Patriotic folk art boat may row away with $600 at auction

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO — Turner Auctions + Appraisals is presenting the Barnaby and Karen Beck Collection of American Folk Art. Offering over 115 lots, the online sale features contemporary and antique folk art, plus additional pieces from Europe and Asia. Turner Auctions + Appraisals begins its online auction on September 11 at 11:30 a.m. PDT.

LiveAuctioneers and Invaluable are hosting online bidding; the sites are easily accessed through ‘Upcoming Auctions’ at Turner’s website.

About the Beck Folk Art Collection

folk art boat

A carved and painted folk art boat with patriotic figures is estimated at $400-$600. Photo courtesy Turner Auctions + Appraisals

Barnaby and Karen Beck’s diverse collection features many contemporary works of American folk art from noted artists such as Vermont’s K. William Kautz, Ohio’s Dan Noyes, Maine’s Barry Norling and others. These works include trade signs, whirligigs, weathervanes, sculptures and more – some commissioned by and customized for the Becks.

Also in the Beck Collection are folk art in wood from the 19th and 20th centuries, including painted trade signs, a carousel ride, a cigar store Indian, Pennsylvania Dutch corner cupboards, and children’s chairs. Some of the antique items were made between the 1850s and 1920s by skilled German carvers for shipbuilders – often from the Black Forest. The carvers were forced to find other work as their industry changed significantly and their talents were no longer in demand. Before steam power, all boats were made of wood. The wooden figurehead at the projecting prow represented the owner, a deity or other symbol to bring good fortune. The expert carvers, looking for new means to feed their families due to increasing shift to metal ships, transitioned from adorning ships to crafting carousel rides, cigar store Indians and trade signs.


This article originally appeared in Antique Trader magazine. 

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Toby Jugs, English trophy rowing oars, Spanish Colonial Santos figures, Southeast Asian carved panels, Staffordshire and Prattware pottery, and pearlware figures are also in the auction.

A growing appreciation for folk art

Black Forest-style bear hall tree

20th century Black Forest-style walnut bear hall tree (presale estimate: $400-$600).

Both natives of California, the Becks began collecting folk art about 20 years ago. Barnaby Beck’s appreciation of older things began when he was growing up in Berkeley. Because a noted Persian rug collector lived across the street, storing about 80 rugs in the garage, Barnaby had plenty of opportunity to see them first hand. After multiple visits with his neighbor, he not only learned much about Persian rugs, Barnaby also developed a lifelong appreciation for items with a history and a story. Coupled with his wife Karen’s eye for design, honed while working at Herman Miller, the Becks began collecting – first Persian rugs, then Toby Jugs.

Their interest in folk art was a “happy accident,” says Barnaby.  Attending a trade show in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, on restoring 18th-century houses, he happened on a secondary exhibit there that featured folk art, starting the couple on an extended collecting journey.

Some additional examples of lots in this September auction include:

Four Wilkinson Toby Jugs WWI Allied Commanders, issued in Limited Edition between 1915 and 1919, designed by Sir F. Carruthers Gould ($800-$1,200).

Pair of carved painted wood monkey jardinières, circa 20th century, measures 42 inches ($700-$900).

Vermont folk art ark with figurines, carved painted wood, signed K. William Kautz above barn door ($800-$1,200).

folk art ark

Vermont folk art ark with figurines, carved painted wood, signed K. William Kautz above barn door ($800-$1,200).

Carousel motorcycle with display stand ($800-$1,200).

Empire-style mahogany lyre chair from Nantucket, circa mid-late 19th century ($300-$400).

Vermont folk art sailor whirligig, carved and painted wood, and at the tallest point it measures 40-1/4 inches ($300-$500).

For more information, visit www.turnerauctionsonline.com, or contact sturner@turnerauctionsonline.com or 415-964-5250.

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