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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.

Heisey clear 3350 Wabash tankard pitcher, Krall cutting

Heisey clear 3350 Wabash tankard pitcher, Krall cutting

The Heisey Collectors of America’s convention is held every year in June at the Heisey Glass Museum in Newark, Ohio. So is the nearby Apple Tree Auction Center’s annual Heisey specialty auction. Coincidence? Not likely. David Schnaidt, vice president and auctioneer at Apple Tree, knows the Heisey convention brings in the serious collectors and dealers, this year spanning the country from the state of Washington to Florida. The Center’s Heisey sale is geared towards this group, not only to appeal to consignors, but to give serious Heisey enthusiasts what they want; top-rate Heisey glass.

This 40th annual edition was especially impressive as many items featured were those descended down through the heirs of the late Louise Adkins, known at the “first lady of Heisey.” Adkins gave more than 50 years of service to Heisey, and she also acquired. Many of the pieces offered by Apple Tree were found boxed in the basement of Adkin’s daughter.

Heisey 3397 Gascony 12 oz goblet having a tangerine bowl

Heisey 3397 Gascony 12 oz goblet having a tangerine bowl

Of most interest were the pieces cut by Emil Krall, a native of Austria who brought his talent to Heisey in 1933. Many Heisey collectors feel owning a true Emil Krall cut piece of Heisey is the ultimate addition to any collection. Two said examples offered at Apple Tree included a Heisey 3350 Wabash tankard pitcher dressed in elaborate Krall cutting. A 4036 Marshall FTD decanter decorated in elegant Krall cutting also did well.

Heisey collectors also desire color, and several pieces like this sold.  The most coveted colors are Cobalt, Tangerine and Alexandrite, according to Schnaidt.  Sold were a 4027 Christos cobalt decanter and a 1430 Aristocrat cobalt tall covered candy dish. Schnaidt pointed out this piece was desired for both its color and form. Four (3397) Gascony Tangerine 2oz bar glasses  and nine Alexandrite bobeches in (341) Old Williamsburg also sold at this auction.

A nice crowd of Heisey convention-attendees plus others were on hand, though active internet bidding also took place.

-Susan Mellish, contributing editor

More about Heisey Glass:

The A. H. Heisey Glass Co. was founded in Newark, Ohio following the Civil War and remained in operation until 1956. The company was known for its finely cut and etched glassware and for a number of popular and widely marketed lines of pattern glass in the 1920′s to 1950′s as well as a line of glass animal figures.

Click here to browse all Heisey glass in the Prices4Antiques database.

Reference & Further Recommended Reading:

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

William Matthew Prior, only known self portrait

William Matthew Prior, only known self portrait

Portraits are everywhere at auction, some beautifully executed while some lead to serious questions about the artist’s abilities (or the sitter’s appearance), but they can be a “hard sell.”  While not everyone may want what auctioneers sometimes call “instant ancestors,” at one time, portraits were a mark of status.  As the American middle class began to emerge during the Victorian era, portraits became one of those marks of respectability that upwardly-mobile families sought to possess, and in the days before the daguerreotype was widely available and widely affordable, portraits were very desirable and in considerable demand.

William Matthew Prior, son of a Bath, Maine shipmaster, is one of a number of portrait artists who found their fortune, or at least their living, painting quick, affordable likenesses for a demanding patronage.  Prior’s portraits, mostly unsigned, are characterized by a flatness with simplistically-outlined figures and little or no background decoration. This distinctive style had the added practicality of being quick and thus cost effective.  He actually advertised that he could create a credible likeness in just one hour. (For more information read our entire reference note on Prior here.) Prior made his way down the New England coast to Boston, where he settled in 1839 and remained, busily painting portraits until his death in 1873.  He continues to confound scholars today as many of his works are unsigned and his style varies greatly, likely based on how much money and time he was expecting from a commission.  As a result, many similar works have been attributed to the Prior-Hamblen School (Sturtevant Hamblen was another portrait artist and Prior’s brother-in-law), an attribution that must always be closely questioned because of the potential profit associated with linking a portrait to the Prior name.  Prior’s self-portrait, pictured above, was a recent auction offering (sold at Keno Auctions), and another piece in the puzzle to learning about this enigmatic man.

