LARCHMONT, N.Y. – As the doors were already being locked at the end of a charity fundrasing appraisal day, two last entries squeezed through the door. Ronan Clarke had provided his company’s premises, and along with other local appraisers, volunteered his expertise for an antiques day to benefit the Larchmont Historical Society.
While over a hundred people over four hours paid up to $40 apiece to have their treasures or mysteries evaluated, those last two couples were a mother and daughter with a vintage toaster, and a husband and wife with two older framed pieces of art
The art initially appeared to be chromolithographs or European oils bearing spurious signatures as one was faintly signed “Cropsey.” However, Ronan Clarke pointed out the great quality of the oils, found a faint inscription on the back, and noticed the small figures of Indians among the dark foliage of one of the paintings. Clarke called over his colleague Tom Curran for a second opinion who agreed with his assessment, and quickly found a similar record of a Jasper F. Cropsey painting by the title “Autumn in America” in the archives of the Smithsonian.
The couple who brought the paintings in had little knowledge of their history other than they had been in the family for three generations, hanging in the parents’ recreation room since the 1960’s. In fact, they had already been offered $250 for the paintings by a cleanout service disposing of their mother’s estate. Instead, the couple brought the paintings home, and spotted the local ad for the Historical Society’s appraisal day.
Each painting was sized and framed identically in the inner lining of what were obviously much larger giltwood frames. The painting faintly inscribed “Autumn in America” depicted a majestic fall landscape framed by mountains with small Indians in the foreground. The other oil was a winter scene of Niagara Falls with hunters trudging through the snow titled “Prospect Point, Niagara Falls in Winter.”
Based on Clarke’s gut opinion that the paintings might be authentic, the consignors signed over the works for further evaluation. Although initially skeptical, after reviewing images, the Newington-Crospey Foundation in Hastings New York agreed to see the paintings in person. Nelia Moore of Clarke then brought the paintings to Hastings for the decision of the experts.
Both paintings were quickly authenticated by the Foundation as genuine and rare Cropseys, each are signed, with the Autumn oil known through a similar work at the Minnesota Museum of Art, and the Niagara oil only known through a sketch in the collection of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
Both paintings are from about 1859-1860 and neither has appeared in public since about 1860. The Newington-Cropsey Foundation described these Cropseys as “two of the more exciting paintings that have surfaced … and from his peak period.”
Based on this information, Clarke Auction contacted the owners and conservatively estimated the paintings at $40,000 to $60,000 each. Other paintings by the artist have sold for over a million dollars. The couple were stunned by the news, and have consigned the paintings to Clarke for auction on May 15th. The toaster? Clarke felt it was worth $50-75 dollars, but that’s being kept for sentimental reasons.
Each estimated to sell for between $40,000 and $60,000, the paintings are the same featured in the April 6, 2011 edition of The New York Times. Clarke New York is has added the paintings to an important collection of Mid-century art and objects for its May 15, 2011 auction. Clarke New York‘s sale accommodates on site bidders and absentee or phone bids. The full sale bill is online at Clarke New York. The house may be reached via email or by calling 914-833-8336.
Who was Jasper F. Cropsey?
Jasper Cropsey (1823 – 1900) was an important American landscape artist of the Hudson River School. He was born on his father’s farm in Rossville, Staten Island on Feb. 18, 1823. As a young boy, Cropsey had recurring periods of poor health. During these periods, while absent from school, Cropsey taught himself to draw. His early drawings were architectural sketches and landscapes drawn on notepads and in the margins of his schoolbooks. The Cropsey’s home, Ever Rest, is listed on the National Register of Historic Sites.
Jasper Cropsey died in anonymity but was rediscovered by galleries and collectors in the 1960s. Today, Cropsey’s paintings are found in most major American museums, including the National Gallery of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Timken Museum of Art in San Diego, the Honolulu Academy of Arts, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Denver Art Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
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