$4 Thrift Store Find Could Fetch $250K

Bonhams Skinner to auction painting by NC Wyeth that has been lost for 80 years
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 1, 2023 12:09 PM CDT
Updated Sep 4, 2023 3:55 PM CDT
$4 Thrift Store Find Could Fetch $250K
An oil painting by Newell Convers Wyeth, purchased from a thrift store for $4 and now expected to fetch up to $250,000 at auction.   (Bonhams Skinner)

If you've been paying attention to the news, you know not to overlook art for sale at thrift stores. Now we have one more reason to go rummaging: As the Washington Post reports, a New Hampshire woman looking for frames to reuse at a thrift store in Manchester ended up paying $4 for "a long-lost painting by one of America's most famous artists," expected to fetch up to $250,000 at an auction this month. The oil painting bearing the signature of painter and illustrator NC Wyeth was "buried among frames" at a Savers thrift store in 2017 when the anonymous woman came upon it. She didn't initially realize the significance of her purchase. It hung on her bedroom wall for years, per Art Newspaper. Then she tucked it away in a closet.

This past May, she pulled out the painting and posted a photo of it to a Facebook group dedicated to Wyeth art. That's where it grabbed the attention of former curator Lauren Lewis, who is well acquainted with paintings by the Wyeth family, including patriarch Newell Convers, his more-famous son Andrew (who once painted Lewis), and grandson Jamie. After a personal viewing, Lewis was "99% certain it was authentic," she tells the Boston Globe, adding a curator at Pennsylvania's Brandywine River Museum of Art, where much of the Wyeth family's art is housed, agreed with her judgment. The signature and brushstrokes looked as they should and the back showed the label of an art supplier NC Wyeth was known to use, per the Post.

Despite some minor scratches and dirt, "it was in remarkable condition considering none of us had any idea of its journey over the last 80 years," Lewis tells the Globe. The painting is one of four Wyeth completed to cover a 1939 edition of Helen Hunt Jackson's 1884 novel Ramona, and only the second located, per Art Newspaper. It shows "the young title character facing her elderly foster mother ... while a statue of a religious figure looms between the women," per the outlet. It's unclear how the painting ended up at the thrift store. Specialists at auction house Bonhams Skinner believe the book's publishers may have given it to Jackson's estate or to an editor. It's expected to fetch between $150,000 and $250,000 at auction in Marlborough, Massachusetts, on Sept. 19. (More auction stories.)

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