Secrets of the back….

Recently, a client contacted us regarding two drawings on paper she had inherited from an aunt. The family story was that these drawings of trees were by Frederick McCubbin (1855 – 1917). McCubbin, as you may or may not know, was one of the founders of the Heidelberg school and a major figure in the development of the Australian school of landscape and subject painting that emerged at the end of the nineteenth century. You’ll find his beautiful works in all major state and many regional art galleries – the iconic “On the wallaby track” is on display at the Art Gallery of NSW for instance.

The drawings in question badly needed restoration and a reframe, so we took them first to paper restorer extraordinaire Rosemary McDonald, telling her about the rumours and asking for extra attention, especially since the the drawings on paper were glued to the backing board (something that should NEVER be done!)

So, on a sunny Thursday afternoon we went to pick up the restored works (meaning that the ugly foxing had been removed – we think it’s magical what Rosemary can do to bring works back to life!).

Rosemary likes a good story as much as us, so she said “You know, these two “McCubbins” – well, after I had the backing carefully removed, there were these inscriptions on the back: By John Constable RA”. Yes, THE John Constable. And she added that the paper was made of recycled fabric, a further positive indication in order to date the works.

When we told our client this exciting find, she said: “I always believed them to be by Constable, but my brother had suggested McCubbin”.

We have been in situations where we had to tell the owner of a work that is not in fact by the person whose name is inscribed on the back (and indeed signed on the front) – that the work is “not right”, and this can be a little awkward, to say the least. But we believe we have to tell owners the truth, even though we are the purveyors of bad news.

With the “Constables” however, things are looking different. We researched the works and signature and the results looked good enough to contact a major auction house overseas. They came back very quickly with some very promising comments. Now the owner (and we) are keeping our fingers crossed…

… never underestimate a dusty box full of old pictures …

Last week, another client phoned on the suggestion of her daughter. The lady had about 20 artworks, purchased from a garage sale on the North Shore 13 years ago, for the princely sum of $ 50, as she liked the frames. Now in the process of moving, she was considering taking the lot to Vinnies.

Just as well she contacted us: as we asked her some of the artists’ names, she reeled them off, without really knowing any of them: Lionel Lindsay, Sydney Ure Smith, HR. Gallop, Arthur Burgess, James R. Jackson and Emanuel Phillips Fox amongst others.

Once we had sighted the works, we knew we could give the owner some very good news indeed. The collection should fetch well over $ 15,000 at auction.

… and the morale: contact the art broker

Both these recent events really brought it home: it pays to ask expert advice from an independent source. As an art broker, our only interest is in getting the best result for our clients. So contact us first, when you are thinking of what to do with your art – having it professionally valued for insurance, appraised for sale or just attended to with some TLC. You might be in for a nice surprise…

Written by

Brigitte Banziger

Hello, my name is Brigitte Banziger and I am an art consultant and manager at Banziger Hulme Fine Art Consultants, Australia's art valuation and art advice experts. We offer comprehensive art valuation and art brokerage services (selling and buying art on behalf of clients). Our art services cover everything from valuations, art care and restoration, to general advice such as helping define the goals for your art purchase and work out the best strategy on how to achieve those goals, including where, how and and when to buy.

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