William Matthew Prior oil painting, Portrait of a Young Boy

William Matthew Prior oil painting, Portrait of a Young Boy

Prior, like many other artists of the era, often, as necessity demanded, took his talents on the road.  Itinerant portrait artists were common in early America, particularly throughout the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and they would travel from one small town to another, staying long enough to rent a room for a few days, spending some change to place an ad in the local newspaper, and then moving on again as business began to slow.  This constant movement over what were sometimes large regions when coupled with the fact that many portraits weren’t signed makes it challenging for historians to draw connections between works.  As with many works of art, attributions and connections can be made by experts on the basis of technical aspects like brushstrokes, canvas size, and stretcher construction, in addition to the small additions an artist might routinely use – a certain type of flower or a particular item in the background.  In some cases, even though the artist isn’t known, scholars have been able to identify enough similarities to create a body of work and a nickname for the unknown limner.  “Limner” comes from the Latin word luminare meaning to illuminate by way of the Middle English limnen which refers to the art of illuminated manuscripts, thus coming to mean painting or decorating and then the untrained itinerant artists who turned their skills to everything from portrait painting to sign painting to furniture decorating.  The New England art landscape is littered with unidentified limners like the Denison Limner and the Sherman Limner, artists who have a known body of work and several possible identities.  These little puzzles are what make the antiques marketplace so interesting, as new pieces are always being discovered and fitted together!

-Hollie Davis, Editor,

Richard B. Gruelle watercolor painting, spring landscape with trees

Richard B. Gruelle watercolor painting, spring landscape with trees

Jacksons Auction & Real Estate Company conducted a Works on Paper art auction in Indianapolis, Indiana on April 11, 2010. The sale featured 176 cataloged lots, with a focus on Indiana artists. A 10% buyer’s premium was charged.

The auction house, which specializes in Indiana art, drew a considerably smaller crowd than usual, with about 35 bidders on the floor. Some absentee and phone bids also came into play. Prices were strong for the top lots, which included two record auction prices. However, interest was limited among the variety of the middle-tier and lower-end works.

An 1896 spring landscape painting by Richard Buckner Gruelle (pictured above), a member of the Hoosier Group brought a record price for a Gruelle watercolor. A Wayman Adams watercolor of a New Orleans couple is also believed to have set a record price, Bryon Jackson said. contributing editor Don Johnson

Charles Gretton English bracket clock

Charles Gretton English bracket clock

Time is an amazing and strange thing, and there are endless philosophical discussions on how time, the ability to measure it, and the ways we track it have affected both the development of civilization and the pattern of our daily lives.  Horology, the name given to the study of measuring time, encompasses everything from sundials and water clocks to mantel clocks and digital watches.

One of the things that makes building a horological collection so fascinating to those who do it (and so alien to those who don’t) is the consideration of both the external and the internal.  With many antiques, the issues are largely about the exterior and, in some cases, construction of a single object, but with clocks and watches, there are really not just two separate facets, but truly two separate objects to consider: the case or exterior and the works.  This makes clocks a blending of art and science, because while art dictates the aesthetics and value of the case, much more esoteric construction and mechanics determine the value of the movement.  You can’t, without a fair amount of study and knowledge, look at a movement and assess a value.  As a result, quite frequently at auction, we’ll see a terrific case with a mediocre – or worse – movement bring a respectable price.  (This is a great paint-decorated case, but movements like the one here appear in large numbers and are normally considered very average.)  Less frequently, we’ll see a dull or damaged case with a great movement bring a respectable price, or even a great price, as is the case with the bracket clock pictured above that had a rare, desirable movement in a case considered to be an ill match.  What we all watch for are the combinations of great case and great movement – you may not know what you’re looking at when you see the clock, but you’ll certainly know when you see the final price!

Earlier this month, Skinner, Inc., an auction firm in Massachusetts held an incredible sale, primarily filled with material from the collection and the library of one collector.  It was the sale of a true collection, filled not just with objects (an incredible array of watchmaking bench tools like hand tools and wheel-cutting machines, necessary to create the tiny cogs used), but also with classic works from the accompanying library on the history of time, clockmaking and mechanics.  The reference books are one of my favorite things that we often see among such collections – fascinating to scholars because they reveal, often with clear illustrations of the objects, the range of items available.  Sometimes we even see period catalogues that list the actual cost of items.  All these things are often difficult to dig up through the traditional tools – census records, deeds, and wills – that are available to material culture scholars.  Building such an incredible collection takes time, but with horology, you certainly have plenty of that!

-Hollie Davis, Editor,

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