity of the buyer’s choice.

John James Audubon, Black Backed Gull from Birds of America, Havell edition

John James Audubon, Black Backed Gull from Birds of America, Havell edition

John James Audubon, Sanderling from Birds of America, Havell edition

John James Audubon, Sanderling from Birds of America, Havell edition

John James Audubon, Pine Finch from Birds of America, Havell edition

John James Audubon, Pine Finch from Birds of America, Havell edition

The following item was recently sold at an American auction house. Detailed information about this item, including pre-sale estimate, price realized and sale location can be found in the Prices4Antiques reference database.

Oil on panel still life painting by Henry Faulkner titled Iris in Milk Pitcher.

Henry Faulkner oil on panel painting, still life, titled Iris in Milk Pitcher

Henry Faulkner oil on panel painting, still life, titled Iris in Milk Pitcher

William Henry Harrison portrait reverse painting on glass

William Henry Harrison portrait reverse painting on glass

Poor William Henry Harrison!  He had already had a very full life – participating in the vicious conflicts in the Northwest Territory before and during the War of 1812, serving as governor of the Indiana Territory, traveling to Columbia as a diplomat.  Aside from an unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 1836, he’d come home to Ohio, where, then in his early 60s, he was contentedly puttering around his farm.  But then the 1840 election came calling and Harrison left behind the contented provincial “log cabin” life he was mocked for during the campaign to win the election.  The campaign was a vigorous one and an early example of political spin: Harrison, born into a Virginia slaveholding family, was depicted by Van Buren as a bumptious backwoods man who wanted to sit around picking his teeth and drinking hard cider.  This failed, fueling instead the image of Harrison as a man of the people while Van Buren came off as an elitist.  The “Log Cabin” campaign resulted in log cabin imagery being plastered on everything, including whole sets of china, and anything that couldn’t easily bear the picture of a log cabin, like this inkwell, could be made in the shape of a cider barrel.

Determined to prove he hadn’t gotten soft in his old age, Harrison (pictured above in this reverse painting on glass) insisted on giving his inaugural address on a raw March day, sans coat or hat, an address that it should be noted took him two hours to read.  That did not, as is commonly thought, make him ill.  What felled him was a cold that cropped up three weeks later.  The busy first days of holding the office did not allow Harrison any rest or even any peace and quiet, and he went downhill quickly, likely not helped by all the castor oil and leeches, dying nine days after falling ill, thirty days after taking office, and 170 years ago on this April 4th.

This was the first time the country had lost a president in office and regardless of political affiliation, Americans seemed to take the death hard.  The funeral was quite an affair and Harrison was commemorated everywhere, even on schoolgirl samplers like this one.  This unique situation continues to impact the marketplace today.  Because of Harrison’s short time in office, there are few documents signed by him as president, and autograph collectors will often pay 10-20 times more for a signature from his presidency than one of the many signatures from the years before!

-Hollie Davis, Senior Editor,

Theodore Clement Steele oil painting, Early Indiana Landscape with Cows

Theodore Clement Steele oil painting, Early Indiana Landscape with Cows. Sold by Jacksons Auction Company in 2008.

When Dennis Jackson held his first Indiana art auction in 1981, he was told the event would never succeed. Thirty years later, Jackson is still specializing in artwork by Hoosier painters. And, interest remains strong.

On March 27 Jacksons Auction Company will conduct its latest art sale. At the same time, the firm will celebrate the 30th anniversary of its initial art auction.

Jackson didn’t set out to sell Indiana art. When he founded Jacksons Auction Gallery in an old barn on the outskirts of Anderson, Ind., in 1978, oak furniture was the focus of many of his sales. He realized he could buy oak reasonably in Indianapolis and sell it for a profit in Anderson.

While at one downtown Indianapolis warehouse auction in order to buy furniture, Jackson watched an Indiana painting sell for $2,500. The event resulted in an epiphany.

“I’m standing there in shock, thinking, Dennis Jackson, you’re not very smart,” he recalled. “I realized at that point in time I’d moved a complete estate in Anderson, and it brought $2,500.”

