Art Picks From eBay, Number 13; Percy Gray, eBay Seller, California Art & Artist Buying Tips
This is the thirteenth in our instructional series of articles that focuses on how to dissect and analyze the ways that works of art are sometimes described for sale on the internet auction site, eBay. eBay does not actively police their auction offerings, but rather depends on emails from dealers, collectors, experts, buyers, and potential buyers to notify them of problems relating to particular works of art. Any seller can describe any work of art in any manner that he or she chooses, and as long as no one complains, that art sells to the highest bidder. As a result, eBay and similar online auction sites are among the more dangerous places for uninformed or inexperienced collectors to buy original art.
This installment's auction item is described below. ArtBusiness.com credits the seller, by way of eBay, as the source of all of the following information and images. ArtBusiness.com comments and questions appear in red italics throughout the eBay seller's description. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation are as they appeared in the original for sale listing. ArtBusiness.com at no time implies, makes, or intends to make any claims or express any opinions regarding the authenticity of any works of art that appear in this series.
ArtBusiness.com comment: The title states that the item up for sale is a watercolor by Percy Gray of Mount Tamalpias, a peak located in Marin County, California. Gray (1869-1952) is an important and highly collectible California watercolorist.
Seller's description: We are going to be offering a few items of California art from now through the Christmas season. All of the offerings have been in a private collection and not exposed to the market for at least 12-25 years. Some of the offerings will include Armin Hansen, Percy Gray, George Elbert Burr, Maynard Dixon, August Gay, Andres Aldrin, F.Cutting and also an Edward S. Curtis Bluetone (Cyanotype) Nude, to name a few with more to be decided later.
ArtBusiness.com comment: The length of time that a work of art is "not exposed to the market" has ABSOLUTELY NO BEARING on its quality or authenticity. Other works of art in the same collection as the work of art in question, no matter how important they are or how famous the artists, have ABSOLUTELY NO BEARING on the quality or authenticity of the work of art in question.
Seller's description continued: This is a very quaint little water color of Mt Tam by noted California Artist Percy Gray. The painting measures 53/4" x 71/4", outside frame size is 9" x 61/4". The actual color has a little more contrast in person than the picture shown here at least as it shows on my monitor.
ArtBusiness.com comment: The seller makes introductory remarks about the watercolor.
Seller's description continued: This is a painting that I have some anxiety over parting with. It was the first Percy Gray that I was able to buy very early in our painting collecting interest and was one that launched a more earnest pursuit of quality California artwork.
ArtBusiness.com comment: The level of anxiety that a seller experiences over whether or not to part with a particular work of art has ABSOLUTELY NO BEARING on that art's quality or authenticity. The fact that this painting launched the seller's "earnest pursuit of quality California artwork" has ABSOLUTELY NO BEARING on either its quality or authenticity.
Seller's description continued: There is a somewhat long story behind this painting that I will try to shorten but it is important to provenance because it is not signed.
ArtBusiness.com comment: The length of the "story behind this painting" has ABSOLUTELY NO BEARING on its quality or authenticity. The seller uses the word "provenance" in a strange way and introduces the fact that the watercolor is not signed.
Seller's description continued: I have been a Real Estate Appraiser and Broker and this painting belonged to a good client and associate Real Estate Broker that moved into our area 25 years ago, (he was in his 70's then). I always admired the many paintings he had in his home but at that time knew very little about California Artists.
ArtBusiness.com comment: The above information has ABSOLUTELY NO BEARING on this unsigned watercolor's quality or authenticity.
Seller's description continued: He acquired all of these paintings from a wealthy and fairly famous Actress Aunt as an heir.
ArtBusiness.com comment: The fact that "a wealthy and fairly famous Actress Aunt" once owned this unsigned watercolor has ABSOLUTELY NO BEARING on its quality or authenticity. If the aunt passed down CONCRETE TANGIBLE PROOF that the unsigned watercolor is by Percy Gray, that would be different. This proof might include an original bill of sale from a reputable gallery, a letter from the artist discussing the unisigned watercolor, a letter of authentication from a respected authority on the artist, an appraisal from a respected appraiser, and so on.
Seller's description continued: This painting was one that he was willing to let me have while he was alive and was the least important and least significant of all that they owned. In the last 12 years, first he passed away and later his wife who then willed the entire estate to a neighbor caretaker. I was then able to purchase 3 more of the Grays out of 6 that were in the estate and a few other notable oils by other artists. The remainder of the paintings were divided up amongst the heirs family and retained.
ArtBusiness.com comment: The above information has ABSOLUTELY NO BEARING on the quality or authenticity of this unsigned watercolor.
Seller's description continued: The painting behind the one I am offering is one that I still own and is shown to give an example of what else was in their estate but is not for sale.
ArtBusiness.com comment: The painting in the background of the above image has ABSOLUTELY NO BEARING on the quality or authenticity of the unsigned watercolor that is for sale.
Seller's description continued: I have a little bit of ephemera and a picture of the Actress Aunt which I will make copies of and share with the winning bidder along with a letter explaining the provenance that I will sign.
ArtBusiness.com comment: Why isn't the seller sharing this information now? Furthermore, "a little bit of ephemera and a picture of the Actress Aunt" have ABSOLUTELY NO BEARING on the quality or authenticity of the unsigned watercolor. Furtherly furthermore, PROVENANCE, as used in the art business, is CONCRETE TANGIBLE PROOF THAT A WORK OF ART IS BY A PARTICULAR ARTIST, not incidental stories or pieces of ephemera about someone who once owned that art. And furtherest furtherly furthermore, a signed statement from the seller has ABSOLUTELY NO BEARING on the quality or authenticity of the unsigned watercolor unless that seller is a known and respected authority on Percy Gray.
Seller's description continued: Here is your chance, the same as I had to actually own a legitimate painting by Percy Gray but without signature and therefore potentially a bargain.
ArtBusiness.com comment: The seller neither states what qualifications he has to call this unsigned watercolor a "legitimate painting by Percy Gray" nor does he offer CONCRETE TANGIBLE PROOF that it is a "legitimate painting by Percy Gray."
ArtBusiness.com comment: The above image of an old art store sticker, apparently on the back of the frame, has ABSOLUTELY NO BEARING on this unsigned watercolor's quality or authenticity.
Seller's description continued: I have set the reserve at a price that is just the minimum I am willing take to part with it and I think reflects the good deal that I originally was afforded along with protecting my investment. Please email with any question that you have if hessitant before bidding!
ArtBusiness.com comment: My question is this-- Do you have any CONCRETE TANGIBLE PROOF, such as an original bill of sale, a signed statement by a respected authority on Percy Gray, an old appraisal from a respected appraiser, or any PROVENANCE whatsoever that shows Percy Gray painted this unsigned watercolor?
Seller's description continued: Payment is expected within 10 days of the end of the auction....
ArtBusiness.com comment: Sold 711.56 with 17 bids. This item was viewed nearly 550 times. Stay tuned for our next "Art Pick from eBay."
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