You never know what you’ll find at a yard sale and that’s what makes them so much fun. Typically it’s not “need” that motivates us. It’s the thrill of the hunt…
Here’s a story about Audre and Joe Bowers and how they acquired a Clara painting:
"I happened across your website while searching for info on Clara Harris and was delighted at your detailed in depth account of her life and works.
"We bought a painting by her in 1999 at a yard sale at a summer home on Lake Drive, Jacksons Point on the shores of Lake Simcoe. We paid $5.00 for it complete with frame. We were delighted with the discovery and the painting hangs in our living room. It is a canvas oil painting 16 x 20" with no documentation on the back as to where or when it was painted."
The Bowers’ photos and information illustrate some important points about art and collecting.
Is the painting in its original frame? Frames are very subjective and owners often replace them. This is a “no-no”. If you know for a fact that the artist made or chose the frame, keep it. Maintaining the originality of the piece is always better as this is the way the artist intended it be showcased. With older paintings the association between the painting and frame is part of the provenance. However if you really can’t stand the frame remove it but keep it for future valuation.
Is the painting signed? This snow scene certainly looks like Clara’s work and with the Bowers’ photograph the signature matches those on other works by Clara Harris.
What’s on the back of the painting? Examining the back of a piece of art gives us additional information about its history, value and condition. The Bower’s photo shows the canvas which appears to be in good shape and how the frame was attached. In a 5 year diary written by Clara’s husband, Fred, he noted that on March 14, 1938 he “made 7 stretchers for Clara”. The one in the photo is probably one of them.
Documentation is always welcome as it provides not only interest but historic legitimacy. The date, time and location create realism: what existed then and what exists now. Clara documented many of her paintings but not this one. As the Bowers purchased this at Jackson’s Point it’s possible that this scene is in the Lake Simcoe area. Any input regarding the location is welcomed.
Dimensions are also significant. This painting measures 16 x 20”: large by Clara’s standards. If there are fewer large paintings these could be more valuable. But subject matter, supply, demand, condition and collector’s preference influence market value.
Last but not least: Collectors, continue to go to garage sales and thrift shops. You just don’t know what you’ll find!