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    Auction Finds

    I can’t paint, so I bought an easel

    I wish I could draw and paint. I wish I could look at a landscape or a face or into my imagination, and let the images flow through my fingers onto a canvas. And people could actually recognize the  images, not in abstract form but just as they look in nature.

    I wasn’t born with the talent to paint, but I do have a love for fine art. So, I accept my artistic inabilities and collect art – usually African American art – that moves me.

    At auction recently, I went one step farther. I bought a simple artist’s easel and palette. I knew when I first saw both at a new auction house I was visiting that I had to take them home. How great they’d look – like a piece of art themselves – stationed in a corner on my windowed porch. It would be like being in an artist’s studio. Click on the photo below for a full view of the easel.

    An easel with a still life of flowers, both of which I bought at auction.

    Both were splattered with paint of all colors and formations. The wooden easel had three legs, one that extended out at the back. It was almost as tall as me, at about 56 inches. It had a slight front ledge for the canvas, and screws for disassembling it for travel. I wasn’t sure how old it was, but it did look vintage (making it at least 50 years old). It’s what’s considered a tripod design as compared to an H-Frame design.

    I had to have it.

    Easels go back pretty far in history, to the Egyptians. But it was during the Renaissance (especially around the 1600s) that artists began including them in self-portraits and they became a symbol of the “quintessential painter,” one website noted. According to another website that sells easels, those from the 17th to 19th centuries have become very collectible, and ornately decorated ones are works of art themselves. 

    As I previewed the items before the auction started, I spotted a still life painting of a brown round vase with deep pink and yellow flowers. Instantly, it felt like it belonged with the easel; it had the same vintage feel. I wondered if they both came from the same person.

    The painting was in good condition, and the colors were brilliant. It likely had been stored away someplace by the artist and only recently was retrieved from its hiding place by relatives who didn’t know what else to do with it.

    The painting was signed RA Croker (on the back was the first name Ross). I Googled and could find no artist with that name, so I’m assuming he wasn’t famous but was just someone who painted because it was his way of expressing himself. I had to have it, too.

    An artist's palette I bought at auction.

    It’s interesting to me that I decided to buy the easel and palette. Artists’ brushes and paints show up on the auction tables quite often and I’ve never been moved to buy them. What would I do with the stuff? This easel, though, was something that I could display, like a painting on a wall or a figurine on a table. It’s also as much a part of the fiber of the artist as the paintings that he or she worked on as they sat atop this easel. There’s a connectedness that would be missing from tubes of paint.

    When the easel came up for auction, I assumed that I would be the only one bidding and I’d probably get it for 5 bucks. No such luck. One other person bidded, and as I looked him over, he didn’t seem to be the type who’d have any interest in an easel. I assumed that he was likely a seller with customers who would.

    He apparently didn’t want it as bad as me, because he stopped after I countered his first bid. I got the easel and palette for $7.50. I was the only bidder on the still life and got it for $2. Googling later, I found vintage easels selling online for up to $300.

    Not a bad buy for a work of art in itself.

    At left, artist Lois Mailou Jones paints on a easel in her studio in Paris in the 1930s. At right, artist Jacob Lawrence with a painting on an easel.

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    1. Don’t think I would have ever though to go to an auction…consignment, yard sale, etc. I think I thought everything started at prices like in the movies…you’ve inspired me to think about this new way of shopping. I’d love to find me a vintage bodice to display my jewelry without paying some outrageous price for it.

      • Hi Dee. It’s an especially good place for find gems and other items for your jewelry. Even items you never would have considered as jewelry pieces.


    2. Love your site. I am addicted!! Thanks for being an art lover. So am I

      • Thank you. I’m glad you’re enjoying reading my posts as much as I enjoy finding new things and writing about them.


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