If bidders were willing to spend that kind of money on paintings by Indiana artists, then Jackson wanted in on the action. “I am going to see about selling Indiana art in Indiana,” he said.

There was only one problem — he was largely unfamiliar with the subject.

“I knew what an oil on canvas was and an oil on board. I knew who T.C. Steele was,” he said. But that was about the extent of his knowledge.

As a former teacher, he wasn’t discouraged. “I realized I needed to learn about art,” he said.

“I immediately bought every Indiana book I could find and read them. I was not an art expert as such. I realized I had a good eye — that’s God-given. I just did not have any background.” He asked a lot of questions, with knowledgeable dealers patiently helping him.

Yet, not everyone was enthusiastic about the idea of an Indiana art auction.

“Everybody said, ‘It will not work.’”

Jackson's first auction ad

Although he had to borrow money to buy paintings to fill the sale, Dennis Jackson's investment paid off. This ad promoted that first auction, held April 12, 1981.

At first, they seemed to be right. When Jackson placed an ad in Tri-State Trader (now AntiqueWeek), seeking consignments for the first Indiana art auction, he got only two. One was a small snow scene by Theodore Clement Steele, the state’s most noted painter. The other item — a Louis Icart etching — was French.

Discouraged but not deterred, Jackson took the initiative.

“I borrowed money from the bank, and I went out and bought all the Indiana signed paintings that I could find for $200 or less. I ended up with about 35 paintings, with that T.C. Steele being the lead.”

The auction was held on April 12, 1981. Paintings sold that day included landscapes by Frank J. Girardin and Frederick Polley, as well as a W.A. Eyden dock scene. As anticipated, however, it was the Steele that brought the most interest, realizing $3,400.

Jackson followed up the event with a second Indiana art auction, a 50-painting sale that September. In March 1982 he put together a 100-lot auction of Indiana art, clearly having found a niche market. The artists represented read like a Who’s Who of Indiana art — Steele, J. Ottis Adams, William Forsyth, Otto Stark, R.B. Gruelle, Will Vawter, V.J. Cariani, Glen Cooper Henshaw, Gustave Baumann and more.

For the first several years the company held two auctions annually, in March and September, then added a third sale in November and eventually a fourth in June. Each auction averaged about 100 lots.

In 1992 Jackson joined forces with Sue Wickliff, opening Jackson & Wickliff in Carmel, Ind. While there, he continued to specialize in Indiana art, while also selling a variety of antiques. When the partnership ended in 2004, Jackson contemplated giving up his art sales. However, a fortuitous phone call persuaded him to keep at it.

The call was from a friend who wanted to consign a painting by Steele to one of Jackson’s art auctions. It came as Jackson was cleaning out his office at the Carmel auction gallery. Jackson explained he was no longer selling art in Indianapolis.

“The guy said, ‘I don’t care where you’re at, I want you to sell it.’”

Jackson called his son Bryan, who had been a part of the family’s auction business since he was a child. They decided to continue with Indiana art auctions. Within two months they had 50 consignments and had found a new site on Zionsville Road in Indianapolis to serve as their gallery. The resulting sale, held in May 2004, was followed by another in September. The following year they conducted three art auctions. Consignments continued to come in, with the firm now holding six Indiana art sales annually.

The business hit a slight snag when Bryan, a mental health specialist in the Army, was deployed to Iraq for a year in 2005 to 2006. However, the younger Jackson kept involved overseas by cropping art photos emailed to him from his dad in Indiana. When he returned to the states, Bryan initially planned to attend radiology school. But, during a three-month wait leading up the program, he helped for his father and discovered along the way that he enjoyed the auction business.

“He came to me and said, ‘Dad, I like the auction thing,’” Dennis Jackson recalled. Bryan dropped the idea of radiology school, electing to stay in Indianapolis to work for his father. However, that soon changed.

When Dennis Jackson turned 60, he approached his children, Bryan and Michele (also a licensed auctioneer who had helped with the firm) and encouraged them to form a new company. “I want to work for you,” he told them.

In 2006 the siblings formed Jacksons Auction Company, continuing the tradition started by their father, with Indiana art playing an integral role in the business.

-Don Johnson,
originally published in AntiqueWeek, March 2011.

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