Thursday, March 10, 2011

You Never Know What You'll Find

I wish I could remember where I bought this painting.  Something tells me that it was from a studio sale when an artist was moving out of McGuffey Art Center, an artist's co-op in Charlottesville.  On the other hand, I may have bought it at a yard sale.  The only thing I do remember is the price:  two dollars. I was attracted by the painting's well-worn condition as  well as its naive charm.
There are nail holes which suggests that the painting (done on board) was never framed, just attached to a wall.  I actually like this aspect of it, the way the painting is as much an object as an image.

For at least a decade this painting has been displayed on a table in the entry hall of our house, just casually leaning against a wall.   A few weeks ago, I decided to take a closer look at it.  I think Antique Road Show may have been on TV and I got inspired.  The first thing I did was to research the name of the ship, Nancy Weems.  Here's a closeup of the name.
 In this age of easy internet research, I googled Nancy Weems and found out that the ship was originally named the Corcoran and was built in Manitowoc, Wisconsin in 1919. It was renamed the Nancy Weems in 1923.  It was a cargo ship and had a crew of 41 people.  Another interesting fact was that it's home port was Baltimore.  On the back of the painting is a label from the art supply store where the board was purchased:  the  Hirshberg company of Baltimore.  So from these facts I think it's fair to say that the artist was painting from observation or from the memory of having seen this particular ship.The work is not signed or dated, but I was able to find out that the Nancy Weems was scrapped in 1955.  The typeface of the Hirshberg label seems to fit with a 1920s or 1930s date, but that's just a guess. 

Now that I've learned a bit about the painting, it has emerged from obscurity, at least in my mind.  I wonder if the artist set up an easel in the inner harbor area of Baltimore which is now such a tourist hot spot.  

There isn't very much I intend to do with the painting in terms of restoration.  I will probably varnish it with a matte finish and make sure the label on the back is secure. And that will be pretty much it, because I like the evidence of age.  Sometimes the most fitting restoration strategy is the minimal one.

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